FRIGHTFEST REVIEW ROUND-UP

The Last Thing Mary Saw – a moody, at times very effective period piece, Stefanie Scott and Isabelle Fuhrman star as Mary and Eleanor, clandestine lovers trying to maintain their relationship in the midst of a family who go a bit heavy-handed on the religion (Eleanor is the family’s maid).

Set in mid-19th century America, director Edoardo Vitaletti shows a sure hand to slowly build the atmosphere and tension, delivering an affecting pay-off. Strong performances all round and a real sense of style see this one score pretty nicely. 3.5/5

She Watches From The Woods – Having seen her sister drown in front of her very eyes as a child, June (Meredith Garretson) is then institutionalised, wracked with grief and insisting a demonic force in the woods caused the tragedy.

Years later, June returns to the area, determined to investigate the truth and convince those around her that the threat she fears is very real.

A neat updating of the folk horror vibe, She Watches From The Woods showcases a standout lead performance from Garretson, struggling to escape from the literal and figurative demons of her past. Director Beau Ballinger pitches the tone just right, throwing up a tale that mixes conventional ‘horror’ and crushing emotion to good effect. 3.5/5

Slapface – an inventive, effective potpourri of family tragedy, grief, bullying, revenge fantasy and the supernatural, Mike Manning and August Maturo star as brothers Tom and Lucas, reeling from the deaths of their parents in a freak accident.

Attempting to channel their suffering, younger brother Lucas sees his frustrations manifest itself in the local legend of the Virago witch, who sets about laying waste to his tormentors.

But as the bodies start to pile up, will anyone believe him? Recommended. 4/5

The Advent Calendar – It’s deja vu all over again as wheelchair using ex-dancer Eva enters a Faustian pact with an antique wooden advent calendar, behind ever door lurking not just a sweetie but her dream of dancing again. All it takes is a little sacrifice in this slow-burning French chiller! 4/5

Prisoners Of The Ghostland –  If Tarkovsky and Takashi Miike got ripped on coke and made a movie together it’d look a lot like Prisoners of the Ghostland! But looks aren’t everything. Cage turns up his Cageness to 11 but you’d think a film where he has a bomb attached to his nuts would be more fun! 3/5

Captive – Abused by her violet father Lily jumps from the frying pan into the fire when she takes refuge at the home of Evan who’s convinced she is his missing daughter. A tense, restrained little two-hander that’s either sunk or saved by its last act twist (I vote saved), Captive is 3/5

Mystery Spot – The likes of Graham Skipper and Lisa Wilcox star in this ensemble effort, which sees a group of strangers come together (and in some cases bond) over a series of strange events at an out-of-the-way motel. Starts off intriguing, but loses steam at the mid-way point and ends up becoming a bit of a drag. 2.5/5

About The Author

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle