Saturday at Celluloid Screams kicked off with a delightful short film by Andy Stewart that displays the effects of a relationship breakdown through a series of boils and other elements of bodily decay, which is, of course exactly what you want to see a short time after breakfast. In all seriousness, Split is a very moving short with some incredible effects that really garnered some groans from a seasoned festival crowd which is pretty impressive. This was followed by Australian character study Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla which is an engaging feature that could benefit from a little more bite throughout but ends on an ultimately tragic note and separates itself from being a straightforward film in which someone in a happy profession (ice cream man in this case) has a dark side unleashed upon the world. Initial descriptions of the film led me to believe that there would be far more in terms of the protagonist taking action against his aggressors, although it is a far better film for going down the longer route of a gradual descent into violent retribution. Glenn Maynard’s performance is a real stand-out and keeps the film ticking.
Following this were two shorts – The Stomach and Tuck Me In, the latter of which is short film in the truest sense, coming in at around 30 seconds, if that. The Stomach is an unusual, gritty short which ultimately won best short film. It is far from my favourite, but the unique take on spirit mediumship at least marks it as something more interesting than anything more straightforward. Also worth mentioning an appearance of Neil Newbon in this – last seen being kicked under a train in pre-watershed Hollyoaks. Tuck Me In, based on limited sentence horror stories taken from creepypasta is too short to leave anything more of a lasting impression than reading it online and offers nothing new. I’ll leave out Starry Eyes in this overview, as I’ve already reviewed it here.
Next up were two more shorts, Mr Dentonn and Ghost Train ahead of What We Do In The Shadows. The former I would really love to say more about, but unfortunately an influx of latecomers taking their seats for the film prevented me from seeing the film or following any of its story, which is unfortunate. Thankfully by Ghost Train the audience had settled and I was able to enjoy an authentic ghost story about a traumatic childhood event that has led two brothers down very different paths. It is a moody, grey production that has a satisfying conclusion.
The tone of Ghost Train could not have been more different from what was to follow, with Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s broad, crowd-pleasing vampire mockumentary hitting all the right notes in a dryly funny look at a group of vampires in a flat share. I’m really glad I’m getting to see this again at Abertoir as I’m sure there are jokes I’ve missed the first time around or little details that have slipped through. The film is a genuine joy to watch and proves that along with Housebound, New Zealand could be the home of more enjoyable, funny, horror films.
The last new film of the day was Spring, from the directors of Resolution, but before that there was a short called The Jigsaw, which was simple but effective in telling the story of a seemingly cursed jigsaw puzzle that would likely have legs as a feature. Moving on to Spring though – what a film! Directors Benson and Moorhead have crafted a dreamy, meandering love story with a backdrop steeped in their own original mythology that makes it impossible to see which direction it is heading in. A Q+A following the screening revealed the lengths that had been gone to in casting actors and locations in order to be both beautiful but ambiguous which really pays off in the finished product. I can’t recommend this film enough.
Last up on Saturday night was a screening of Society – a 1980’s comment on corporate culture and societal hierarchy….or a film about the shunting….whichever way you care to look at it. This was proceeded by another Andy Stewart short – Ink, which for me, lacked the impact of Split, due to not really offering any explanation for what was happening. Still, the effects work is top notch. The Society screening was introduced by director Brian Yuzna, who was also on hand to participate in a Q+A session afterwards. Society is one of the films I’ve always heard about in terms of 80s horror and in many ways it stands up today, particularly with its themes of hierarchy. Hearing about what a potential sequel could contain was an interesting part of the Q+A, and would definitely be something I’d want to see.
There was more fun to be had at the all-nighter starting at midnight, but given a full Sunday was on the cards, it seemed like a better idea to retire to the hotel and take full advantage of the clocks moving back for more precious sleep.