Festival Preview: Fright Night Theatre Film Festival Day One



This March 11-12 marks the return of Hamilton’s Fright Night Theatre, a two day film festival specializing in indie genre cinema, which takes place at The Staircase Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario. SHOCK’s Richelle Charkot gets a sneak peak at what flicks are to become a part of the FNTFF alumnus this year, alongside past fan favourites such as THE EDITOR, THE BABADOOK, LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF, WOLFCOP, and many, many more.

March 11

7:30 pm – HARVEST LAKE, screening with the short film HEIR

Written and directed by: Richard Powell
Starring: Robert Nolan, Bill Oberst Jr.

This short follows a father named Gordon (Robert Nolan), who decides that he can no longer suppress his secret pedophilic perversions. He takes his son to meet a man who he’s been talking to online named Denis (Bill Oberst Jr.), and everything spirals into mayhem when Denis knocks Gordon’s son unconscious and then reveals his true, monstrous and slimy form. This short is characteristically uncomfortable, especially due to something like pedophilia in the subject matter, which renders it quite effective and thus hard to enjoy. With some low-budget special effects and a turned-up-to-11 over-acting performance by Oberst Jr, Heir is a messy, difficult short to kick off this weekend, but it works.


Written and directed by: Scott Schirmer
Starring: Jason Crowe, Ellie Church, Tristan Risk

Horror fans will start this flick with a pronounced “Oh, god, not this again” eye-roll. Five friends. One trip to the lake. What’s the worst that could happen?

Although Harvest Lake kicks off its narrative on some seriously well-trodden grounds, Schirmer opts to roam into a strange psycho-sexual territory that is a welcomed surprise. Once the group of friends reach the lake, they start their weekend of debauchery by drinking heavily and hooking up wherever possible, but it becomes quickly apparent that there is something more intense attributing to their amplified libidos. Harvest Lake teeters between body horror and a straight-up monster movie, but it absolutely begs for more money due to some special effects in more in the ilk of early Doctor Who than anything to take very seriously, which hinders the atmosphere that this film is trying to accomplish.

Schirmer’s Harvest Lake feels like it draws its moodiness from movies like Lets Scare Jessica to Death, with a heaping dose of some sort of Cronenbergian nightmare. It never quite reaches its fullest potential in freakiness and won’t overly shock audiences, but it has interesting enough intentions to not only make it worth a watch, but make Schirmer a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

9:45 pm – IDYLL, screening with the short film DIE! SITTER! DIE!

Written and directed by: Lee Boxleitner, Sam Boxleitner
Starring: Caitlin Reilly, Damille Cole Heard

This reprehensibly long 26 minute short (created by the sons of actor Bruce Boxleitner, from TV’s THE SCARECROW AND MRS.KING) overstays its welcome at about the 5 minute mark. Following a desperate-for-money babysitter named Allison who takes on an inadvisable gig in the middle of nowhere, this sitter soon discovers that there is something a little unusual about the baby she has been hired to look after. Although this short is very long, which might suggest some certainty by filmmakers who likely had a lot of material but not quite enough to spread into a feature, there is a distinct feeling that Die! Sitter! Die! has no idea what type of film it is trying to be: is it trying to be funny by being so outwardly ridiculous? Or is it trying to be genuinely unsettling by presenting a very, very unlikely killer? It regardless fails at being either, and makes for a tiresome, boring watch with only a few gore scenes to act as some eye-candy in between dull over-acting.

Written and directed by: Tomaz Gorkic
Starring: Nina Ivanish, Lotos Sparovec, Nika Rozman

Idyll opens with the tough and leather-clad Zina, a take no bullshit model who meets her friends for drinks at a seedy bar. Although the evening starts with some playful gossip with her pals, after she goes to the bathroom, a man follows her and tries to rape her, but fortunately she gets away by kneeing him in the genitals. The following day she heads to the countryside for a nature fashion shoot with Mia, Dragica and their photographer Blitcz, to an idyllic location boasting sprawling hills, flowers, trees and wildlife. As the shoot begins, two disfigured men named Franci and Vintlr arrive and attack the group because of the claim that the land is theirs, and the group is therefore trespassing. Zina, Mia, Dragica and Blitcz awake in an underground bunker owned by the gruesome looking men, where they are subject to mental and physical torture.

This film reads like a fairly standard Hills Have Eyes revision, and it becomes very problematic very quickly for a number of reasons. There are multiple scenes of sexual violence of which Zina consistently dodges, when others are not as lucky. There seems to be an implication by the filmmaker that purely because Zina is a tough chick, she is able to avoid being raped numerous times, while the stereotypically “girly” women have to suffer. Zina instinctively fought back when the first attack happened, and when the second attack happens to another woman, she knows how to finish the situation when the other woman was unable to. This is an extremely unsettling portrait to paint about women. As the film progresses and reaches its shocking end, it becomes very clear that this is not an empowered vision of a final girl, this is a very hateful and aggressive depiction of female characters that should make audiences very, very uncomfortable.

11:59 pm – BUNNY THE KILLER THING, screening with the short film DICKPROOF 2

Written by: Micky Burgess and Rodriguez Fruitbat
Directed by: Sam McGlynn
Starring: Party Doug, Mark Loader, Jamie Ward

There is an infinitely long list of cliches, chestnuts and expired jokes that have already been laid to rest, with an ever-growing list of dozens more that should be outcast sooner rather than later. I, for one, put forth the motion that the faux-grindhouse aesthetic has reached its maximum amount of potential and should be buried alongside its-was-all-a-dream endings. Dickproof 2 is a chaotic mess, attempting to be a parody of Tarantino’s Deathproof, dabbling in other tropes in the sub-genre but with nothing else particularly referential to even suggest that this is a love letter to exploitation films, but it’s instead a half-cocked joke. If this short functioned well it could have been a loud celebration of violence to the nth degree, but it opts to be a super-cut of a bunch of scenes that have been done a million times before.

Written and directed by: Joonas Makkonen
Starring: Hiski Hämäläinen, Enni Ojutkangas, Veera W. Vilo

With a film like this, it is difficult to offer much criticism. What can you say about a movie that is already flagrantly making fun of itself? Bunny the Killer Thing is yet another revision of the cabin in the woods story, following a group of seven adults who are caught in the crosshairs (or, cross-hares, if you will) of an enormous mutated bunny-man, who is feverishly seeking out anything that resembles female genitals (for this midnight movie crowd, I might suggest drinking every time that Bunny yells, “PUSSY!”) Bunny the Killer Thing will be far from everybody’s cup of tea because it really isn’t very clever or offering any new tilt on the genre, because horror-comedies with ridiculous killers have been made for decades and decades, but it does deserve kudos for being so profoundly obscene and weird, making it a good fit for a midnight time slot this weekend.