Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Documentary Tackling Shark Finning Seeks Crowdfunding Help

The ocean has fallen foul to the ravages of human appetites including whaling, excessive fishing draining stocks, and the practice of corralling dolphins for captivity or food as depicted in the chilling documentary The Cove. Philip Waller's documentary, Extinction Soup looks to expose yet another slice of oceanic savagery, shark finning. Writer, producer and director Waller is looking for funds through crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo to cover post production costs for a film that looks set to highlight and bring about legal changes to curb shark finning, a practice that could have devastating effects on the environment.

Shark finning is the practice of capturing sharks and sawing off their fins before casting the now mutilated sharks back into the ocean. The fins are usually sold to restaurateurs to be used into he delicacy that is shark fin soup. The sharks carcasses are discarded back into the ocean dead or alive, with many going days even weeks dying painfully from their wound. It is estimated that around 70 million sharks per year are mutilated and killed for this dish despite being illegal in many parts of the world. Californian filmmaker and adventurer Philip Waller has teamed up with activist and shark swimmer Stefanie Brendl to make Extinction Soup. On board to help bring this important project to the masses is producer Sidney Sherman, whose own success with crowdfunding saw the short film Reboot come to life, and Reboot alumnus Travis Aaron Wade serving as co-producer. The team are hoping that the film will expose practice to a worldwide audience and educate as well bring pressure to the world's governments to bring about effective legislative changes to end shark finning.

Filming has completed thanks to self-funding by the filmmakers but requires a lot of post production work. The funds being raised through IndieGoGo will be used to cover this cost. The sum of $30,000 is being sought to produce the film's music, graphics and titles, audio mixing as well as licensing costs, and none of it will be used to compensate the filmmakers. If the campaign is successful then the makers are aiming for Extinction Soup to be released around May 2014.  To date the campaign has raised over $25,000 but with less than ten days left till the deadline the race is on to find the remanding funds.

In return for their pledge donors will be in line for various rewards starting from the usual thanks and acknowledgments from the filmmakers to digital downloads and DVD copies of the finished film, signed and exclusive merchandise. Those with over $1,000 to invest will receive the usual rewards plus producer, creditors as well as invitations to festival screenings. For the top end investors, i.e. $10,000 or more, they will be flown to Hawaii for a free shark tour courtesy Stefanie Brenda. It should be noted however that this will mainly be for US investors. Most importantly however investors can feel satisfied in helping bring an important film to fruition, one that aims to significantly reduce this cruel practice or even bring it to a halt through a global legal intervention. For more information and to make a donation please visit the campaign's IndieGoGo crowdfunding page. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

[Gallery Post] Nelson Mandela - Thoughts from an Idealistic Student

As a youngster growing up in the eighties I knew all about Nelson Mandela and the struggle against the brutal Apartheid regime from news reports. I was helped along in my growing knowledge by the music of my era, songs often commenting on events around the world such as Free Nelson Mandela by Special AKA and Gimme Hope Jo'anna by one of my favourite artists Eddie Grant. I soon came to learn about this great man who in attempting to lead his people to freedom (sometimes through questionable means) was arrested and convicted of various crimes and sentenced to four life sentences. Like any aspiring idealist I greatly admired Nelson Mandela, who passed away aged 95, an inspiration to his people and others fighting for their freedom around the world.
Image Credit; Ben Sutherland
So what did Nelson Mandela mean to a spotty teenager whose interests mainly featured breakdancing, martial arts, and girls along with the typical (yet infrequent) teenage rebellion against the parents? I was raised to believe in equality for all and that any form of bigotry based on skin colour, nationality and religion was unacceptable. Hearing all about the treatment of black South Africans at the hands of the white led Apartheid regime at the time my conclusions about them were obvious. Mandela fascinated me as at the point I was becoming politically aware he had already served over 20 years in prison under very harsh circumstances. Having read and heard his story and how he remained defiant in the face of such brutality not to mention the call to action he inspired, I realised this was a man who was not only a voice but also an icon for the much needed change in his country.

As the fight against Apartheid evolved to include the support of politicians and celebrities the world over, I grew from wide eyed school boy teen to a college student full of ambition and idealism. I believed in the right to protest and the right to speak out and as such attended many demonstrations. The anti-Apartheid movement grew into an international movement of sanctions, and boycotts of South African produce (not one Cape apple passed my lips). Through this movement I witnessed Mandela grow into a symbol of Freedom for South Africa and like so many was caught up in the whirlwind of his pending release. I watched, like millions of others, as he walked out of prison, quite spry for 71 after serving 27 years in prison, with a big smile on my face. I wasn't the only one, as Mandela was smiling, holding hands with his then wife Winnie, and waving to the crowds. It was a momentous occasion as I knew then, with his release, there was sure to follow the downfall of Apartheid. 

A few days after his release I attended a demonstration against student loans in London's Hyde Park. Of the many speakers lending the voice of solidarity was one of the founding members of the ANC and former Mandela cell mate Denis Goldberg. He talked of that moment broadcast all over the world, the moment that had me smiling, where he walked through the neighbouring towns to greet the people who come to witness his release. It seems this move was more symbolic than I realised. Mr Goldberg explained that as they were being escorted from the court rooms to prison the guards had taunted Mandela about how the only way he would leave his dank concrete cell would be feet first. I don't think at the time there was ever a more potent symbol for freedom than a black South African walking out of prison, alive and healthy in defiance of his sneering gaolers 27 years later crowds of black and white South Africans alike cheering his name. 

The rest really is history; Apartheid was dismantled, South Africa held its first true open elections and Mandela became the first black President elected to office. During the decades of struggle for freedom from oppression to see it finally become a reality must have had many South Africans weeping for joy (and perhaps even a few for sorrow) for days maybe even weeks on end. If it were a dream I don't think any of us wanted to awake from it. Mandela was no saint, and he was far from perfect but he had the courage of his convictions and he never wavered in the face of such fierce and brutal opposition. Mandela defied his oppressors and put his country onto what he hoped would be the path to freedom and equality for his people, passing away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones and with the adjulation of much of the world in his corner. RIP. 
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others - Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Crowdfunding Latest Linux Publication

Former staff of a prominent UK publication all about the Linux operating system have set out to launch a rival publication to be funded through crowdfunding. Linux Voice aims to be bigger more entertaining, and easily accessible, a rival to the UK's fist ever Linux centric magazine. The project owners have turned to crowdfunding IndieGoGo to raise the necessary funds.

