FrightFest Diary Day Three – The Hypnotist, Frankenstein’s Army, Hammer Of The Gods, No One Lives, R.I.P.D And Cheap Thrills

Frankenstein's Army

On Saturday we failed to get into the small screening of Willow Creek through sheer bad luck, but we have tickets in hand for Sunday’s session and all is well in the world, once more. Here’s a run down of what we did see on Saturday – and it’s fair to say it was a real mixed bag.

The Hypnotist

Brendon:There’s a lot of Scandinavian police procedurals on English and US TV and cinema schedules these days, not to mention in our book shops. Typically, these movies are criticised as being “televisual” and it’s true, at least, that they’re not full of huge, epic action set pieces – but would we consider Silence of the Lambs as being “just tele on the big screen”? The twist to the formula in The Hypnotist is that the police work with… well, yeah, a hypnotist. Who ends up personally embroiled in the case.

A grounded film that convinces with utterly non-distracting production design and cinematography, bringing a rather tangible world to life with texture and atmosphere but never showing off. Except, of course, the fantasy scenes inside a hypnotic trance – where suddenly the film is quoting Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World and time slips about like memory. That’s an incredibly small portion of the film, but there’s still more of that than there is any kind of humour.

Frankenstein’s Army

Brendon: A bit of a nothing, really. This film goes through the motions until it can show us some monsters, and then runs out of steam pretty much right away.

Craig: Some inventive and amusing creature designs don’t make up for dull plotting and a lack of anything interesting to say. The found footage approach also tires very early on and seems to serve no purpose beyond helping to sell the film to distributors.

Hammer of the Gods

Craig: Reasonably competently made but dull in every respect. The thin Hearts of Darkness-wannabe plot is interspersed with repetitive hack ‘n’slash action sequences cut to dubstep but these do little to bring any life to the film.

Brendon: Impotent choreography and imprecise staging give the action sequences a drabness and lack of oomph, but the real problem is the absolute lack of incident between the set-pieces. Some weakly drawn, two-dimensional types progress along a very linear story line, and rather slowly at that, making some stops for a series of banal, off-the-peg incidents along the way. You’ll have no interest in seeing how everything turns out and you’ll still be disappointed by the climax.

No One Lives

Craig: No One Lives features some hilariously awful dialogue and a plot that almost threatens to be interesting but never follows through on it, but little else. It’s never boring, with some wigged out action and gore throughout, but it’s utterly forgettable.

Brendon: For the first twenty minutes you’ll want to know how the various crazy strands will tie together and how the various promises of dread are going to be delivered upon, but then you’ll find out that it’s all just been a wacked-out prelude to a pretty straight-up “house under siege” slasher movie. A few completely insane lines of dialogue – which I honestly appreciate more than Craig, I think* – and some superbly bold images did a lot to keep me awake.

R.I.P.D

Craig: The Men in Black comparisons that have been made by many are actually pretty spot on but this lacks a lot of what made those films enjoyable. Namely humour and entertaining action. The feeling that we’ve seen it all before really doesn’t help either – whether it’s the Men in Black similarities or even the apocalyptic finale ripped from The Avengers and many more – and ultimately the film leaves one rather numb.

Brendon: I liked it more than any of the Men In Black films, personally, but please don’t take that as a glowing recommendation. Still, this is a film with an actual plot structure, albeit a rather predictable and superficial one, all of it carrying us on towards an all-too-familiar last act that wasn’t worth the effort.

There’s some off the wall stuff with unappealingly-draughted cartoon monsters who seem to defy normal gravity, and I did have some fun with Kevin BaconMary Louise Parker and Jeff Bridges, just as you’d expect.

Cheap Thrills

Craig: A well told modern morality tale with very strong performances from Anchorman‘s David Koechner and The Inn Keepers‘ Pat Healy. At times it does feel like a missed opportunity though, in that the writers could have gone even deeper and darker, but Cheap Thrills is still an excellent journey into the dark heart of human nature.

Brendon: Another screenplay co-written by Deadgirl‘s Trent Haaga, another provocative, small-scale horror yarn with plenty of good ideas. Some of the film’s dramatic turning points amount to real insights into human nature, most of them work narratively at least, and only a few are quite hard to swallow. Still, suspend disbelief in the earlier sequences and you’ll get a nasty, protracted update of The Man From Hollywood with some relevant moral enquiries on its mind. I really hope that Cheap Thrills gets the audience it deserves.

*One exchange went something like “You’re out of your mind”, “I’m very much in my mind, I can assure you.”
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