Abertoir Day 6

There’s always a tinge of sadness in writing the last day of any festival coverage.  Revisiting it now is just making me want to go back and do it all again.  Aside from the first film of the day, which was Starry Eyes, a film I’d heard a lot of hype for going into Celluloid Screams, but didn’t massively love.  I’ll keep my thoughts very brief here and direct you to my full review instead.

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Skipping Starry Eyes meant that my first horror exposure that day was a far more gentle one with Paul Shallcross’ silent horror shorts with live piano accompaniment.  It is no wonder that this event won best event of Abertoir 2014 with Shallcross’ incredible knowledge and keen eye for fine details guiding us all through some early and often rare shorts.  A thoroughly lovely way to kick off the last day.

Given that some appreciation of film had taken place, it was then time for Nicko and Joe’s Bad Film Club – an event that normally takes place at midnight during one of the weekdays when everyone is considerably well sozzled by a day of drinking in a dark room.  However, the event still worked wonderfully on a Sunday afternoon with Nicko and Joe’s humour holding everyone’s hand through a screening of RatsRats is particularly awful if you’re at all fond of rats, given the amount of them that seemingly get pushed around by terrible actors.  The great thing about Bad Film Club is that it allows everyone to relax and just laugh along with all the terrible goings on on-screen.

An Evening with Ian McCulloch was the last of the events and featured an evening of songs, stories and clips from his earlier work which showed there was much more to an actor who featured in three video nasties altogether.  While the majority of his talk strayed away from his horror work it was still incredibly interesting to hear about his life and career.

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The closing film of Abertoir 2014 was Dead Snow 2: Red or Dead, which, as I covered in my Celluloid Screams coverage, does away with all the build of its predecessor and throws you straight in at the end of the first film into all the zombie carnage and gore.  While I still feel like I favour the first one, Red or Dead is a real crowd-pleaser and definitely a good way to bring a festival to a close.

Given the success and high praise for Abertoir from everyone I spoke to I’m imagining that Abertoir 2015 will be their biggest one yet and will celebrate 10 years of horror in Aberystwyth in exactly the right way.  I’m already counting down the days.

For more information on Abertoir please visit their official site: www.abertoir.co.uk

Abertoir Day Five

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With the partying done on Friday night Day Five kicked off with a far more sober affair in the form of Faults – an economically shot film about a washed-up cult deprogrammer taking on one more case in the form of a young girl whose parents desperately want her to leave the cult she’s joined.  Now, you only have to whisper the word cult to me and I’m there – something about it terrifies me and intrigues me.  Faults may be the strongest of that kind of film in a long time and its hard to compare it to anything else.  For large parts of the film the action is confined to one room and features an emotional game of chess between Mary Elizabeth Winstead (in the kind of performance I never expected) and Leland Orser.  It is so difficult to discuss this one without including important details, so I’ll just leave it with a final thought that it was stunning and the second the credits rolled I wanted to see it again.

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Up next was one of the films I’d really been hoping to see on the festival circuit from the moment I saw the Comic Con trailer – Tusk.  Despite some apprehension after watching Red State (bleh that was awful), I was still excited for a film that had emerged from possibly the strangest GumTree advert in existence.  The casting of Justin Long is really inspired with him able to drift seemingly effortlessly from simple, thoughtful Wallace into mean-spirited podcaster mode.  Again, very little I can say on this without adding spoilers but I laughed myself insensible during at least one point of this film, but that’s not to take away from how disturbing it all is when you consider the logistics later on.

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In order to do justice to remembering the video nasties, it seems only right to show one.  With that said, and Abertoir’s guest of honour being Luigi Cozzi, it stands to reason that Contamination would be the film to show.  In addition, another guest Ian McCullough starred in the film (plus Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombie Holocaust) and so another double Q&A would follow the film, just as Fabio Frizzi and Richard Johnson had done last year on Zombie Flesh Eaters.  Watching Contamination now, its hard to imagine it being banned.  It doesn’t contain any of the more objectionable or taboo material from other nasties and its effects are very good, but not overly convincing.  If anything, this screening really summed up how completely ridiculous banning films was and how films with conspicuous names could be plucked from a line up and said to be dangerous.  The Q&A was also packed with somewhat sordid details on how many of these films were funded, on-set fights and other stories of being involved in the nasties.

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Closing off the penultimate night of Abertoir was a very special event and one I’ve not seen attempted by much larger festivals and really showcases Aberystwyth itself as a great place for horror.  First it was onto buses headed for the Vale of Rheidol steam railway, where we then made our way onto an authentic steam train headed for Capel Bangor.  Upon arrival some ghost stories were told outside, although a few hiccups with acoustics meant I missed some of them.  After some hot drinks, it was back to the platform to watch Horror Express in a specially erected screening room, which while very cold, provided a great experience for watching a horror classic.  For me, Horror Express stands up very well to this day with some great effects.  The whole experience was one of the best I’ve seen advertised at any festival and Abertoir’s organisers should really be commended for pulling it off so smoothly.

