Abertoir 2013 Day Six

Again, I missed the short film competition today but during the closing ceremony it was announced that Fist of Jesus had been voted the winner.  This was the only short I wanted to see that I hadn’t already seen so was kind of sad to miss it, particularly as the team behind the short were behind the absolutely insane Brutal Relax two years ago.  Still, I’ll catch up.  I also skipped out on Motivational Growth due to having seen it at Sheffield.  While it is certainly an inventive and ambitious debut it didn’t quite grab me or become a favourite.  From what I understand it split the crowd at Abertoir, but that’s always a risk with some of the unique films that are screened.

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My first screening of the day was the silent horror shorts with composer Paul Shallcross providing original scores to four silent short films, including the 1910 Frankenstein.  I’m told Shallcross’ specialism does not lie in horror, meaning that he researches the films he is to show to a great degree, managing to come off as a complete expert.  His compositions fit wonderfully with the films and the extra trivia was welcomed as I know relatively little about the films.  What was really interesting about this was the different uses of colour used in each film and also the evolution of acting styles. 

Next up was another film I had seen at Sheffield but was eager to see again – Chiméres, due to the director and lead actress being on hand for a Q&A afterwards.  I really enjoyed Chiméres the first time around, but the second time I loved it, being able to appreciate more of the nuances and I think by now I could probably write an essay on this film.  This is quite something as I’m not too keen on vampires, however, both this and Kiss of the Damned made quite the impact, despite being very different in their approaches.  The Q&A also revealed a few extra details about the location and non-subtitled conversations that add another layer to the film.

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Sadly, I missed The Ghost Hunter, which was a one-man show focused on a man who leads ghost tours.  While it sounded wonderful (and I hear was very effective) I wanted to be alert enough to watch and enjoy Soulmate, which was the final film of Abertoir 2013, in keeping with the ghostly theme of much of the festival, ending with a Q&A with the two main actors.  Soulmate is a slow, relatively gentle ghost story concerning a woman who goes to a Welsh cottage to recover from a suicide attempt, but instead finds herself talking with the ghost of the previous occupant.  This is Axelle Carolyn’s first feature film, following shorts like the wonderful The Last Post and this is rather similar, mixing the soft and the sinister.  While I can’t say it’s one of my favourites, it’s certainly an interesting debut and I’m definitely interested in seeing what will come next from Carolyn.

During the closing ceremony, posters (I’m now in possession of a The Last Exorcism Part Two poster, bluergh, haha) and DVDs were thrown out and the announcements made for the winning films.  After that, it was time for yet more socialising in the bar to close off the festival and start to make arrangements for next year.  I’d strongly suggest that if anyone has been thinking about making the trip, do so next year.  You won’t be sorry, as Abertoir offers the best value for the lowest price, while not compromising on sub-par films.  Even if I didn’t like some of them, I couldn’t deny that they were all well-made and offered something unique to the genre.  There is also something for everyone, from classic screenings, brand new independent films and everything in between, while also offering the opportunity to chat and network with some of the most dedicated genre fans around.

Until next year…

Abertoir 2012 Day Two

Now moving on to day two of Abertoir, with something resembling an early night on night one I woke up surprisingly refreshed and ready to get down to some serious horror viewing, helped greatly by the 1pm start time.  Today’s first film was Madhouse, featuring the focus of this year’s festival Peter Cushing and Abertoir’s very own patron saint, Vincent Price (no, seriously it’s in the programme now.  Victoria Price has confirmed it…she’s that cool).  This was a first viewing for me but anything featuring those horror greats must have something to it, and indeed it does.  Gaz during an introduction to the film explained how this was one of the last horror’s of its kind before the juggernaut-like The Exorcist hit screens and left people wanting evermore violent and disturbing horror.  What Madhouse provides is a warm and nostalgic look at a time before this, with the knowledge that you’re in safe hands for entertainment with Cushing and Price.