Linux Format was founded in 1999 originally known as Linux Answers but the first issue was not published until May 2000. Published by Future plc it was the UK's first magazine dedicate mainly to all topics relating to the Linux operating system. In the tradition of the system's open source availability the magazine would feature a DVD containing Linux distributions and free software. Andrew Gregory was the magazine's Deputy Editor and Operations Editor and along with Mike Saunders a writer for Linux format since the first issue and Ben Everard a writer with the magazine for two years, look set to bring all the ideas that made Linux Format a success into this venture.

The new publication, entitled Linux Voice, promises to be different from its more established rival. The crowdfunding campaign is looking to raise £90,000 by 13th December to cover the cost to produce and distribute the first edition. It will be available on a monthly basis and consist of over 115 pages. Rewards on offer to those who invest include advance digital, UK and world subscriptions from a little as six months to a full lifetime. For those with more than £1000 to donate rewards include dinner with the team, half page and full page advertising opportunities.

If the campaign is successful Linux Voice promises to give back to the to the Free Software and Linux communities by giving away 50% of the profits (with readers choosing where the money goes), make the publication free after nine months, and work to keep the pricing fair ensuring the price charged goes to cost of publication. For more information about the campaign and to donate visit the project's IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.

Image Credit; Adriano Gasparri

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Community First Crowdfunding Challenge to Help UK's Deprived Communities

A new crowdfunding challenge has been launched to help match fund local projects that will help the UK's most deprived communities. The Community First CrowdMatch challenge, in partnership with non-profit organisations including NESTA, Community Development Foundation (CDF) and CrowdfundUK invites communities to participate in this innovative fundraising project that involves crowdfunding as well as match funding by way of a grant award. Using the crowdfunding platform Buzzbnk participants have just 60 days to reach their respective targets snd have their funding matched essentially doubling their funds.

The current economic climate continues to put a strain on third sector non-profit organisations and community groups in need of vital funding to remain viable. Crowdfunding is fast becoming an alternative form of fundraising for charity and community based projects. The CrowdMatch Challenge offers projects access to materials, advice and support on crowdfunding to launch their own campaign. The challenge is made up of various non-profit organisations involved in helping the third sector and local communities with funding, help and resource tools. These include;

  • NESTA; a charity designed to help bring innovative ideas to life by way of investments and grants as well as assist in the provision of necessary resources, research, and skills.
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION (CDF); national organisation with expertise in community development and engagement helping communities to develop and strengthen local voices. They help improve local people's voice and create a better place to live.
  • BUZZBNK;  a crowdfunding platform that has featured previously on the Gazette, and which helps social ventures, community projects, and local business start-ups find the necessary funds.
  • COMMUNITY FIRST;  a four year £80million initiative funded by they government to help communities identify their strengths and local priorities to better plan for the future and remain resilient in the face of increasing economic uncertainties.
  • CROWDFUNDUK; a resource dedicated to promoting crowdfunding as a viable tool for social enterprises, third sector projects and local communities by providing resources and information to make crowdfunding more accessible.
  • CCLA is one of the UK's largest charity fund managers that works alongside the CDF and Community First programme. The organisation has donated a cash prize for the CrowdMatch Prize Challenge.
Community groups and organisations wishing to participate must apply to the Community First panel for grant funding. Once this is approved the panel set a match funding target on a 1 to 1 basis. Under the set criteria the project owners use Buzzbnk to raise their portion of the necessary funds through crowdfunding. In return they will receive free support and advice on how to design and plan a crowdfunding campaign. The target set to use the funds is 60 days and if successful the panel will match the funding target.
Crowdfunding is a great way for community projects to increase their profile, and gather support from local people. We are excited to be working with Nesta and Buzzbnk on the Crowdmatch Challenge to introduce crowdfunding as new tool to Community First Projects - Jason Nuttall, Head of Programme, Community Development Foundation
The challenge aims to not only increase accessibility of available funds but also to create an atmosphere of co-existence and solidarity. Local groups can encourage their communities to be involved making everyone feel they are contributing in bringing about positive change in their area. The challenge is now open to all Community First panels and projects from Community First wards and more information can be found on The CrowdMatch Challenge website.

Image Credit; Mastermaq

Monday, 28 October 2013

[Gallery Post] Great South Run Round Up

Well it was no half marathon but it might as well have been given the gruelling intensity of the relatively flat 10 mile course that was the 24th annual Great South Run. Three months of physical and mental preparation got me to the historic city of Portsmouth, ready to tackle the longest distance I was yet to run. The Great South Run of course wasn't just an indulgence to test my physical and mental fortitude but to raise money for a worthy cause and come the day, having endured some pain and an unforgiving Mother Nature, I did more than enough to make my efforts worthwhile.

Sitting in my hotel room the night before the race I studied the route very carefully, making a note of each magnificent landmark that I would pass from the war memorial to the naval dockyards and past the HMS Victory all the way up to the Esplanade with the famous Yomper Statue towering over us all. I had been previously warned that at mile 8, as you turn onto the Esplanade one would face a gruelling cross wind and was advised to save some energy for this. My strategy therefore was simple; find a comfortable, steady yet speedy pace (not too fast) and hold it for at least five miles. This would allow me to take advantage of the drinks stations, to get hydrated and restore my energy levels for the big push. I would hold my pace until midway through mile 6 when I would slow down to give myself a rest until that dreaded 8. After that it was to be a case of play the rest by ear but if there was one thing I was determined to do it was to finish the race on a sprint.

It was an unfortunate coincidence that on the weekend of the run Britain was possibly facing the worst storm since 1987, one that would cause untold damage not to mention injuries and even causalities. At one point it was even likely that the run was to be cancelled amid safety concerns, and I considered the possibility of hitting the hotel gym to run the 10 miles on a treadmill. After all I raised nearly £700 for crohn's & colitis, it would have been a shame not to have at least attempted a run even if it meant doing so indoors. Luckily we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies although the occasional windy gust reminded us that it could all turn hellish at any point. I spent the hour leading up to the race amongst the other stable of runners, stretching, running on the spot and jogging up and down making sure every part of me was suitably loosened and warmed up. Come 11.05am  it was time for the green wave to make its way to the START and head off.

