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#ArrowFrightFest 2021 – Day Four

Here are my Arrow FrightFest 2021: Day Four micro reviews for: SOUND OF VIOLENCE / GAIA / BLOODTHIRSTY / FORGIVENESS

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SOUND OF VIOLENCE d. Alex Noyer, 2021/95mins

An entirely brilliant high concept – “a young woman with Synesthesia makes music that kills people” – is entirely undone by the tedious throwback style in which it’s delivered. Which is a shame, because the Northern Lights inspired graphics that visualise her hearing are stunning, and you just long for them to creep into the rest of the fabric of the film to kickstart the slaying. Instead, all the killings are sub-SAW standard, hellbent on graphic gore, regardless of the rich plot potential.

After wiping his eyes from the emotion of seeing his work on the giant FrightFest screen (cute!), ex-documentary director Alex Noyer spent some time in Q&A talking about how the diversity of his cast and extent of his research into hearing conditions were debts owed in our modern world. Which is all good, it’s just a shame he took such little innovation from their insights.

Respect to the @frightfestuk audience for being the first to spot the director’s Easter egg tribute to one of his favourite schlockers, CHOPPING MALL. I’d just hoped the film would aim higher.

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GAIA d. Jaco Bouwer, 2021/96mins

This was the film I was looking forward to most at FrightFest, because it looked and sounded like it might be different. And in many ways it was. But, in order to get there, I need to explain what was the disappointing same, and that requires plot spoilers (sorry!).

First, the moan. This is a film about the almighty earth goddess, made with backing from Film Initiative Africa, that manages to kill the token Black guy off in the first few minutes and then reduce its female lead into a pile of steaming love fungi in order to give the young white male lead a story arc. I kid you not.

Now, the good stuff. GAIA is a film with genuine magic and mystery and, initially at least, a story you couldn’t see far into, like the impenetrable forest of its setting. Throw in some disturbing creatures (part human / part forest) and a mythos that really had considerable mileage, and it’s on the cusp of being audaciously different. And those fungi? Both practical and digital FX, create a genuine sense of ill ease, a potent symbol of the inescapable force that lies beneath the earth, and some of the most striking visual images of the festival.

Kudos to the team @frightfestuk and everyone scrambling around in the projection booth @cineworldlsq for getting this title to work (they received a corrupted digital file). Seems like it took an overnight shift and a reboot of the entire Cineworld complex to get the thing going (which might explain the momentary evacuation alert and the extreme cold from the air conditioning…).

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BLOODTHIRSTY d. Amelia Moses, 2020/84mins

The first film I saw at FrightFest directed by a woman, and it was a serious slow burn delight. Think A STAR IS BORN with a great lesbian relationship taking centre-stage, and extra werewolves (not forgetting Gaston, the adorable stunt rabbit…).

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FORGIVENESS d. Alex Kahuam, 2021/90mins

Punchdrunk do Pasolini’s SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (but probably shouldn’t…).

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