FrightFest 2008 Diary Day 4

The Film4 FrightFest 2008 Diary – Day 4 

The Film4 FrightFest 2008 Diary – Day 4 first published by Little White Lies, 24 Aug 2008

Includes capsules of: From Within, Let The Right One In, The Brøken, Autopsy, Martyrs, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Fundamentalism versus paganism, faith versus guilt, outer respectability versus inner darkness. Yep, all manner of spooky confrontations are engineered through the device of the cursed mirror image in cinematographer Phedon Papamichael’s second directorial feature From Within. Set amongst adolescents in a sleepy American town and yet thankfully eschewing all the usual teen clichés, it begins with a suicide, ends with a vision of the apocalypse, and has enough ideas in its supernatural storyline to get any viewer reflecting. A solid opening to what turns out to be the best day of the weekend. 

“Anyone who doesn’t like this film is an evil person.” With these words, Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist introduces the screening of Let The Right One In, adapted from his own novel. He need not have worried, as everyone loved this lyrical spin on the vampire myth, wherein a bullied pre-adolescent forms a tender bond with the vampire recently moved in next door. Director Tomas Alfredson has made a horror film that utterly surpasses its generic confines. Beautifully shot, moving yet unsentimental, restrained in tone and consummately performed, this is horror of near universal appeal, and already has the feel of a classic about it.     

The second film of the day in which mirrors and doppelgängers play a crucial role, The Brøken may offer a somewhat derivative resolution, but it gets there via an aptly fractured narrative, intertwining two radically different kinds of story type to disorienting effect – and British director Sean Ellis has a real eye for style. Similarly Adam Gierasch‘s calling card Autopsy, set in a creepy hospital, does little new, but takes us through its teens-in-peril scenario with visual flair and some pleasingly inventive gore. 

And then came Martyrs. If earlier screenings at this year’s Cannes have already earned Pascal Laugier‘s film much hyped notoriety for the extremity of its scenes (no doubt explaining the full house at FrightFest), it turns out also to be concerned precisely with the nature and reception of extremity, posing uncomfortable questions about what it is that one really seeks in choosing to ‘witness’ scenes of horrific human abjection. It starts fast and furious as a deranged abuse victim’s revenge tale, in an ultraviolent combination of the most shocking elements from Baise-Moi and Switchblade Romance, before veering into a quasi-mystic reverie on suffering that transfigures ‘torture porn’ into something altogether more transcendent. Claims that people had left the screening to be sick were impossible to verify – but it is safe to say that Martyrs, while definitely not one for the squeamish, will leave a strong impression (positive or negative) on anyone who sees it.

The night ends with Jon Knautz‘s Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, whose potentially duff idea (disgruntled plumber finds outlet for his anger issues by kicking monster butt) is elevated by the funniest character acting of the entire festival. A decent horror comedy to end a great day – and a much-needed slice of light relief after Martyrs.    

Anton Bitel