So far everything went to plan, having quickly found my pace. The first 3 miles were easy enough, despite the occasional gust of wind knocking me ever so slightly to one side. It was an annoyance but not distracting enough to put me off my stride as I quickly regained my pace. Passing the memorial and running through the naval dockyards was truly breath-taking and added some eye pleasing scenery to the race. The cheering crowds and performing bands conjured that much anticipated thrill and excitement that always comes hand in hand with these events and why I love to participate in them. Mile 4 passed with no problems having taken on water for hydration, smiling as crowds cheered us all on and children held out there hands for high fives for which I was happy to oblige. Reaching miles 5 and 6 brought a big grin to my face in the realisation that I had passed the half way point with no inkling to slow down or even stop. It was the ultimate rush of adrenaline and enthusiasm that carried me all the way through mile 7 and I smugly smiled to myself in the knowledge that this was the furthest I had ever ran. .

The 8th mile of the race took us all from the eastern loop of the course from Henderson Road onto the Esplanade. To the left we were treated to a beautiful sea view, and on the right, The Royal Marines Museum with the hugely impressive Yomper Statue. All the splendour of these wonders soon diminished as we turned the corner and suddenly I found it difficult to keep my pace. It was as if the Westerly wind was waiting for us with all the maniacal glee of a super-villain. The strong gusts whistled past my ears drowning out my inspirational tunes as we all waded through the barrier placed before us. I pushed, breathed hard and even growled to keep running albeit at a pathetically slow pace but Mother Nature proved to be a formidable nemesis that day. The feeling of pushing through such an intensely strong wind was the equivalent of pushing a car up the steepest hill. I could feel the pain in my legs and cramp in my ankles as I forced my way through the heavy gusts but I knew it was hopeless. For the first time I had to reduce to walking speed, along with majority of the other runners, and I felt defeated. I maintained a walk run pace throughout the remainder of mile 8 trying to keep some semblance of the race in me alive, ignoring the pain and bouts of cramp. Having crossed the 9 mile mark I maintained a pathetically slow pace determined that at the very least I was going to cross the finish line on a sprint. With less than half a mile to go and the finish line in sight I gritted my teeth and sprinted as fast as I could. The giant clock above flashed 2:02:38. I raised my arms in victory and "whooped" at the top of my lungs. Spectators and other finishers clapped and cheered as I did so. I had finished the longest race of my running life to date.

My initial feeling of joy quickly turned to sadness as it suddenly hit me that the race was over. Despite those gruelling two miles and the pain that accompanied them I did not want to stop. I have an expression that I try to live my life a mile at a time, because for those ten minutes or less I feel free, nothing can touch me and I am kept completely in the moment. It is the closest to a pure moment of Zen that I can attain and before any snarky remarks are made yes I did pinch a line from The Fast and The Furious. Yet the sentiment is very applicable to my running especially during the race. Once my mixed feelings of joy and sadness passed there came the realisation of what I had achieved. My official race time was 1 hour 59 minutes 44 seconds and at the end of it all I raised £690 (including Gift Aid) for crohn's & colitis. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

UK Comedian Crowdfunds Comabck Stand-Up Shows

UPDATE!!! Deadline for reaching the funding target has been extended until 14th November 2013

Actress, writer and comedian Helen Lederer, well known for her work in renowned British television shows including Naked Video and Absolutely Fabulous, is planning a comedic stage and screen comeback with help from the crowd. Through the crowdfunding platform BloomVC, Helen is looking to raise sufficient funds for two "pop up" comedy shows and even a pilot show for television. In order to bring her well known brand of comedy to the stage Helen is looking to raise £10,000 in ten days.

Welsh born Helen Lederer emerged at the dawn of the UK alternative comedy scene of the 80s establishing a stand up act at London's famous Comedy Store. Helen worked with various big names in the scene including Rik Mayall and Ben Elton in the popular television shows The Young Ones and Happy Families (with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders). Helen then joined the Scottish based comedy sketch show Naked Video giving her a broader audience for her own brand of humour, in particular her role as the inebriated Sloane performing a monologue from the comfort of a wine bar. Helen continued to work with her comedic collaborators from the alternative scene in a variety of television programmes as well as appearing in a number of film productions and the West End.

The latest project from Helen entitled "Why The Fuss?" (WTF) will  consist of two pop-up comedy shows to be held at the St James Theatre in London. Playing before a live audience she will take on the ultimate topic, the meaning of life with her trademark insight and observational humour that has been prevalent throughout her work . Joining Helen for some intelligent philosophical debate as guests will be writers Mark Lawson, Suzanne Moore, and Jay Rayner (better known as a broadcaster and food critic) with the live shows scheduled to take place on 7th and 28th November respectively. To fund her comeback Helen has turned to crowdfunding and the platform BloomVC to raise £10,000 in a record time frame of just ten days.
I am so very excited to join the 21st century at last and to launch my latest project using crowdfunding. It was popular support that led to my decision to bring "Why The Fuss?" back to the stage - this was incredibly flattering, and now I hope that the support of the crowd will also financially enable it. I am giving the crowd the chance to decide whether I can produce my own show. If we can pull this off, it will be the first for a middle aged woman and all thanks to you. - Helen  Lederer

Whilst the funding target  will cover the costs of the shows, Helen has promised that should that target be surpassed the excess funds will contribute to the production of a "Why The Fuss?" television pilot episode. So in addition, donors will not only be rewarded with WTF tickets, wine hampers, pre-show dinners, or an evening  with the funny lady herself but also the opportunity to become television producers. The campaign started from 16th October 2013 with only ten days to raise the necessary funds and is already 12% funded. There is still time to get involved and pledge your support. To do so, click here to visit Helen's funding page.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

[Gallery Post] The Importance of Debates Around the Dinner Table

Whenever there is a family get together (and by that I mean my family) you can be certain that once the meal has been devoured, everyone huddles around the dinner table and at some point the conversation topics become intense. The most recent was no exception and like most of my family topical debates they always get a little heated. I usually do end up on many opposing side doing my best to hold my own and the temperatures and decibels do increase as debate fever takes. At times I get defensive and carried away causing me to lose a little focus thus failing at times to articulate my point. Yet I love these debates with my family because whilst they might seem like a family row to some it is in fact a perfect of example of passionate freedom of expression in action. Lately, after the last gathering of the clan and a good night's sleep I started to wonder about the typical kinds of discussions families around the country had around their dinner tables. Was it all like ours, topical and relevant with views expressed with all the no holds barred gusto of a WWE pay per view event? Is it just light banter? Do families even bother to speak except when absolutely necessary?

In a society in which the national media (particularly right wing raggedy excuse for newspapers) are portraying an increasingly apathetic and lazy generation of youngster let down by the system and their own families it is easy to assume nobody really cares anymore. I know some families only ever talk to each other in expressions of rage barking orders and shouting at one another. They say you should never discuss religion or politics with friends and family as that is when people fall out. Yet when you consider they both play a vital role in shaping world events, even down to a local level then surely the most irresponsible thing to do is not to discuss them. It all boils down to fear mainly of causing offence but also fear of being judged as one amongst an unsavoury minority. My recent family post dinner debate really made me think about the importance of topical discussion that should be carried out unshackled by convention and free of fear.

