The following films screened at Arrow Video FrightFest, which was held in London from 22–26 August, 2019.
A woman who is convinced her baby was delivered by caesarean section and kidnapped by a shadowy cult tries to convince skeptical authorities about how wrong they are in The Dark Red (U.S., 2018), the latest from director Dan Bush (The Signal ; The Vault ). Sybil Warren (April Billingsley (The Vault; +1 ) was found as a preschool-aged child in a trunk — her mother dead from an overdose mere feet away — by a child services officer, who then raises the girl. Adult Sybil is in a psychiatric ward, assigned to Dr. Deluce (Kelsey Scott), a no-nonsense therapist who means to free Sybil of her supposed delusions and help her realize that her paranoid ravings about cults, a missing baby, a near-perfect love affair with a man (Conal Byrne, who cowrote this screenplay and The Vault with Bush) she meets at her adopted mother’s funeral, and her feelings that she has powers of telepathy are all in her delusional mind. The first half of The Dark Red is pretty much a two-hander between these two characters with occasional flashbacks as Sybil unfolds her version of her experiences, and the proceedings would seem much slower if not for the fine acting on display from Billingsley and Scott. Business picks up right around the halfway mark when Sybil is freed from the hospital and begins a methodical quest that will answer viewers’ questions about how much of her fantastical story is real and how much might be imagined. The Dark Red is a solid entry in the childbirth-related–horror subgenre, bolstered by Billingsley’s riveting performance and crackerjack editing and impressive direction from Bush.
U.K./Belgium/Ireland offering A Good Woman Is Hard to Find is a top-notch crime thriller highlighted by an absolutely enthralling performance by Sarah Bolger (Emilie ; The Moth Diaries ) as Sarah, a widowed mother of two children who finds her life endangered when a stranger invades her home. Sarah already has it rough every day as she tries her best to be a good mother to her kids, deals with uncaring police personnel who suspect her murdered husband of being a drug dealer, and spars with a mother on a high-horse who disagrees with almost all of Sarah’s life choices. When a drug dealing lowlife named Tito (Andrew Simpson) breaks into Sarah’s home and tells her it is now his nightly hideout, she plays along reluctantly to protect her children. When his reason for going there each night is disrupted, he turns violent and Sarah acts to protect herself. Meanwhile, local druglord Leo Miller (Edward Hogg) and two of his muscle men are searching for Tito, who ripped them off. Thriller fans can guess where this is generally headed, but director Abner Pastoll (Road Games, 2015) helms Ronan Blaney’s screenplay so skillfully and with such a keen eye for suspense that familiar beats feel freshened up. Some sequences use blood-soaked, horror-adjacent themes that help raise the stakes. Sarah is an economically challenged woman whose mother chides her for not standing up enough for herself, and Bolger’s portrayal of this endearing character is a pleasure to watch unfold. A Good Woman Is Hard to Find is a crime thriller with a huge heart that rates as a must-see for genre film fans.
Signature Entertainment releases A Good Woman is Hard to Find in cinemas and on Digital HD on 25th October 2019, and The Dark Red on Digital HD, date TBC.