So, besides the documentary FrightFest: The Dark Heart of Cinema, London’s FrightFest screens a fiction film actually called Fright Fest? Though the onscreen title is American Fright Fest. Who’d have thunk? Come to think of it, the Mayhem Festival in Nottingham screened Joe Lynch’s Mayhem … so I imagine there are filmmakers out there desperate for exposure planning on making films pitched at every genre event going.
Crass politician Fowler (Kresh Novakovic) – the unpopular Mayor of Sommerton, Pennsylvania – sees a way to make profitable use of the local abandoned mental institution by hiring washed-up, drunken/drugged horror filmmaker Spencer Crowe (Dylan Walsh), auteur of Death Bitch and Blood Tears, to create a ‘Fright Fest’ live attraction for Hallowe’en. Fowler sees it as a re-election boost and Crowe sees a possible franchise. After bullying and blundering through the process of getting the horror house together — with the aid of abused dwarf assistant Finkle (Pancho Moler) and other hangers-on and exploited showfolk — Crowe causes a fatal bus crash en route to the opening night and leaves the scene of the crime, not noticing that the other vehicle was transferring inmates to the current state asylum. Walking free of the wreck are mad killer Ruben (Jonathan Camp), an alumnus of the Frght Fest house, and Mason (Luke Baines), a creepy young guy who claims it was monsters (not him) who killed his adoptive parents. Of course, they both end up at the asylum, and Ruben takes over the masked killer role (exchanging his Hannibel Lecter mouth-guard for a Leatherface look goon outfit), murdering folk in front of jaded or upset audiences. Mason, meanwhile, tries to save the panicking victims, now convinced that it was Ruben who framed him. Crowe, safe in his locked control room, catches on and keeps filming as his patrons, friends and customers are gorily done away with … and the two escapees are pitted against each other between bludgeonings, electrocutions, stabbings, shotgun slayings, etc.
Directed by Ante Novakovic and written by Robert Gillings, Fright Fest is a better, funnier idea than it is a finished film. Crowe is so cartoonishly awful (we can’t think which horror filmmakers Novakovic and Gillings have in mind) there’s no sense of a line being crossed as he starts to exploit the murders, and the satire on awful, dimwit entertainment industry bottom feeders is basic (as these things go, it’s no Skeleton Crew or Return to Horror High). The horror stuff is also off the shelf, with too many thin characters blundering around in hysterics to register before their death scenes.