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Keeping on the subject of horror icons, next up was the Court of Cult: British Horror’s Greatest Stars.  The court was presided over by Judge Gaz (do excuse the terrible quality on my camera, ’tis all my fault) and featured presenters arguing for their favourite cult British horror star.  Lively presentations were given in favour of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Sheila Keith and Michael Ripper to be awarded Abertoir’s favourite.  All the presentations were wonderful, but with a little help from Morecambe and Wise, Peter Hutchings secured a victory for Peter Cushing, rather fittingly.  However, had Russ Hunter been able to play the fantastic clip of Christopher Lee reading from The Exorcist….that might have swung it.  Nevertheless, we were not to be disappointed for long as it was screened just before Danger 5 later that night.  Worth the wait.  So worth the wait.

Up next was the second short film of the festival Grandpa, screening ahead of Across the River.  I’ve spoken before about how I feel that some short films can function as a pitch for a feature length version and I would strongly suggest this is the case with Grandpa.  There were quite a few half-ideas throughout it, with nothing completely fleshed out, which honestly, left me a little cold.  A couple of creepy moments worked well, but ultimately felt a little hollow.  This feeling would continue into Across the River – an Italian film with a focus on the history of tension between Italy and Slovenia using a ghost story as a way of exploring the themes.  Somewhere within this film is a creepy and effective ghost story that hints at human cruelty, but unfortunately, it is over long and spends far too much time in the set up, meaning that the necessary ‘scary bits’ are few and far between.  However, when there is a scare – it tends to be a good one.

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Next up was Painless, and as I’ve already reviewed this, you already know that I loved it.  Sharing a similarity to, Across the River, Painless is far less about the supernatural and more about troubled human histories and the cruelties within it.  I did not see Painless for a second time here, but will definitely pick it up on DVD.  I also missed The Station, largely due to its description as being like The Thing and having an emphasis on sci-fi.  Those who know me, know that sci-fi is often not my thing, so as already mentioned, whenever you can find a break at a festival – it’s usually a good thing to take it.

My long break (and a little bit of rum) left me nice and refreshed for the midnight screenings of Danger 5 and Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1Danger 5, as always, was a real treat and was again introduced by the hilarious creators.  Now, I’ve never properly experienced a Troma film before, so Return to Nuke ‘Em was quite the introduction.  I’ve already said in the videos how in the beginning, I laughed despite myself, thanks to a few well-placed cameos.  However, the controversial one-liners soon came thick and fast and while some may have been well-received, the sheer amount of them turned the film into something rather more cruel than first imagined and for me, it lost a lot of steam.  Still, I’m glad to have finally seen a Troma.    

Abertoir 2013 Round Up

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So, Abertoir is over for another year and while my liver is suffering and my craving for an actual vegetable is almost unbearable, I could happily have stayed for much longer.  What would be left of me is a whole different matter, but I can always recommend the festival to anyone.  This year was my third year attending the festival and it has been a great experience every year – even if I do make myself a promise to attend everything before red wine happens and it all falls apart a bit.  Of course, there were some films I had previously seen at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield – Painless (my review for allhorror.net is here), Discopath, The Body, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, Chiméres and The Battery – meaning I could have a few breaks without missing out, although Discopath, The Body and Chiméres demanded a second viewing.

As most of those who follow me on Twitter know, myself and Hayley of Hayley’s Horror Reviews have been producing some short on-the-ground festival footage, thanks largely to Hayley’s quickly-increasing editing abilities that have meant that we’ve been able to record a great deal of our instant reactions to films and get them uploaded fairly quickly.  The link to the playlist for these videos (and others from Sheffield and last year’s Abertoir) is here and we’d be grateful for comments, shares and even helpful tips or what you might like to see next year.

With that bit of housekeeping taken care of it’s probably best that I structure my thoughts following the festival on a day-by-day, film-by-film (or event) basis.  Of course, I’m not going to give away too much of my thoughts on films that I might get around to doing full reviews on at some point.  Will probably return to my method for my first Abertoir and review one film from each day…wish me luck.  Without further ado…my Abertoir 2013 Round Up, with thanks to Gaz, Nia and Rhys for putting on such a wonderful festival and working so hard.