In the song Harder Than You Think by Public Enemy, front man Chuck D raps "if you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything." Could this be the future of British and even western society as we become increasingly apathetic about the things that shape the world we live in? I was raised during turbulent political climates on two continents and by an evolutionary osmosis developed my intellect and passion for all things political. The news was regularly played in my household and I would listen with great interest as my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles talk about the headlines and the state of the country. My idealism quickly took shape and I hadn't even turned sixteen when I would join in. I was fortunate to be raised in a socially and politically aware environment not to mention having first hand experience of changes in political climates. I ask again, what about the rest of Britain's families?

Should it be the case that majority of dinner conversations consist of the occasional grunt or eerie silences disturbed by the occasional chewing sounds then something is seriously amiss in my opinion. In between the occasional gossip, banter about the latest Made in Chelsea episode or even berating the latest X Factor contestant as a society we need to discuss the more serious things that go on in the world,those that matter. A night with my family might seem like a verbal free for all to those who don't understand and as I usually end up on the opposite end of a debate with the rest, not necessarily a fair fight. What you would be witnessing in fact is passionate Britons voicing their opinions, with no fear of causing offence or being labelled. I would like to imagine more of this goes on around the country than my cynicism might lead me to believe. Where my family are concerned we never shy away from the controversial and out of it comes a better understanding followed by dessert. When it comes to topical debates, mainly politics but also religion as well as the effects of pop culture and society's decline my family and I might be on opposite sides of the fence but we definite do not sit on it. Here's hoping so many more do the same.

Image Credit; Dion Hinchcliffe

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

[Fright Fest Feature] Rediscovering Found Footage

Over the years I had grown increasingly tired of the "found footage" sub genre of horror. Most will be familiar with the format; a team of investigators or film makers venture into some remote part of the world to look into a grisly event and disappear. Sometime later however their recording equipment is found intact complete with footage which is extracted, edited and presented to cinema audiences worldwide. What makes these films popular is the inference they are true stories and executed properly, contain a gritty realism as seen from the players' point of view drawing audiences into the unfolding scary events. It is an interesting format that works well but unfortunately has seen that market become somewhat over-saturated  Fright Fest features a bevy of such found footage films which seem to have breathed new life into the format.

Principally, found footage films such as Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust, are popular with studios as they are relatively cheap to make. It is usually best to feature unknown actors as more famous ones will increase the budget and take away any realistic element.  The actors can be included in the technical process and given cameras to film their own scenes as they did with Blair Witch. From a creative point of view however found footage films give scope for the actors to improvise and the filmmakers to create a real sense of atmosphere using a wide array of filming techniques. However with so many such films on the market it has been a case of there being more bad films than good, leaving many fans a little jaded. 

This year's Fright Fest screenings featured a number of found footage films that have challenged the audience perceptions of this sadly over used format. Titles that have impressed Fright Festers include Bobcat Goldthwait's Willow Creek about a couple who hope to catch sight of the infamous Big Foot, and Paranormal Diaries; Clophill, a film investigating witchcraft and satanic rituals. Here is a look at a selection of found footage films featured at Fright Fest.

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Sitting in the wrong seat having sauntered in just as the movie started, where I expected disappointment I was pleasantly surprised, the best of which was the joy of watching a Renny Harlin film on the big screen again. As timely as my train journey into the big city all the cliches arrived on cue; the true story backdrop, five young camera wielding investigators, interviews with the yokels and a last hurrah before venturing out into the snow covered treacherous mountains, perhaps never to be seen again.

Watch enough found footage films and these aspects creep in and make you feel as if you are essentially watching the same film over again. However Harlin has plenty to work with in Vikram Weet's intriguing script. Despite the film quality being a little too crisp for "found footage" there is no absence of tension or atmosphere. The reveal at the end might leave some viewers disappointed but with a conservative running time, and some decent performances, Dyatlov Pass set a fair standard for raised expectations of what was to follow. 

Frankenstein's Army

Reading the synopsis of this wonderfully entertaining and eerie production that really pushes the boundaries of creativity, it is fair to say that the "real" story element was bundled up and thrown out of the window. The story again has the usual elements; a rag tag group (this time Russian soldiers) venturing into the wilderness in search of another rag tag group who have gone missing. Yes there is a filmmaker who accompanies them but if you are wondering why a Russian filmmaker during World War II is armed with a seemingly modern day camera, this is dealt with quite comically in the film. 

During the height of World War II, a team of Russian soldiers venture into enemy held territory in search of their comrades who went missing. Accompanying them is a filmmaker with orders to record the journey as part of a propaganda film. Their investigation leads them to a compound where Hitler had commissioned a certain mad scientist to build him the ultimate army. Dutch director Richard Raaphorst's film was entertaining and engaging on many fronts mainly the tensions between the soldiers as the film progresses, the setting and genuine sense of atmosphere and of course the wonderfully macabre creations that unleash some creative and bloody mayhem.  

The Conspiracy

Christopher MacBride's entry into the found footage cinematic battle draws the viewer into a world that many tend to dismiss but still can't help but be fascinated with; the world of the conspiracy theory. From Area 51 to the September 11 attacks the conspiracy theorist with a hazy combination of wild eyed paranoia and logical scientific examination has helped cast shadows of doubt on much of what goes on around the world. All the trademarks of found footage are there, investigators in search of a missing person delving into sinister goings on, hidden cameras and a terrifying revelation to the point of cheesy cliche. However it works eerily well in its execution and treatment of the subject matter. 

Where The Conspiracy works is in its documentary format giving a high level of authenticity that is lacking from many other films of this type. Using this eerie realistic feel, MacBride introduces the conspiracy theory elements in great detail and whether you believe in them or not, many of such theories have an air of truth and convincingness to make one stop and think. Unlike so many other found footage films, its scares do not lie in the supernatural but in the far more terrifying reality of greed and power. The ultimate reveal is a little far fetched but all in all The Conspiracy has tension and and atmosphere to boot and is almost a guaranteed conversation starter about the existence of secret societies and whether or not conspiracy theorists might just be right after all.  

v/h/s/ 2

Horror anthologies are back with a vengeance with some of the biggest names from independent cinema contributing a segment which combined launch an all out war on the human senses. The rapper story is that of two private investigators hired to search for a woman's missing son. They arrive at his apartment and find a pile of videotapes with a recorded instruction to play them in a specific order. As each horrifying segment is viewed the grisly nature of the young man's disappearance is revealed. 

