The Final Reel

Days Nine and Ten of the Glasgow Film Festival: scary monsters, punk nostalgia and Scandinavian treats.

by Jennie Kermode

After pulling in the crowds with its late-night screenings on Friday, Frightfest continued to enjoy success at the Glasgow Film Festival on Saturday, with fans queueing up to see this year's most exciting horror films. According to Donald, who attended throughout, the pick of the bunch was Dorothy, an ambiguous and creepy tale reminiscent of Carnival Of Souls and starring the remarkable Jenn Murray as a little girl who may or may not have multiple personality syndrome, playing across a range of ages that would make Benjamin Button stop to catch his breath. Grave robbing Hammer-style spoof I Sell The Dead also made an impression, with director Glen McQuaid popping in afterwards to discuss the fun he had making it.

Director Paul Solet also visited Frightfest to talk about his film Grace - see our interview on the subject - and to reminisce about the family tragedy that inspired it. Grace was one of several films to focus on childhood and pregnancy this year, with another being The Unborn, soon to go on general release, which Donald described as "by far the worst film of the festival." According to him, this was "horror by numbers" with a weak script and actors who didn't even seem to be trying, and it was bulked out to 140 minutes by a montage at the end repeating the already heavy-handed plot for anyone too dim to understand it. There was more impressive work all round in the final film of the day, One Eyed Monster, in which a group of people making a porn film in a remote hillside location are stalked and killed by Ron Jeremy's severed penis which has been possessed by an alien parasite.

Whilst Donald was busy watching all this, Stuart and I went to Cineworld to see the List Surprise Movie. Now in its third year, this event drew a substantial crowd. I'd had a tip-off that Neil Gaiman was in Scotland so thought it might be Coraline, which recently screened at the Dublin Film Festival - everyone was surprised that there had been no direct leaks about it. In the end, it surprised everyone. It was O'Horten, the latest film from acclaimed Norwegian director Bent Hamer, whom you may know from films like Factotum and Applause. Stuart thought it a very brave move, showing a film "in foreign", and apparently this had worried festival director Allison Gardner, but as it turned out the audience was overwhelmingly positive. One man complained that it was slow and "a bit of a non-event", but most people seemed charmed by its adventurous spirit, warm-heartedness and quirky humour.

The final day of the festival was marked by a general sense of sadness among the staff, who had really enjoyed this year's event, though everyone was worn out. In the lobby of the GFT I spoke to several attendees, most of whom had seen three or four films each, with one man reporting that he'd seen 30! They had a lot of different favourites, but names that kept coming up again and again were Cherry Blossoms, Tokyo and The Class. Franklyn had clearly made quite an impression with its unique, highly stylised character, and Encounters At The End Of The World was clearly the most popular documentary. Almost everyone I talked with said that they would be back next year for more.

I kicked off the day with a documentary. Alan Parker (no relation to the namesake who made The Commitments) stopped by to introduce Who Killed Nancy?, an enquiry into the death of Nancy Spungen which he had made at the request of Sid Vicious' mother, his (now dead) friend Anne Beverly. Unfortunately he had to rush off to a screening in Edinburgh, so couldn't stop to discuss it afterwards, which was a shame because it left me with several pressing questions I would have liked to clear up. It was a very enjoyable, engaging film, in its bleak way, and it had a cracking soundtrack, but, though it made a good case for Vicious' innocence, it really demonised Nancy in the process. Several viewers felt that it was just pandering to another set of stereotypes, presenting Sid as a tortured artist and wallowing in sexism. Though it's more incisive than Alex Cox's biopic Sid And Nancy, it fails to achieve that film's fine balancing act.

To make up for the lack of a Q&A, viewers were afterward treated to a screening of the short film Love You More, about two schoolkids getting together to the Buzzcocks' single Love You More. Deceptively clever, this is a bright and highly entertaining tale that does much more than just ride the nostalgia bus.

Later in the afternoon I was due to see Everlasting Moments, though I had to wait for an extra twenty minutes to get in, as an unexpected intermission in My Fair Lady had caused that film to overrun. At any rate, it was well worth the wait for what turned out to be one of the best films of the festival. Anchored by a subtle yet charismatic performance from Maria Heiskanen as a battered yet loyal wife struggling to raise a family in early twentieth century Sweden, it's a film that boldly overturns familiar clichés and offers a fresh perspective on romance, personhood, and the ways that ordinary people can learn to find beauty in even the toughest of lives. It certainly made an impression on the festival audience, and you'll be able to see it in other UK cinemas later this year.

Worn out after all those films (and all the writing work that accompanies them), I made my way home to get some dinner with Donald, who had himself recently returned from environmental disaster pseudo-doc The Age Of Stupid. Meanwhile, Stuart made his way to the GFT to photograph the stars arriving on the red carpet for the evening's closing gala screening of new Dustin Hoffman romantic comedy Last Chance Harvey.

Stuart and I met up later at the post-gala party, where free Auchentoshan cocktails were on offer to everyone who needed to wind down. Local band Isosceles (a bit samey, but likeable, with something of a They Might Be Giants vibe) played at the back of the bar where the subdued lighting was a relief to tired eyes. I was impressed to see Allison there, given how tired she'd looked earlier, but the drink and the music seemed to have perked everyone up and quite a few people were dancing. Stuart and I left at midnight, on our way to Drew's house to watch the Oscars (I didn't get to sleep till after five), but by that time plans were already well underway for the exciting things that will be happening at next year's event.

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We're looking forward to Frightfest in London later this month, plus the Glasgow Youth Film Festival and New York Film Festival.



We've recently been at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.



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