Day One

The first film at Abertoir 2013 was originally intended to be a classic screening of The Haunting with Richard Johnson in attendance to take part in a Q&A session following the screening.  However, due to a scheduling conflict, Richard Johnson was unable to attend until the Saturday, but this resulted in some very special moments which otherwise would not have happened.  Instead, we were treated to a screening of The Mummy, featuring some wonderful eye-acting from Christopher Lee and one of the greatest backhanded compliments from the mouth of Peter Cushing.

Following this was my second opportunity to see Discopath – again screening with short film The Body.  The best description I can bestow upon Discopath is that it is a grubby and disarmingly, darkly funny film.  I feel like some of the negative response to the film is as  result of people expecting it all to be played for laughs – admittedly the premise does have a comedic value – but instead are confronted with a frequently unpleasant and gory film.  The Body before it is an example of a short film done very right – playing perfectly into its run time with wit and stylish design.

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The third film of the first night came from Lucky McKee, which of course, I was very excited about.  The Woman is one of my favourite films of the last few years and getting to directly fangirl at Lauren Ashley Carter at Celluloid Screams was a major highlight and I was expecting a similarly hard-hitting, social commentary.  Instead, we got All Cheerleaders Die.  I knew very little about it, and again those watching the videos/following on Twitter will already know that I loved this, partially for being so different to what I was expecting.  However, there are moments that are distinctly Lucky McKee, although it is missed with a humour and madness not always present.  The ending was probably one of the best I’ve seen too.

The final film of the night was Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, continuing Abertoir’s love affair with 1970s Italian horror.  As I’d seen this fairly recently I decided some sleep was a better option, but not before sticking around for episode 4 of Danger 5.  Last year, Abertoir showed the first three episodes before midnight screenings of the 1960s, Nazi-hunting, spy team parody full of strange non-sequiturs and perhaps more importantly, some great cocktail recipes.  These recipes in fact, formed an important part of this year’s festival as bar patrons were treated to The Perfect Fruiten Kahmoon (the best one) and The Perfect Swiss Kiss (surprisingly tasty), designed for us movie and booze hounds based on actual recipes from the show.  The creators of Danger 5 had also prepared a special introduction for each episode – often upping the strangeness considerably.  I can’t really accurately explain entirely what Danger 5 is, but it’s a slice of absolute brilliance.

ImageThis was my first day at Abertoir 2013 and as my rambling about it has dragged along a little, I think I’ll be posting the round up by days to avoid the dreaded wall of text.  Day Two through Six to come.  Six days!  How did we all survive that?!

Preparations

OK, so we are 10 days away from Celluloid Screams in Sheffield.  I’ve only attended the Showroom once before for a fantastic screening and Q&A of Jen and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary so am looking forward to going back for a longer visit.  Upon returning home from Sheffield, I have a week before setting off for Aberystwyth for the Abertoir horror festival which has become my official yearly holiday. Who cares about warm weather? Give me Aberystwyth and its lovely (yet freezing) seaside any time.  Somewhere in between those two, lies Halloween.  Was so hoping to attend the screening of Night of the Demon at Tredegar House but sadly sometimes real life intervenes and is preventing me from getting to that one.  Very tempted to see what Abertoir are serving up as their Choice Cuts on Halloween in the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff too though alongside a screening of The Darkest Day with Q&A from director Chris Crow.  So much going on which is awesome!

So, with that said I’ve started making preparations and particularly seeing all the Halloween decorations and sweets out I am super excited, even though we’ve had exactly 0 trick or treaters in the last 5 years, despite having a ready supply of pretty great sweets, which I’m obviously forced to eat afterwards to avoid waste.  Come on lazy kids, you’re making me fat.  I don’t even mind if they have shitty costumes.  No creepy Psychoville trick or treaters though.

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I think it’s about time I ran down my most anticipated films of both festivals, in no particular order… Click the titular links to be taken to the site for the festival and see the full line up.

 

Celluloid Screams – 25th to 27th October

1) Big Bad Wolves – heard so much about this.  Can’t wait to finally see it.  Currently Tarantino’s favourite film of this year as I recall.

2) Jug Face – star from the woman? Check.  Story of human sacrifice? Check.  Bit of cult activity? Check.  Bring me this film already!

3) Discopath – should have it’s own theme tune.  I won’t stop untl I find out if it does.  Also a prime contender for possible best soundtrack.

