FrightFest: Slumlord, Final Girl, Emelie Reviews

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Emelie (dir. Michael Thelin, 2015)

Emelie (dir. Michael Thelin, 2015)

Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of FILM4 FrightFest. For more information visit frightfest.co.uk and follow FrightFest on Twitter at @Film4FrightFest.


Slumlord (2015)

Dir. Victor Zarcoff

Rarely are films perfectly cast through and through – especially in indies with a limited budget. Slumlord has no such problem with an entirely perfect ensemble, specifically Neville Archambault who plays the utterly engrossing gross landlord. Although the story may seem relatively predictable, it’s told with such confidence and directed to the point that it drips tension in every frame. The most reason the casting is perfect is because the characters are fully-formed individuals. The setup to the fiancé is instantaneous, intriguing and diminishes the usual connection the audience has with its lead. From there, we follow his journey further down the path of destruction and self-immolation.

The cinematography is voyeuristic that adds to the unnerving aspect. These pinpoint cameras that the landlord uses to watch are placed in frightening and one disgusting location. As he sneaks in to do some work on his closet, his motivations trickle down to become apparent. Slumlord’s story is gripping with its thrilling entertainment, intellectual fear and cultural paranoia where one cannot be safe even in their own home. Any missing item, the dog’s illness and an uneasy feeling creates tension between the couple-to-be while he watches on with erotic delight. What a brilliant sickness.

Final Girl (2015)
Dir. Tyler Shields

Final Girl (dir. Tyler Shields, 2015)

Final Girl (dir. Tyler Shields, 2015)

Final Girl combines Hanna with slasher. Its title aims to already subvert the subgenre that Scream took apart decades ago. That is the only way Final Girl will be compared to Scream in the same breath. There is not one redemptive quality to this film. It is wrongly produced by a company that has Classics in its title. Everything about the film is poorly done. It is never nice to say that about a film nor to focus on the negatives, but with Final Girl it’s like the final straw of abysmal filmmaking written by the Four Writers of the Horrorpocalypse.

The film really does have four writers. Four writers that managed to write dialogue that can be predicted, that probably includes the description wry smile 100 times in its 80 pages and is beyond trite. Its menace-laced dialogue is the verbal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, eyeballs in your soup, that strand of hair stuck in your throat; all that and more. It manages to be more cliché-riddled than the lovechild of Baywatch and MacGyver in possibly the most abused subgenre.

Final Girl is unforgivable. Despite popular belief, there is nothing nice about tearing a film down, but it cannot be helped when the film is begging for you to point out all of its flaws. All the fun of an exploitation horror are out of the window by rarely showing horror. All the fun of an action film are lost by inadequate filmmaking. All of the fun in every way possible is evaporated within the first fifteen minutes. In an unforgiving and difficult industry to enter, how in the world wasn’t the script banned from production? Let alone greenlit! Final Girl is a recommended watch for future filmmakers to know how not to do a film. It is an utter catastrophe that’s only redemptive quality is the fact it ends.

Emelie (2015)
Dir. Michael Thelin

What can be worse than leaving your children with someone you have no idea about? The fact that you can even have your identity stolen as a babysitter. No one is safe. Not even your Facebook page to make some money as a successful, well-reviewed child-minder. Enter the most memorable night of three children’s lives. While the entire narrative plays out almost in real-time, the stakes are high due to the youthful nature of all three lead characters that find themselves in the middle of the most mysterious visitors that breaks their rules and encourages them to do the same. What starts out as fun soon turns devastating.

The success of Emelie boils down to the destruction of taboos. Even early on when the babysitter acts nice, the kids paint on the walls with her permission that puts the hairs on your neck on end. That’s not a spoiler, don’t worry. The film tells you Emelie is not right in its opening wide shot that captures the tone and a character. Children seldom turn out great performances due to their lack of experience, it’s expected, but Joshua Rush does. His eyes alone tell you the arc and that’s a special kind of magic. Again, like Slumlord, Emelie has a straight narrative that can be guessed but the craftsmanship allows the tension to impose itself over the predictable scenes. That’s not to say Emelie lacks originality, many scenes have been unseen and show a creative spark, but they are surrounded by familiarity. The real talent is that the familiarity never gets in the way.

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