Abertoir Day Four

Day Four kicked off with a continuation of the video nasty theme, with a talk by Mark McKenna and Johnny Walker, who spoke about collecting the VHS tapes (with some eye-watering figures involved) and also how the nasties have impacted on current genre cinema, particularly on the British scene.  A lively talk with plenty of clips and references kept everyone entertained.  It is always interesting to see how such a potentially damaging scandal actually gave so much life to films that would be otherwise forgotten.

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The second screening of the day was also the second foray into foreign language film – this time a Dutch production – De Poel (or The Pool).  While the synopsis of a family going into the woods and one member’s sanity gradually unravelling is a well-worn path in horror The Pool has a good balance of humour in the early stages and reveals hidden sides of the characters in well-paced fashion rather than prolonging the discoveries past the point of anyone caring.  The Pool brings a more interesting and far less well-travelled mythology that you’re expecting and is an entertaining, if not-overly challenging film.

canalThe Canal followed The Pool, seemingly in some attempt to convince us all that water is evil and half price beer is better (it is and we all know it) and takes the prize as the film to really get under my skin for this year.  The gradual decline in sanity of main character David is compelling, uncomfortable viewing, propped up by a genuinely brilliant child performance (and you won’t hear me say those words very often) and enough spooky action to keep momentum going without ever throwing too much at the screen at once.  The Canal also features Steve Oram in a small role and he was on hand to answer questions about the film afterwards, even though many of the questions centred around his past work on Sightseers.

Now, on our pre-Abertoir podcast myself and Hayley said we would definitely go to the theatre performance and we totally were until just before.  So, yeah I failed on that one I’m afraid in order to prepare myself for perhaps the most uncomfortable viewing experience I would face throughout the whole festival.  Gremlins.  Yes, Gremlins.  I’d never watched the whole thing after being far too upset by one meeting its fate in a blender-type contraption (I was both a strange and sensitive child) so while it was a nostalgic screening for most of the audience, it was pretty much my first exposure to it.  In the end, I was able to make it through this time and thankfully really enjoyed it, although still don’t support the dispatching of Gremlins in blenders.

The light, crowd-pleasing screening was the perfect introduction to the Last Night a DJ Took My Life party that had been gradually assembled throughout the day, including a light-up dance floor and various unnerving doll and VHS displays.  Plus a little ET…ET scared me as a child too – I obviously wasn’t built for 80s children’s films.  The party is another example of how Abertoir really goes the extra mile to provide an experience, rather than just a festival and this was no exception.  Many cocktails were sampled and many dodgy dance moves were showcased.

Abertoir Day Three

Following the late night of Japanese splattery fun on day two I was somewhat grateful I’d already seen the first film on the schedule: Housebound.  The super fun and oft-creepy New Zealand film proved a hit in Sheffield and I thought it would do similarly here too.  Housebound at the moment feels slightly one of a kind in its ability to hit both funny and scary notes, sometimes within seconds of one another.  It really is a triumph and it was only stubborn tiredness that prevented me from taking a second look.

Now Day Three was interesting because it showed that sometimes at film festivals things can go wrong, but it also showed the class and experience of the Abertoir organisers in that even though one film was unable to be shown, they had an option waiting in the wings that I’m sure is better than some programmed at other festivals.  Instead of Fires on the Plain we were treated to Venezuelan ghost story The House at the End of Time, which Abertoir had programmed for Halloween night at Chapter, but happily was seen at Abertoir itself too.

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The House at the End of Time is fantastic. Really it is, even with my slight complaint that it relies a little too much on loud noises.  The concept is well thought-out and executed with its various twists and turns present from the outset so it never feels like events are being pulled out of someone’s arse late into the runtime.  What is wonderful about HATEOT is that it gives you all that information and leaves you to do what you want with it.  What it does conceal is usually for good reason, combining scares with a few incredibly touching moments that hold it up over other mainstream ghost story films.  As a side note, it is also incredibly refreshing to see a horror film where most of the screentime is occupied by an elderly lady.  It is to Abertoir’s credit that a film this strong was a back up plan.

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At this stage it almost feels like I should slate something given how nice I’ve been but while I wasn’t a fan of this next one, I don’t even feel the need to slate it.  However, The Forgotten is the closest thing to a social-realist ghost story we have…and it is possibly for good reason.  Everyone who knows me knows I’m a fan of a slow-burning ghost story, but for me The Forgotten didn’t quite work, largely because I failed to connect with the characters.  At times I felt like a lot had been cut from the film as there seemed to be large chunks of characterisation and events removed or unexplained when they could have been without detracting from the central mystery of the film.  While there are a few creepy moments toward the climax of the film, nothing has really stayed with me.

The Q&A session with director Oliver Frampton and writer James Hall after the screening was actually far more interesting as they covered facts about the locations, the benefit of shooting with mostly handheld equipment and what their collective experience in television had taught them.  What is also interesting about these Q&A sessions is that someone will often bring up an element of the film that you didn’t see, which is always interesting to discuss.