4) Der Fan – obsessed fandom.  Well I wouldn’t know anything about that. *cough cough*

5) Delivery – found-footage Rosemary’s Baby?  I could potentially really hate this one, but I’m intrigued.

 

Abertoir – 5th to 10th November

1) All Cheerleaders Die – Lucky McKee.  That is all.

2) Bad Milo! – Stress demon in arse.  I can relate.  To the stress, not the arse demon.  The trailer for this looked brilliant when I was doing my October horror line-up for AllHorror.net (oops a cheap plug fell out) so excited to see it.

3) The Haunting – I will shit myself.  Lots.  Even though I’ve seen it before.  “Whose hand was I holding?”.  Terrifying.

4) The Borderlands – As already mentioned, I’m kind of surprised to be excited about a found footage film after spending most of my time groaning at each release, but have heard some good things about this one.

5) Soulmate – Set in Brecon, which is so close to home I might not be able to return if it’s too scary.  Although I’m expecting a thoughtful ghost story, largely due to the grace and beauty of Axelle Carolyn’s short The Last Post.

 

That’s what I’m looking forward to and you’ll be able to see my daily (and increasingly more weathered) reactions to each film thanks to the video coverage from myself and Hayley of Hayley’s Horror Reviews.  We’ll also be tweeting from the festivals provided the wi-fi is good and I’m not a total technological failure so if you can’t watch the video coverage, you can still keep up with what’s going on before we get back, recover and write longer and more coherent reviews.  I’ll also be posting some novelty pictures and stuff soon if WordPress will kindly allow it. *grumble grumble*

 

Twitter, as always is @caitlynmdowns and you can also find my reviews on allhorror.net along with many others who are submitting solid reviews of films and of course, the featured attraction, All Horror Radio.

 

Catch Up

Has been a little while since I’ve done some blogging but as we head into October a lot of stuff needs blogging about so seems like the right time.  If you follow me on Twitter (@caitlynmdowns) you’ll probably know a lot of this stuff already, but never hurts to recap.

Anyway…first bit of news is that I have the featured article on AllHorror.net for this month, which is a line up of new releases on film and television for the month of October (USA dates, sorry UK folks).  You can read the article now by clicking here and please feel free to comment either on the site or to me directly on Twitter if you’ve seen any or are looking forward to seeing anything on the list.  So thrilled to have an article on such a great site and ridiculously excited about their superb new co-host.  No I won’t reveal it here, go listen to the latest show!

Second bit of news is that I’m adding a second horror festival to my year: Celluloid Screams in Sheffield.  You can click the name to be taken to the site and check out everything on offer for the weekend.  I’m most looking forward to Jug Face and Discopath (if any film deserves a theme song it has to be this. I’ve practically written it myself in my head) for this one, although there’s no films there that I wouldn’t like to see, which is always good. As with last year’s Abertoir film festival I will be working alongside Hayley of Hayley’s Horror Reviews to create on-site video updates of everything we’re seeing and thinking but this year you get 2 lots of videos as we’ll be doing this in Sheffield too.

Speaking of Abertoir, the first wave of scheduled films has just been made today and there are still tickets available.  For 6 days full of horror goodness, including a theatre performance, talks and a pub quiz for £58 you really can’t go wrong.  Or you can go very wrong…after those 6 days, as I did last year, but it was a fun kind of hysteria….a warming, giggly kind that produces terrible jokes about egg sushi.  Early highlights for me include a classic screening of The Haunting (scares the ever-loving shit out of me), Axelle Carolyn’s Soulmate and found-footage film The Borderlands.  Yes, this is me, being excited for a found-footage… strange isn’t it?  All this seasonal October-ness must be getting to me.

So, even though I’ve been slightly quiet for a while it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to shut me up for the next few months.  The videos from festivals will likely be supplemented by longer reviews after the festivals by myself and Hayley so is best to keep an eye out on both sites for those if you’d rather a more in-depth review than at-the-festival video coverage can provide.  I’m happy to take requests for any reviews via Twitter or this site during the festivals and have them posted upon return.

