I did it. I survived Frightfest Glasgow (opens in new tab). Here’s my definitive list of the best horror on offer and their associated heartrate on my trusty Fitbit.
I can say one thing for certain. There is nothing like Baskin. The journey of five Turkish police officers into a hell dimension of butchers, masochists and murderers is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s visceral, nasty and disturbing. Yet while it might have limb removal, the searing of flesh and literally buckets of blood, this is is no Hostel or Green Inferno. There is a beating heart under the depravity here and while it’s liberally spraying arterial gore, it’s this that puts Baskin far above its peers.
Through a series of flashbacks, dream sequences and scenes of unflinching body horror, Baskin literally takes you to hell. I wanted to sit in a room with magnolia walls and just rock myself gently immediately afterwards and I still want to do that when I think about it. I obsess over the seas of frogs in the movie, brood on its grim horror and try not to ponder too long on the disturbing intricacies.
Worth noting too is the incredible performance of Mehmet Cerrahoğlu as The Father. Horror critics are already declaring him as the next Michael Berryman - the breakout, unique star of the original The Hills Have Eyes. Cerrahoğlu had previously never acted before but the intensity he offers up here is astonishing. By the time he appeared in the movie, I was already tense but he holds a sense of power throughout that’s incredible to watch. Even if you kind of wish you weren’t.
Baskin also has the honour of being one of the first Turkish horror films. Genre cinema just isn’t accepted as standard in Turkey and this is quite the start. It kept a pretty constant 84bpm on the old heart monitor too and this late on in the day - it was the 10th of the 13 - to rocket this high and maintain tension was no mean feat. Keep your eyes peeled too - no, not literally - for my interview with the lovely Can Evrenol about the production and the political ramifications of creating such controversial work in Turkey.
The Wave (2015)
Ok, fine. Officially The Wave doesn’t count as a horror movie. Despite the fact that it shows the majority of the population of a beautiful Norwegian tourist town being brutally murdered by a tsunami; it’s still in disaster movie territory. This might mean we should reassess our genres or at least our murder tolerance if it happens to more than, say, 50 people.
Moving swiftly on from our complete lack of apathy, it turns out that there’s a mountain in Norway that’s expecting a catastrophic rockslide any time now. Why catastrophic? Because when the rock crumbles, it’ll all fall into the previously beautifully serene lake and cause a wave 80m tall and wipe out everything in its path. Huh.
The Wave centres around a geologist and his family just as he’s retiring from work on the mountain to go and live in the city. While disaster movies - yes I’m looking at you, Roland Emmerich - tend to skimp on character and dive straight into the epic destruction, The Wave takes a pleasing amount of time to introduce you to the family. Some lovely interactions mean you genuinely care as it becomes apparent that the mountain isn’t happy to stay where it is. Plus, plenty of serene shots of the beautiful scenery are enjoyably tense as geology sensors start to fail and hint at the destruction to come.
I’ll come clean, while this was one of my favourite films of the show, and despite the fact that the CGI wave was clearly heart-racingly impressive, these results are massively skewed. No, I didn’t start the day on a concoction of hard drugs but I did drink a sizeable amount of coffee and the first half of the movie managed to maintain some excellent tension before the inevitable seismic activity. Starbucks Double Shot cans have an awful lot to answer for.
And that’s exactly what the graph shows with a staggeringly unhealthy 10bpm above the festival average. Don’t expect your heart to do this, but The Wave is a solid disaster movie that, despite descending into traditional territory for its finale, pretty much still… rocks.
Anthology horror films are gradually creeping back into fashion with movies such as VHS and the ABC’s of Death. Southbound, which shares a few filmmakers with VHS, is a great example of the multitude of nasty that comes with stacking horror creators on top of one another like a gory Subway BMT - hold the entrails. It’s also brilliant.
Just like the delightfully sweet Halloween nasty Trick R’ Treat, all of Southbound’s tales seep seamlessly into the next. A girl runs from a cult only to find herself hit by a speeding car. The driver of the car proceeds to then have to try and save the girl’s life in one of the goriest sequences of film that I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, he has to compress her lung by shoving his hand inside her rib cage and yes, that’s him shoving a tube down her throat while she chokes up blood.
There’s something beautifully sandy and gritty about the majority of Southland’s stories. America’s highways are a never ending dustbowl of horror, interspersed with sad motels and grim gas stations and the atmosphere is enjoyably unsettling. The weakest of the stories is a misplaced home invasion short where a family is terrorised by men in plastic masks. If you’ve seen The Strangers and both Purge movies, you’ve seen this all before and probably better. It’s a gratuitously nasty sequence but thankfully the movie doesn’t finish on a sour note and this is a perfect example of how modern horror doesn’t all have to be part of Blumhouse’s school of glossy shlock.
Looking at the graph here. I retained a steady average of 81bpm with a few highs and lows and before you think someone tried to kill me at the start, I’d just rushed into my seat after picking up another cup of coffee.
It shouldn’t work so well. My favourite film of Glasgow Frightfest shouldn’t be about three women that wake up physically inside one body... but it is. And I love it. I unashamedly enjoy the cracking bones as she walks, the glaring Reanimator colours of the lab, the snappy script, the way the three women are portrayed as separate people while they make decisions, the perfect balance of the blackest comedy and the ultimate in body horror in the least romantic sex scene ever.
Patchwork manages to build a revenge movie without any of the nastiness of I Spit On Your Grave or Last House On The Left. It retains its comedy while its leading ladies (lady) creaks and snaps her way out of a laboratory, stapling fingers back on along the way. It’s so hard to maintain the right tone in films like this. No one wants to be the next Human Centipede but there’s a level of intelligence here that just can’t be matched.
It descends into beautiful horror madness for the third act. There’s literally entrails all over the floor by the end but I don’t think I’ve seen such a glorious celebration of the genre in years.
Looking at the graph below, you can tell it’s one in the morning by this point. Despite an average of 74bpm, my heart rate is absolutely all over the place and highs of 92 means I definitely reacted well. That spike in the latter half would be a bit of spoiler if I’m honest but there aren’t enough ways I can tell you this is hilariously horrific. Two thumbs up. Both belonging to me.
The Mind’s Eye (2015)
The best way to review The Mind’s Eye is to just give you my reaction two minutes after it was poured directly into my eyeballs. It reviews the insanity on offer here far better than I can now, having had adequate sleep and vitamins.
“Holy shit. Do you know what the world needs more of? Movies where people blow each other's heads up with telekinesis, tear bodies apart, have blood pour from eyeballs and have evil bearded men repeatedly inject mind control DNA into themselves. Joe Begas’ The Mind's Eye has a score worthy of Carpenter himself and I can still see the neons seared into my eyes. Incredible synths, violence that probably hit that 92bpm mark on my graph as we all whooped and cheered, and an utterly unrelenting sense of seriously gory fun.
Begas shot the film in seven weeks with no big studio support and I can't tell you enough how big and brilliantly fucking stupid it is. It's looking like the end of summer for a UK release with US unconfirmed as yet. Hunt this down. It's about mind control. And EXPLODING ORGANS.”
Yes, I used caps and I’m not even ashamed. The Mind’s Eye is the kind of pre noughties, Stephen King influenced gorefest that horror needs more of. There’s plenty of shocks and scares and probably one of the most absurd sexual juxtapositions in recent history that involves a syringe of mutant DNA. Yes, watch this at your peril.