Of all the found footage PoV (point of view) style films featured at Fright Fest v/h/s 2 is by far the most entertaining for light scares and lots of laughter, with Safe Haven, co-directed by The Raid's Gareth Evans being the star player. Dispensing with all the authentic documentary style with a story bogged down with facts, v/h/s 2 is out thrill from start to finish and succeeds. All the stories are told from a variety of recorded PoV films ranging from a prosthetic eye enabling its wearer to see dead people to a helmet cam of a zombie cyclist. The array of well known indie directors including Evans, Adam Wingard (You're Next) and the found footage master Eduardo Sanchez (Blair Witch Project) each bring their own brand of suspense and humour to their individual segments all linked together with the engaging underlining story. This is the perfect example of taking a familiar format and having lots of fun with it and still able to conjure the scares.

I can honestly say the Fright Fest has restored my faith in the found footage genre although there is still a barrage of awful titles to trawl before you get the to good stuff. Still, it just goes to show that a familiar formula can still be tinkered with to create something that is imaginative, filled with scares and humour aplenty. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Running for Crohn's & Colitis - The latest challenge and a personal plea

Although it  seems much longer, in fact only two years have passed since I blew off the piles of dust that had formed on my "running shoes" and took to the streets to get fit for a race I had not run in over 20 years. The year was 2011 and I ran my first 10K race in Bristol to raise money for Kidney Research and you can read about that here. Since then I have ran the Bristol 10K twice and each time beat my personal best. Not content with sitting on my laurels I have found a new challenge to undertake, and a cause in more need of support than the last. The race is the Great South Run, a 10 mile route through historic Portsmouth and the cause is crohn's and colitis UK. You can sponsor me by visiting my Virgin Money Giving page, and don't forget to Gift Aid it if you can.

Image Credit; Me and IBD

For those who are unaware Crohn's and Colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) which should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It is a long term chronic condition usually diagnosed in young people between the ages of 15 and 30. There is no cure and treatment can vary depending on severity, and these include use of steroid medications to prevent flare ups, to surgery for more serious situations. As I said there is no cure and if left unchecked it can be life threatening. The condition of colitis is completely unpredictable and can go into remission for months (even years) at a time before coming back twice as painful. It is not certain what triggers the onset of colitis, although diet and genetics are thought to be a factor, however IBDs, especially colitis are known to be autoimmune conditions. Records state over 240,000 people have been diagnosed with crohn's and colitis many of them children, in their teens and adults in their early twenties. 

I know at least two people diagnosed with this terrible condition; an old friend and a close member of my family. Colitis is extremely painful and debilitating. Its symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pains, frequent need to use the toilet and weight loss, and affects greatly the sufferer's quality of life. I remembered when my close family member had a colonoscopy and was told that his colon was so inflamed that it resembled that of a sun burn. Colitis is the proverbial "gift that keeps on giving" as it also brings about anaemia, fatigue and tiredness, and those who suffer with it are at greater risk of bowel cancer and so regular checks are carried out. 

Of all the research charities, crohn's and colitis is probably one of the most underfunded and with the coalition government carrying on with their hatchet job of the NHS and funding research for medical advances, the need for more funds to continue the work is greater than ever. To raise money for the charity I decided to participate in the Great South Run to be held on the weekend of the 26th and 27th October in Portsmouth. As a runner I am driven by the challenge to run faster, longer. It is a joy to be running regularly again and I have benefited physically as well as mentally from the rigorous challenges I set myself. However we all need motivation to help push those limits and this year I have found mine.

There will be those who doubt I can do this and others who worry about the health implications after all, I am 42 years old and still carry a little more extra poundage than perhaps I should. However I have met head on and overcome the challenges of the 10K beating my PB every time and getting trimmer each year. Through the races and the training I have learnt a lot about how my body performs under pressure and always adopt a slow and steady approach, as opposed to an all out display of macho bravado to the fanfare of a Rocky montage. A steely determination to take my body to new limits but with a sensible approach will hold me in good stead come the big day. Yes I am a bit bonkers but it is all for a good cause as there is nothing more heartbreaking than to have someone close to you suffering from this terrible bowel disease for which there is no cure, is deeply  misunderstood, and for some reason just doesn't seem to garner as much support as is deserved. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

[Fright Fest Special] On Tender Hooks

Stars; Kate Shenton, Tam Smith, Ana Loco, Damien Lloyd-Davies, Charlyne Chiappone
Written and Directed by; Kate Shenton

WARNING!!!! If you have a sensitive constitution perhaps you should not read this review. 

Fly on the wall documentary by a young filmmaker who spent a year following and talking to people who engage in human suspension, an activity that involves piercing themselves with hooks and suspending in mid air. Starting in London before moving onto Rio, Croatia, and Oslo in Norway, the film shines a light on the people and their reasoning behind as well as feelings about this mind blowing, innovating and largely misunderstood past time.

Body piercing, tattoos, and extreme body modifications always leave most people in a state of awe and disbelief - "why on earth would anybody do that to themselves?" and "they must have a screw loose" are typical reactions. Whilst these are tolerated within certain boundaries, human suspension is sure to be the limit to what many consider an acceptable practice. Yet Kate Shenton's frank and emotional documentary looks to cast an enlightening spotlight on the practice, its very strict safety protocols and the motivations of those who week after week keep coming back for more indulging in some outlandish displays which are jaw droppingly creative.

When you think of human suspension by meat hooks pierced through the skin attached to a custom made harness it is hard to imagine it involving anything other than just hanging in mid air and bearing the strain and pain that must surely accompany something so gruelling. However what Kate Shenton's film reveals are acts of suspension that defy conventional human imagination. Hooks penetrating various parts of the body with positions ranging from the lotus position to mid air splits, stationary suspension to acrobatic swings that would put to shame the most daredevilish of trapeze artists, the art of human suspension (and yes it is an art) provides a challenge for those who practice it as well as even the most hardened of onlookers.

The film also focuses, in shocking detail, the piercing techniques involved, including the different types of hooks used as well as the care and attention that goes into constructing the high tensity harness, rigorously tested and maintained for safety to ensure trust and well being of participants. What will challenge those who feel this is a highly dangerous (and done incorrectly it can be) and disturbing past time, is the care that goes into making sure the suspenders are "hooked" up. From the anatomical knowledge of the piercers to ensure no vital areas of the body are caught, to the very sanitary conditions of the work areas that would rival any operating theatre, for what is seemingly a very dangerous activity, safety and well being of suspenders is an absolutely priority. Some aspects, such as the hook piercing are not as painful as one might believe, and whilst some experience pain and discomfort, many under the endorphin and adrenaline rush, are swinging away like children from a climbing frame.

Where the documentary really excels is in capturing the stories of the people involved, and the sheer rush of joy suspenders get from an activity the mere thought of would have others squirming in their seats. The thought of suspending oneself from sharp meat hooks might seem painful yet watching these participants perform an array of mind boggling suspensions with nothing but smiles and laughter is guaranteed to challenge those perceptions. The suspenders themselves are colourful yet very happy and open minded individuals, even more well adjusted than perhaps "society" would like us to believe, after all what sane person would do this to themselves? It is this sort of preconceived notion of what is acceptable also reveals that some suspenders are vilified by their families and the legal system. The story of Ana who is currently fighting for legal custody of her child, is particularly heartbreaking, and during a Q&A afterwards Kate revealed that the majority of suspenders and piercers face similar harassment, and that this mostly targets women.

On Tender Hooks is a frank yet touching examination of a group of people who for a variety of reasons choose to take up human suspension from spiritual fulfilment to the endorphin-fuelled rush that challenges the limits of the human body and soul. By leaving the floor open for the subjects of the film to do most of the talking, and choosing largely to stay behind the camera Kate has captured the real sense of community amongst the suspenders. These are happy and content individuals who seek fulfilment through extreme yet very safe methods in a trusting environment, no different to say any form of extreme sports or physical activities such as mountain climbing or potholing. Kate's connection with the community not to mention a finale that reveals her taking research into a subject matter to new heights (pun intended) that have given her a unique understanding of it all, powerfully comes across in the film.

Human suspension, like anything else, is not for everyone and neither the filmmaker nor its practitioners are looking to convert more people to participate. On Tender Hooks however should leave everyone with a better understanding and appreciation for this bizarre practice and even a little fondness for these colourful individuals whose only wish is to be left to their own devices (again pun intended), free from judgement and vilification.

Friday, 30 August 2013

[Fright Fest Special] The Shorts at Fright Fest

The amazing aspect of short films is their ability, under the proper creative guidance of course, to tell a complete story with as much running time as it takes to travel from my hotel room to Leicester Square (around 13 mins). In fact a well crafted short film can be more entertaining and engaging than most Hollywood feature length productions. This year at Fright Fest nine short films received their big screen premiers from new and established names in the genre. The event also played host to the imaginatively titled and conceived 666 Shortcuts to Hell film competition. Let us also not forget those highly entertaining and gruesome shorts encouraging the audience to turn off their mobile phones or risk facing bloody retribution. 


Two police officers break into the apartment of notorious criminal Vince Deacon (a chilling steely performance by Stephen McCole) beat him and tie him to a chair. Having now crossed the line the senior officer Jimmy Parton (Neil Maskett) threatens to torture and kill Deacon, much to the shock of his junior partner Nathan Reece (Ed Speelers) unless he reveals the whereabouts of a certain package. Realising that the officers have reached a point of no return that it can only have one outcome Deacon attempts to set the two policeman against one another before they decide to clean up their mess.

Writer and director Will Gilbey has crafted and helmed a tense psychological thriller with all the edgy grittiness of a British gangster flick. All three actors give sterling performances and Gilbey keeps the viewers' attention fixed on the mind games leaving other details such as the contents of the package a mystery never to be solved.

Chuck Steel; Balls of Steel Justice

If you love 80s action cop films then this claymation spoof/homage from Welsh based Immortal Pictures is the one to watch. Chuck Steel is the quintessential action hero cop, a lone wolf loose cannon whose  arrests and interventions turn the city into a war zone. Yet Chuck, along with his sex-crazed robot partner, is the only one who can save an accountant held hostage from a deadly ball busting (literally) end.

Every cliche from 80s cop films is packed into this laugh a minute animation, including the shouty police chief who is one angry cry away from a coronary, explosions and inventive deaths always followed by cheesy one liners, and grandiose martial arts finale. Think of every aspect of all four lethal weapon films and anything by Arnold Schwarzenegger and what you have is a very affectionate poke at some of action filmdom's most loved films.

The Body

A stone cold killer (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen) chooses Halloween night to carry out the murder of his latest bounty so that he can escape with body in tow on the one night nobody would be suspicious. His plan seems to work until he is recognised by an old school friend who is impressed with the killer's "costume" and insists on showing him off at a party. The killer at first agrees but time is wearing thin and so is his patience.

Writers Paul Davis and Paul Fischer have crafted a macabre story laced with dark humour. The juxtaposition of Allen's stoney faced killer posing with his victim at a party full of fancy dressed party goers is entertaining yet never loses any of its sinister side. .Under Davis' direction a tense atmosphere is maintained right up to its unexpected end and Alfie Allen is in fine form as the killer .

666 Shortcuts to Hell

Filmmakers were called to make a film under restrictions around the 666 moniker including 6 lines of dialogue, 6 cast and crew on a budget of £666 and with a running time of 6 x 30 secs i.e. 3 minutes. Around 157 filmmakers responded to call from which six (ha ha) were chosen to compete for the grand prize of £6,666, a premier screening at Fright Fest and mentorship under the guiding hands of film production company Movie Mogul Films. The six-member panel judging the submissions make-up leading names in the horror genre including presenter & actress Emily Booth, actor Laurence Harvey (Tom Six having to withdraw due to filming commitments) and Paul McEvoy programme co-ordinator for the Horror Channel and part of the Fright Fest "four musketeers". 

The finalists comprised of up and coming as well as established filmmakers with an array of submissions which included a new twist on the tequila worm, the tale of a heartbroken zombie as told through the medium of 80s power ballads , and a warning to rogue government agencies about the dangers of experimenting with telepaths. Having watched all six films I can only imagine just how hard it was for the judges to choose a winner from this macabre motley crue. Heads might have exploded as in a scene from Cronenberg's Scanners, however thankfully sanity was secure and heads on necks remained whole as the winner was announced; Weronika Tofilska with her disturbing yet highly amusing 6 Feet Under, the story of a young woman working in the mortuary applying makeup to her deceased (and attractive) charge and whose imagination results in her getting a little carried away. 