Oh also, I need to mention Wales Goes Dark, which is a collection of events in association with the BFI as part of their BFI Gothic season.  Highlights include Dracula at Cardiff Castle and Night of the Demon at Tredegar House as well as a variety of events at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.  Sadly I don’t think I’m able to make it to these events but if you can, you definitely should.  Is so nice to see more and more horror stuff popping up in Wales.

Top 10 Horrors of 2012

Happy New Year everyone and I know I’m a little late with this as most had their ‘best of’ lists out by the end of December, but I’m ridiculously indecisive and I know as soon as I post this I’ll immediately think of others that should have been on here or it should be in a different order but such is life.  So with no further ado, my top 10 horror films of 2012…

 

10 – Manborg

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At just over an hour long this frantic, 1980s video-game look and sound alike makes for the perfect midnight movie.  Some brilliant, endlessly quotable one liners make it a great one to watch with friends and the fairly short run time means the film ends before the joke wears too thin.  It is hugely enjoyable and its impressive to see a film without a big budget utilise it to create a ‘look’ that escalates the film into something more interesting.

9 – Resolution

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With horror fans crying out for original additions to the genre I’m expecting Resolution to be one of the most talked about horror films of 2013 despite it not really fitting into any sub-genre.  Much of the film’s appeal for me rests on the incredible chemistry between drug-addled Chris (Vinny Curan) and well-meaning Michael (Peter Cilella) as it is their unlikely yet believable friendship that carries the film for the most part.  I must see it again.

8 – Citadel

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The first film on this year’s list to make me cry, which is, regrettably, becoming more and more common.  Taking an altogether more sentimental take on ‘hoodie-horror’ ‘Citadel’ rests on the shoulders of Aneurin Barnard as a father traumatised by the death of his wife and it is his performance at the centre, despite a great turn from James Cosmo as a rather sweary priest.  I do have my complaints about the film in terms of it relying a lot on loud noises as opposed to genuinely scary moments (which it does have) but this film was a great surprise with its ability to maintain a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout.

7 – Chained

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Chained was probably the most uncomfortable film I saw this year and I definitely left the cinema feeling a little grubby for it.  Although disturbing it also allowed for some incredibly uplifting moments as Rabbit is repeatedly conditioned to become a killer by his serial-killing captor Bob.  Eamon Farren has a strangely beautiful screen presence used to full effect and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Bob intimidates through the screen.  Jennifer Lynch has created a haunting film about the ways in which damaged people cope.  Wonderful, but so glad I did not have to get a taxi home after watching it.

6 – Errors of the Human Body

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Body horror was something I was really unsure of before attending Abertoir this year due to being unaware of my own limitations in terms of watching gore.  Turns out, I’m quite a fan as this and a higher entry on the list will show.  Errors of the Human Body is a heartbreaking tale of genetic modification, mad scientists and failed relationships backed up by slick production, dark laughs and a steady, if slow for some pace.

5 – Before Dawn

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One of a few feature debuts on this list – this one is from husband and wife team Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell.  This was a film I was interested to see, but honestly did not expect that much from it and I was so glad to be proven wrong.  Zombie lore meets romantic drama as a troubled couple (played by Brunt and Mitchell) head off to a remote cottage in an attempt to save their marriage, blighted by husband Alex’s drinking problems brought on by losing his job.  There are some wonderful touches in this in relation to zombie mythology but at its heart remains a study of love and ultimately, despair (Aww..sweet).  The second film on this list to make me cry too.

4 – The Cabin in the Woods

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I think the marketing for this film was one of the things to let it down.  The posters proclaimed it to be a ‘game-changer’ for the horror genre and this likely appealed to many fed up of the constant found-footage films, remakes/reboots and sequels being churned out.  However, ‘Cabin’ is not a game-changer at all.  What it is though, is great fun and this is probably the way it should have been sold to cinema goers.  The conventions and cliches being played with have already been tackled and some of the ‘you get the horror films you deserve’ points are a little heavy-handed, but it had me glued to my seat the first time I saw it and every time since too.  The only word I can ever use to describe it as is fun, and isn’t that enough sometimes?

