FrightFest Report: Eden Lake, Death Race

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Our UK correspondent offers her thoughts

Okay, so I finally had a chance to go to this year’s UK horror festival of the year. One which shows over 30 feature films, short films and trailers all of the horror-tastic nature. One which runs over a course of five days, indulging in works of horror directors from around the world.

I had missed out on last year’s FrightFest since I had made myself ill from overdoing it in pre-production on Beyond The Rave. And the year before that I was broke and if I didn’t work then I’d be out on the streets. The year before that, I was totally unemployed (the high life of getting into the film industry). This year I was going to get my ass down there in some form or another and since I was still working (still always broke) I decided to make an appearance at the world premiere of Eden Lake and the closing festival film Death Race.

Eden Lake is written and directed by James Watkins. Starring Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender and Thomas Turgoose, and boasting the same producer, production designer and special effects team as The Descent and its upcoming sequel, you are much pretty guaranteed a film that in no way going to look cheap.

Watkins recently penned The Descent 2 and was a co-writer on My Little Eye. This being his directing debut – and after chatting to him recently during a D2 set visit – I had the utmost confidence that this guy knows what the hell he’s doing. And, to be honest, I wasn’t wrong.

The story is pretty simple. We have Jenny and her boyfriend Steve. They are the perfect loving couple. Steve has decided to whisk Jenny away from London for a romantic weekend with the intentions of a proposal. He has found a beauty spot which will soon be in development for housing (happens all too much over here). They find their way and after an interesting time at a “Bed and Breakfast” they head to the beautiful lakeside location to relax in each others’ company. This is soon shattered by a gang of hard-faced youths. They stand their ground until they have another run-in which is more serious. The gang gets more furious and Jenny and Steve are caught in a brutal game where they are tormented and then hunted.

Being hungry for a fright I got slightly frustrated with pace at the beginning of the film, but without the build-up the reality and tension would not have been there, thus also giving you time to get a relationship with the characters. The performances from the actors are outstanding and they are all pushed through a really horrific ordeal. The beauty of the landscape is completely destroyed by the disgusting behavior of the hoodie gang. And the acts of violence have a complete realism. As the scenes get more profound, the film gets incredibly brutal, resulting in torture and mindless psychotic acts that you feel sick for witnessing. There were two moments which had the audience jumping in their seats and the ending is how a horror film in my eyes is supposed to end. You find yourself questioning the f**ked up social groups in the UK’s society today and you believe that it is something that you can really see happening. Especially with the huge amount of pointless gang youth stabbings and shootings occurring everyday in the UK right now, Watkins has done a really good job of telling the tale. Make it a point of seeing Eden Lake. It’s a well-crafted horror film which will leave you in a disturbed silence through the credits.

Death Race, meanwhile, is written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and stars Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez and Joan Allen. With past credits like Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator – along with Roger Corman a lead producer – I ask myself, how is this going to turn out? I’m a big fan of the fun of the original.

It’s a time of post-industrial grays and rust. Our main man Jensen has been made. Going home to his devoted wife and baby girl he is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and is sentenced to a penitentiary that happens to host the violent televised Death Race game. Blackmailed into donning the mask of famed driver known as “Frankenstein,” Jensen is promised freedom by the crazed penitentiary governor Hennessey. He races alongside other hardened criminals in a selection of monstrous motors with machine guns, nitro gas and hot chicks. But, Hennessey’s fetish with ratings and Frankenstein means that she will break her promise and use her power to corrupt the game thus ruining Jensen’s freedom, which he isn’t very happy about.

Not really knowing what or how this film was going to turn out, I take my seat next to Jake West (who is currently filming Doghouse, a zombird invested horror comedy ) and we bask in the mayhem of carnage. This film is definitely for the boys and oozes really cool beefed up cars, at times I felt like I was watching a new game on the Xbox (which would be pretty cool) and was just hanging in there for all the great over-the-top explosions and mangled deaths (which do not let you down). At times I considered going to the bar but then the action would kick off again and I would be entertained by some blood-splattered death and fast cars. Me being me, I was also kind of disappointed in the lack of people in wheel chairs being lead onto the track! The ending is rather lame, but hey, I guess it could happen? If you haven’t seen Death Race 2000 then your brain wouldn’t be influenced by the past, so as a film it does stand out on its own as being an action horrorfest. As Neil Marshal said to me after the screening “It does exactly what it says on the box.”

So that was my attempt at FrightFest, which is pretty good considering I was doing about at least two other jobs at the same time. I managed to party hard with people on the opening night and was then kind of well-behaved the closing night party meeting lots of horror movie fans and makers!

Viva La Horror…

Source: Misartress Melanie