Shortcuts to Hell not only provided an opportunity for talented filmmakers to have fun adding to the beating rhythm of the "dark heart of cinema" but as a testament to the storytelling challenge power of short films. Along with the nine other titles premiered during Fright Fest audiences have been treated to a smorgasbord of creative storytelling and imaginative visuals that have made us laugh, cringe and laugh  some more.  All hail the power of the short film. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

[Fright Fest Special] R.I.P.D 3D Review - UK Premier

Stars; Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker
Director Robert Schwentke
Running Time; 120 mins

Recently and untimely deceased Detective Nick Walker is given an opportunity to serve the R.I.P.D (Rest in Peace Department), an afterlife enforcement agency tasked with capturing souls looking to evade judgment. Partnered with grisly veteran Sheriff Roy Pulsifier, Walker soon realises that his death in the line of duty is linked to a plot to build an ancient staff that will bring about the end of the world. The two are caught up in a race against time to find the artefacts before it's too late.

If the premise of R.I.P.D sounds a bit like Ghostbusters meets Men In Black it would be due to the number similarities the movie bears to its counterparts. It is hard to not think of Men in Black when you see the R.I.P.D precinct or Reynolds and Bridges chasing down souls using their somewhat out of this world weaponry. Even Mary-Louise Parker as the department's supervisor Proctor has the gruffness of Rip Torn's Z, whilst the supernatural apocalypse and spectral hunting draws influence from Bill Murray et al's 1984 blockbuster. Yet such comparisons are disingenuous as despite some shortcomings R.I.P.D is  an entertaining picture in its own right.

The word across the great oceanic divide has been that R.I.P.D was a flop of gigantic proportions which is why Universal apparently kept it hidden away until its US release. From the terrible acting (what even Bridges?) to the poor special effects, expectations from the Fright Fest crowd were low but on the whole it was a pleasant surprise that the film was not as bad as believed. R.I.P.D is not without its flaws. The emotional elements of the film, mainly Reynolds' undead detective trying to cope with his demise, lacked a little depth. Whilst this is a lighthearted supernatural action romp, the film would have felt more complete with a little visceral element (see Heaven Can Wait for how this was done). Kevin Bacon, who knows how to give a truly villainous performance, sadly fails to deliver in his bad guy role as Reynolds' treacherous partner, so much so that any number of lesser known actors could have played the part (probably for less money). 

Yet the biggest disappointment was the climactic battle to stop the unleashing of rotten souls bringing about the end of the world, which lacked that epic apocalyptic scale. The whole segment looked and felt like it was all taking place in a studio lot rather than city streets and lacked any sense of foreboding doom. With a budget of $130 million dollars, expectations for this finale were high on the visuals alone yet it was disappointing on all aspects and at times felt rushed. 

The negatives aside however the film is not wanting for exciting (but not jaw dropping) special effects and the 3D version being of much superior quality of recent productions. The action, under the directorial helmsmanship of RED's Robert Schwentke, is impressive and fast paced. However the truly entertaining and saving grace aspect of the film are the central characters and a script that gives the two leads some truly entertaining (though excessive) comic moments. Although failing to deliver on the emotional content of his character's inability to let go (more to do with the script perhaps) Reynolds executes his trademark charm and deadpan delivery that often leaves filmgoers divided, and he does so with great timing. This plays off well with Bridges essentially reprising his True Grit performance but resembling Buffalo Bill and looks as if he is having fun with some of the film's best comical dialogue. 

Overall R.I.P.D is a fun entertaining film that with low expectations will surprise and delight on many fronts. Fans of the Dark Horse comic upon which this is based might be hugely disappointed with how this has been adapted. It is evident to see why it draws comparisons to Ghostbusters and Men In Black which is hard to ignore, yet all comparisons aside, the film has a look and feel all of its own. Shame about the ending.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

[Fright Fest Special] Review You're Next - London Preview

Stars; Sharni Vinson, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz
Director; Adam Wingard
Running Time; 95 mins
Release Date (Cinema) 28th August.

A family reunion to celebrate a wedding anniversary in a remote manor house turns into a bloody nightmare as a menacing masked figure traps the terrified group and begins picking them off one by one. The only person who stands in his way is a feisty family guest who puts her survival training to use protecting everyone in the house. Soon it becomes apparent the killer is not alone and the real fight for survival begins.

Although production finished on this project two years ago Adam Wingard's (A Horrible Way to Die, v/h/s) home invasion revenge picture is finally ready to grace the cinema screen. Packed with gruesome suspenseful action "You're Next" ticks all the boxes and adds a few of its own.

The film wastes no time getting the blood fest swinging into action. The opening scene features a masked machete wielding killer slaying his first victim then leaving the film's title scrolled in blood as a prophetic warning to the next victim. Although there is a brief pause as hosts Paul and Aubrey (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) await the arrival of their adult children and with respective significant others in tow, the attacks resume in full brutal force. Simon Barrett's sharp script however is more than just a series of killings by a random maniac with a gradual unfolding events revealing a twist or two in the tale. Barrett injects some dark humour smoothing off the edges of what is a dark and brutal film. 

Director Adam Wingard maintains the suspense levels effectively with throwing in the occasional horror cliché. The clean editing switching from moments of calm into the full force of another attack keeps audiences glued to the screen and on the edge of their seats. This is helped by the cast performances conveying the right balance of grief and panic all  create a tense atmosphere. Shari Vinson, who has now left days in Aussie soap Home and Away far behind, throws herself into the role of the film's heroine Erin putting great gusto into the action yet never sacrificing any of the visceral elements.  

Great performances from the cast as a whole and an enigmatic script add intrigue and emotional content to the film but this mainly about the bloody action The killer's penchant of machete and crossbow wielding (as well as one or two nasty little surprises) are over the top in comically brutal way fuelled by the family's attempts to defend themselves. Out come an assortment of flesh slicing weapons of choice including axes, kitchen knives and under Erin's almost military-eque direction, a series of booby traps which when guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes. It is brutal and bloody but outlandish enough to entertain."

You're Next is an above average slasher home invasion picture dark and bloody but with just enough macabre humour thrill and entertain audiences. It a solid platform for its female star as a viable female action lead, and cements the director and writer's reputation as a creative force in horror.

[Fright Fest Special] Review Curse of Chucky - European Premier

Stars; Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez
Director; Don Mancini
Running Time; 90 Mins

Chucky is back and this time he is unleashing murderous mayhem on a grieving dysfunctional family. The life of wheelchair bound Nica has been shattered following the death of her mother. The arrival of Nica's sister and her family stirs up old arguments and new ones about Nica's perceived inability to cope on her own. When each member is found horribly murdered she begins to suspect that the culprit might be the strange doll delivered a few days ago, one that seems to have itched itself to Nica's little niece.

