Frightfest: Hostile Dimensions (2023)

Director: Graham Hughes

Running Time: 77 Minutes

Starring: Annabel Logan, Joma West, Josie Rogers, Paddy Kondracki, Stephen Beavis, Graham Hughes

Shown at Frightfest 2019 and Frightfest Glasgow 2020, Death of a Vlogger was a magnificent showcase for writer/director/star Graham Hughes as it delivered unsettling chills alongside thoughtful topics. His long-awaited follow-up brings much intrigue, along with a potentially revealing line of "You do not know existential pain until you've produced a film."

A camera recording shows graffiti artist Emily (Josie Rogers) entering a decrepit building. Free-standing amidst the eerie surroundings and rubble is a closed door, although Emily's investigations lead to her suddenly vanishing. The footage is discovered online by documentary filmmakers Sam (Annabelle Logan) and Ash (Joma West), who are looking for a more marketable project after their ill-received previous work. They believe investigating Emily's disappearance is what they are looking for, and focus on solving the mystery.

Opening the door is a revelatory experience for the pair, as they realize it can lead to alternate dimensions in a method that resembles the love-child of The Adjustment Bureau and Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. The exploration is captured across various screens, including video recordings and even a VR camera, combining found-footage with unique sci-fi to tackle big ideas with a down-to-Earth approach.

Changed by this experience is Sam, who dives right into these worlds after seeing her deceased mother alive in another universe. Ash is more cautious during the multiversal exploration, highlighting the different approaches as the pair venture into strange new worlds. This is fantastically conveyed while exploring a panda-themed play center, with the charming chemistry effectively selling their friendship.

Aiding the pair is Innis (Paddy Kondracki), a lecturer on alternate realities whose knowledge offers greater understanding to the phenomenon and shows how the only limitations are in one's mind. This smartly mirrors the film, where Hughes is clearly having fun creating the different realities from seemingly simple ideas. Elements which can appear silly in the wrong hands are transformed into uncomfortable imagery, including a church-set sequence that unsettlingly delivers a change in atmosphere.

Rooting this tale is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the currently reality, and how a doorway of possibilities can offer great change full of hope or misery. While Marvel and DC have been delivering uninspiring takes on the multiverse with a minimum budget of $200 million, it is telling that an independent feature bests these cinematic universes through sheer determination and fascinating ideas. Maybe a different story unfolds in another reality, although that is not the case here.

Hostile Dimensions made its World Premiere at Frightfest 2023