3 – Sightseers

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Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ took the number one spot in my top ten last year and the teaser clip for this had me very hopeful, with its tone very similar to British comedy series like Nighty Night – dark, biting and delightfully absurd.  Of course, last year the film I was looking forward to seeing most was The Wicker Tree and we all know how that one turned out, so I was prepared for disappointment.  Luckily, Sightseers did not disappoint and while probably not strictly a ‘horror’ film, work of this quality should be welcomed into the genre.  Amy Jump is fast becoming one of my favourite screen writers and her collaboration with stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram for this film is hilarious.  I am strongly looking forward to Wheatley and Jump’s next project ‘A Field in England’, starring Julian Barratt, Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley, among others.

2 – Antiviral

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Brandon Cronenberg’s first film is bleak, clinical and every bit as invasive as the needlework undertaken on-screen as it explores celebrity culture, cosmetic surgery and the obsessions surrounding both.  Caleb Landry Jones has a brilliant on-screen presence and often it seems like the environment has been built around him as the centre point.  It is beautiful, captivating and I still can’t believe it is Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut.  It feels far more sophisticated than that.

1 – American Mary

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American Mary could have won this simply with its soundtrack, which is honestly one of the best I’ve heard in a while and needs an official release.  While I’m mentioning the sound (without giving anything away like some of the latest trailers…grrr) there is a moment of sound in this film so well designed that it sounded like it was coming from inside the cinema.  Some fantastic prosthetic work, lashings of dark humour and not ignoring the seriousness of their story make it a very strong follow up to ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’.  I’m already interested to see what the Soska Sisters will tackle next as their first two films couldn’t be more different.  Katherine Isabelle is a compelling leading lady, but for me the star was Tristan Risk as Beatress, who ably switched from confident and comedic to tragic and fragile.  With any film as highly anticipated and praised as this one its bound to have its detractors, but for me its blend of ‘Nip/Tuck’-esque stylised surgery and snarky revenge film worked very well.

So there you have it!  I realise that no top 10 list will have everyone nodding in agreement so welcome others to submit their ideas about the films that maybe should have been included, or anything I’ve missed out that I should have seen.  I’m on Twitter @caitlynmdowns for any discussion.  Thanks for reading and I’m hoping to be able to announce a pretty cool project fairly soon…maybe even during this week.

Abertoir 2012

As you’ve seen from the videos posted direct from the festival I had an awesome time at Abertoir 2012, but I still felt like there was room for a further write-up on it now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the whole thing.

What is wonderful about Abertoir is the fact that you don’t have to choose between screenings as you might with some larger festivals so its easier to take a chance on films that you’re not sure about or would probably not normally make the effort to see.  As a result, you can stumble upon some real gems and in some cases, even change your mind about certain sub-genres.  This was certainly true for me this year as before attending I had it set in my head that I was not a fan of body horror – however the cold and heartbreaking Errors of the Human Body and Brandon Cronenberg’s stunning debut Antiviral have changed my mind about that and I definitely want to find more films like them.  Suggestions via Twitter always welcomed.

There is truly something for everyone at Abertoir and that was certainly highlighted this year through the wide selection of classic and newly restored films showing alongside new projects from experienced and up and coming directors.  This is without even mentioning the wide range of sub-genres on offer, including musicals, thrillers and monster movies, as well as short films.

Another thing that Abertoir has is an incredible sense of community.  The organisers are incredibly welcoming and this obviously extends to the guests they are able to secure for Q&As.  Even those who are unable to attend send videos (some hilarious introductions like the directors of Resolution) and are usually well-received by the audience.  I would challenge anyone to find such a selection of films, talks and special events for as little as Abertoir charges.

So with all that said, I’ll discuss my personal favourites from the festival.  I had several favourites throughout the festival that changed in order throughout the week, but all remain very strong contenders and certainly future additions to my DVD collection.  Ultimately American Mary was my favourite film, closely followed by Sightseers (which was shown with wickedly funny short Him Indoors) with Errors of the Human Body, Antiviral, Resolution and Citadel close behind.  An honorable mention has to go to Sleep Tight, which actually had me checking under the bed after I saw it!  I’m hoping to have some full reviews of some up pretty soon.