Movie franchise, especially in horror with well known figures such as Jason and Freddy Kruger have become over-saturated to the point where no amount of tongue in cheek self mockery can possibly save them from public disdain. A principle problem is that at some the point those who originally conceived the characters jumped the creative liner long ago leaving their beloved creations in the hands of those who do not necessarily appreciate them. Somewhat unfairly, the Chucky series gets lumbered in with the likes of those iconic idols of splatterdom and terror in franchise hell, yet of all these the Chucky films have succeeded by going for quality over quantity. With the latest instalment, only the sixth in a series that has spanned twenty five years, writer/director (and Chucky creator) pulls out all the stops to deliver a fun filled ride of a movie that delivers on all fronts; dark humour, mild scares, and a strong script and properly fleshed out characters (pun intended).

Manicini seems to have by-passed the events of the previous two films, Bride, and Seed of Chucky and reset this latest story decades after Child's Play 3. This was a wise move as although the addition of Tiffany and Glen added some new life to the series, continuing this twisted family saga could have added a bore  factor spelling disaster for Chucky fans. By removing them from the main story, Manicini gets back to having the kind of fun with everyone's favourite killer doll that made the first film such a success.

The plot, at its core is very straightforward setting the scene typical of most horror films, that of a decaying old house playing host to a grisly death that brings together a troubled grieving family. What Mancini's script does well is introduce brief elements that keep the story moving along setting up it for the big battle at the end. It is with the principle human characters however that Manicini has the most fun injecting some dark humour but capitalising on all the horror hallmarks.

In Nica (a strong performance by Fiona Dourif) Mancini has scripted a quintessential scary movie heroine, brave and resourceful though seemingly surrounded by those who think they know what is best for her. Nica's older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti in fine comic form) provides intrigue and comic relief as a shallow snob, a victim of the current financial crisis ashamed of her husband working as a barista and devastated at the thought of her daughter going to public school. Her high pitched whispers echo her snobbery fears matched only by her green eyed observations of her husband's seemingly amorous focus on the family nanny. Manicini establishes a tense sibling rivalry masked by Barb's false smiles shattered by Nica's refusal to be treated as an invalid. This adds a little depth of characterisation and it is this interplay that provides some of the film's best dialogue. 

Other players including the family priest (a rather one dimensional A Martinez) , Barb's husband Ian (Brennan Elliot) seems to float through the first half of the film all smiles and niceties but not for long, and Jill the nanny (Maitland McConnell) provides some moments of titillation. Alice (Summer Howell) is the typical "cute kid" in a sickly fashion juxtaposed brilliantly as she slowly echoes Chucky's maniacal influence leading to a sudden outburst laden with the occasional colourful metaphor. Nica is by far the strongest and multi-dimensional of the all the players which makes her journey through the story even more poignant. Yet the one the audiences flock to see is the most entertaining; the combination of the creepy animatronic Chucky doll with Brad Dourif's venomous yet hugely entertaining voice over creating an icon of horror that has stood the test of time.

The film is well paced and the sub plots in no way distract from the main story but keep the audience entertained as Chucky settles in before unleashing his own brand of mischievous homicide. It has the right blend of dark humour mixed in with grisly macabre which Mancini the director executes flawlessly. The stand out moment has to be the dinner table scene with spinning ceiling view shot as dinner is served and the players take their seat whilst the audience is left wondering which one gets the poisoned dish. It really is a clever piece of cinematography that is not only visually engaging but adds some tense comical anticipation.

If there is one aspect the film that leaves a question mark is the end, not so much from the characters point of view since their final journeys are satisfactorily resolved. On the one hand Mancini the writer seemed to have trouble closing the door on this chapter of the saga opting instead to cram in a number of alternative endings. However this also worked in keeping viewer engagement revealing one surprise after another for fans of the franchise. All in all though Curse of Chucky is an entertaining addition to the series with right blend of gruesomeness laced with laugh out loud dark humour succeeding in keeping the franchise fresh and audiences anticipating more where the others have failed.

Film 4 Fright Fest 2013 - Day 2 Friday 23rd August

The first day presented a heady mix of excitement and exhilaration even though Fright Fest for me did not get started until 9.00 at night. It was certainly an eventful and entertaining evening resulting in me crawling into my hotel room at an ungodly hour hoping I would survive the first full day of the event. The goal for that day was to cram in as many films as possible and report back to you all but this was a task that would prove to be easier said than done.

Day two started in the main screen with the latest addition to what is an over saturated market - the found footage sub genre. Amongst the high volume of these type of productions, the majority of which I can honestly say are poor, The Dyatlov Pass Incident (aka Devil's Pass) was one of the few that was of reasonable quality with a genuinely tense and unnerving atmosphere as well as an engaging story. It was also great to see Renny Harlin helming a solid picture again. This was followed later on with an early evening screening of Haunter, a solid ghost story with elements of The Others and Lovely bones with a spooky and twisted take on Groundhog Day. By any stretch not the best film premiering but it was refreshing to see a fairly creative and decent ghost story, This segmented into the main event which I had intended to miss and was pleased to have been swayed by an unexpected change of mind.

The star of the night had to be v/h/s 2, a collection of short "found footage" stories merged into a fantastic modern take on the horror anthology that used to grace the silver screen right up until the 80s and then disappeared into the ether (pun referencing Haunter intended). A sadly missed format which is now making a brutal and bloody return and with this latest offering, featuring a bevy of cult and horror directors who unleash mayhem on the senses of the audience. We laughed, cringed, and applauded furiously and came away feeling more cleansed and refreshed than a colonic. However the best was yet to come, and this epitomises Fright Fest perfectly. 

Gareth Evans, director of The Raid; Redemption, talked about the filming of his segment on v/h/s 2 with great passion and humour before unveiling a real film lover's treat; a world exclusive peak at a new film still in production. The scene from The Raid 2; Berandal due for release next year, excitedly teased actions fans with devastatingly bone crunching yet balletic display of "hari mau" martial arts as the assassin known only as Hammer Girl unleashed a carnage of punches, kicks, locks, and throws whilst armed with a pair of household hammers. D.I.Y will just never seem the same again after you see these put to deadly use.

A short film, the gripping and tense Turncoat, as well as conversing with like minded horror fans, writers and filmmakers added to what can only be described as a full on and engaging first full day of Fright Fest. If there is one thing I learned from today however is to queue early for the Discovery screens as sales for those go faster than tubs of ice cream from Empire Cinema's Ben and Jerry's stall.