Film4 FrightFest 2013 kicked off on Thursday evening, as legions of horror fans poured into the Empire Cinema for an opening night of zombies, killer dolls and home invaders. It’s the start of five days of horror films from around the world, and it was introduced by a hilarious monologue from Willow Creek director Bobcat Goldthwait. Assuring the crowd that they were adorable rather than scary, he pondered the question of “Is the Bible the first zombie story?” and why women can handle horror better than men, before announcing that, like 21 Jump Street, Police Academy would be remade as a comedy. He closed by stating that horror fans like to see “the good stuff”, and with that, it was time for the Ford Brothers’ The Dead 2: India…
Following on from their African-set zombie debut, this sequel finds the zombie plague hit India, as our American engineer hero Nicholas (Joseph Millson) has to race across the country to rescue his pregnant girlfriend Ishani (Meenu Mishra) from the hordes of the undead and her disapproving father. While the first film hit the ground running, The Dead 2 has a leisurely pace that becomes a serious problem as it reaches the half hour mark. The directors stated their intention to make a movie with a heart and, callous as it sounds, that attempt was misguided. It continually slows down to make room for soul-searching discussions about Nicholas’ past mistakes with ropey dialogue, and repeatedly cuts away for family drama between Ishani and her father. As with the first film, the setting helps to set it apart and the epic scope works in its favour. There are some very good, and quite shocking, set-pieces, but it doesn’t come together.
So it was a great relief that Curse of Chucky turned out to be as much fun as it is. With everyone in the Empire main screen wearing Chucky masks, writer/director Don Mancini and star Fiona Dourif (“Hi, Dad…everywhere…”) introduced the film and stated that it was a move away from all-out comedy back towards horror. Well, no Chucky film can be completely straight-faced and there’s more than enough humour here (both arch and broad) to make it a tremendously entertaining horror comedy. Wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother receive the Good Guy Doll in the mail and it soon causes havoc at their Addams Family mansion, especially when Nica’s adorable niece decides that Chucky is her friend to the end (“I don’t know, it works on so many different levels…” muses Nica). After a surprisingly suspenseful first half, in which the characters are drawn well enough for us to decide the order in which we want them to die, Mancini ramps up the chaos with the patter of tiny feet. It’s very well-shot, Fiona Dourif is excellent in the lead, and it’s got exactly the right mixture of jump-scares and laughs, while fans of the series will appreciate Mancini’s decision to tie it in to the movies’ mythology. There’s really no excuse for a film coming so late in the series’ cycle to be this much fun, but we’re thrilled that it is.
Speaking of fun, Adam Wingard’s home invasion horror You’re Next closed out the evening. For our full review of the film click here, but in brief: it’s an extremely entertaining, very well-acted, darkly comic horror that is witty and brutal in equal measure and we can’t recommend it highly enough.
Check back tomorrow for many, many more films, as the three screens open up for a full day of horror with V/H/S/2, Haunter, Hatchet III and more.