Frightfest: five films to look forward to

What to watch out for at this year's festival

by Jennie Kermode

Frightfest 2018
Frightfest 2018

This year's Arrow Video Frightfest is as hotly anticipated as ever, with horror fans travelling from all over the world for the chance to sample its thrills and chills. We're looking ahead at some of the highlights of the line-up. From the all-too-real horrors of cartel violence in Tigers Are Not Afraid to scary stalkers in the woods in The Ranger, fiendish puzzles in The Laplace's Demon, the bleakest of human failings in A Young Man With High Potential and isolation in a zombie-infested Paris in The Night Eats The World, there's a lot to get your teeth into.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Tigers Are Not Afraid
Tigers Are Not Afraid

In parts of Mexico where the rule of law has been all but abandoned, the children of the dead and disappeared have to find their own way through a world dominated by violent cartels. Issa López's remarkable film follows a girl who seeks refuge in stories and the legend of a tiger as she tries to make sense of events around her. Joining a street gang who live among the ruins of their city, she finds herself hunted by gangsters who want something the gang possesses. The brutality of real life is intercut with moments of magical realism. Raw, naturalistic performances illuminate the children's suffering but also show us the bonds forged between them and the complexity of the challenges they face. This film had hardened Frightfest fans in tears when it screened in Glasgow in February. It marks out López as a rare talent, and it shouldn't be missed.

The Ranger

The Ranger
The Ranger

Five teenagers go to a cabin in the woods and get picked off one by one by a mysterious madman. Think you've seen this film before? Not so. From its throbbing punk soundtrack to its spot on observations about adorably obnoxious young characters, Jenn Wexler's feature début has an energy rarely found in the genre. Chloe Levine makes a charismatic lead with a lot more going on than the average horror heroine. There's culture clash comedy as the young would-be rebels try to take on the wilderness under the watchful eye of a disapproving ranger, but once danger makes itself manifest, Wexler doesn't hold back on the scares or the gore.She brings out both the beauty and the deadliness of the remote landscape with stunning photography, and makes the popular genre premise feel completely fresh.

The Laplace's Demon

The LaPlace's Demon
The LaPlace's Demon

Elite scientists are invited to a remote island to meet an inventor, only to discover that they are themselves part of a deadly experiment, in this sumptuous black and white tale of terror. Trapped in the Gothic mansion at the island's summit, listening to instructions left for them on a tape, they realise that they can survive if only they can act in ways that their captor has been unable to predict - but is that possible? The question of free will is more than just academic in a film with fractal qualities whose mathematical, physical and philosophical jokes never undermine its chills. Heavy shadows, lush photography and a soaring giallo-esque soundtrack combine with Fifties-style mannered performances to create a potent drama in which even the smallest of choices can have deadly consequences.

A Young Man With High Potential

A Young Man With High Potential
A Young Man With High Potential

Piet is the kind of nerdy young man who has spent most of his life avoiding interaction with women. He has a built-in assumption that they won't want to be around him, so when he's persuaded to work with one on a university project, and they actually get along, it's rather overwhelming. When, later, he flirts with her and she says no, it's devastating. Linus de Paoli's quiet, studiously bleak film invites us to sympathise with this and then keeps us there, close to Piet, increasingly uncomfortable, as he responds to this in ways that are harder and harder to justify. With a title that echoes the comments of the judge who gave Brock Turner just six months for raping an unconscious woman, this is a film that uses stark photography and a compelling lead performance to explore the darkest of human behaviours and society's willingness to look the other way.

The Night Eats The World

The Night Eats The World
The Night Eats The World

Zombie films are an inevitability at any horror film festival, but this one takes an unusual approach. That doesn't mean it has a new gimmick - in fact, it means that we don't see much of the zombies at all, and when we do it's as much sad as scary. Sam has been struggling with loneliness for some time after splitting up with his girlfriend, but that's nothing to what he has to face the morning after a party at her place, which he dropped in on to pick up some of his things, when he wakes to find the walls covered in blood and everybody gone. Trapped inside an elegant Parisian tenement building as the living dead stalk the streets outside, he has to face his own demons. A brief yet devastating supporting turn from Golshifteh Farahani adds to the impact of a film that questions the survival potential of humanity in more ways than one.

Frightfest runs from 23 to 27 August and we'll be bringing you news and reviews throughout, together with some exclusive interviews with the filmmakers and stars.

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