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Martin Barker’s highly anticipated talk was next.  Some of you may know Barker from the Video Nasties documentary by Jake West, who spends a lot of his time almost inadvertantly sticking up for the nasties and becoming embroiled in many public television discussions on the subject.  Hearing about that era from the man himself (and his wife, who was in the audience and had also dealt with her fair share of trouble during the period) was illuminating, particularly in reference to the duelling groups attempting to ban films during this time.  During the talk, Barker maintained that he was now going to study something more ‘safe’ and spoke about his new project – The World Hobbit Project, which if you’ve seen The Hobbit films you can go to http://www.worldhobbitproject.org and fill out a survey to be part of the largest research of its kind.

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The UK Premiere of Takeshi Miike’s new film Over Your Dead Body proved to be a fitting film to follow Barker’s talk, given its emphasis on art imitating life and life imitating art as a danger throughout.  This one did not score as highly with the Abertoir audience as I’d expected, but I think many probably felt slightly off-kilter by not knowing the source material of the play within the film and therefore lost the thread of what was happening.  I have no prior knowledge of the source material either, but was simply absorbed into the film’s stunning visuals and inventive set design so much that I forgot to care that I didn’t really know what was going on….

Last for the night was the pre-cert VHS screening of A Bay of Blood, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t stay for, instead choosing a slightly earlier night.  I did, however, sneak a peak at the quality of the VHS and was very impressed.

Abertoir 2014 Day One

Abertoir Day One

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The 9th Abertoir Horror Festival kicked off particularly stylishly with a remarkable remaster of Vincent Price’s 1953 classic House of Wax. In full, glorious 3D we were treated to Price’s well-known wit and some great special effects that were sure to delight modern and traditional horror fans alike. Given Abertoir’s special relationship with Price (his daughter Victoria officially named him Abertoir’s Patron Saint a few years back) this seemed an apt start to the festival.

The second film of the night was The Editor and to avoid repeating myself, please go read my review here.

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Next up was more comedy in the form of Danger 5 – an Abertoir crowd-pleaser for the past few years with its farcical team of spies attempting to track down and, as always, Kill Hitler. Thanks to midnight screenings the audience was familiar with all of series one, but the second series is actually a completely different animal, or at the very least a completely different anthropomorphic animal head. If you’ve not seen Danger 5 that will be lost on you, but don’t worry…and go watch it.

Series 2 replaces the single-episode platform of series 1 with a narrative, but without allowing the structure of it to dull the strange antics of the characters and the often even stranger surroundings. If anything this new focus on a continuous story for the group allows for even more non-sequiturs as the mission rolls along and the group are distracted by personal demons and hang ups. As part of Abertoir we were also lucky enough to be joined by one of the creators of the show – Dario Russo for a Q&A following the screening which tackled the difficulties in casting Hitler and working with partly government-funded television channels.

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The final film of the night was the ABCs of Death 2, which if you’ve followed my Celluloid Screams coverage you’ll already know that I’ve seen it and found it a huge improvement over the first instalment. As a result, I didn’t stay for this one, instead opting for a slightly earlier night and extra sleep, which as we all know is essential at festival time.

The Editor

editorposterThe Editor

Directors: Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy

Writers: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Conor Sweeney

Back in the 2011 Abertoir schedule a little midnight movie caught my eye – that movie was Manborg and became my first exposure to Astron-6. Shamefully, despite Manborg making me laugh heartily including one line that I still quote with alarming regularity I never sought out any of the Astron-6 shorts that were available online. It was only really at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield that I really realised how brilliant they were and most of that realisation is down to The Editor.

The Editor follows Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) whose editing work on a low budget feature takes a more sinister turn as members of the cast are found murdered, with a calling card of chopped-off fingers seemingly to point directly to Ciso as the culprit. As the investigation starts and filming continues Ciso is forced to confront his own sanity to absolve himself of guilt.

editorhandIt is almost too easy to pitch The Editor as The Beyond meets Airplane!, but that seems to do the film a disservice – to take away in some part the layers, thought and hard work that has obviously been put into this. I’ve been lucky enough to see the film twice now (at Celluloid Screams and Abertoir) and while at first being struck by how funny the film is on a basic, broad level during the initial viewing, the second opens up all the little jokes I’d missed the first time around. While I wouldn’t by any stretch call myself a giallo expert I did feel a certain level of pride in recognising some of the homages.

The film’s direction is strong, with lots of attention paid to small details that immerse you not only within the world of The Editor, but the Astron-6 canon itself (including a small cameo by Father’s Day’s Chris Fuchmann in the opening scene). By the very nature of the plot and the way the film is designed, writing a plot synopsis is damn near impossible but there’s so much to enjoy within this piece, including films within films that rather than pull you away from laughs, actually introduce more. In keeping with a giallo tradition it is hard to praise it for a coherent plot, but this merely adds to the charm and links to how ridiculous those films could be.

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Strong, funny and frankly, manic performances by Kennedy as detective Peter Porfiry and Sweeny as ambitious actor Cal Konitz play well against Brooks’ more restrained Ciso. The supporting cast too are incredibly enjoyable, with Laurence Harvey’s Father Clarke whose interactions with Porfiry provide the most instantly quotable lines of the film and also Samantha Hill as Bella, the fragile editing assistant to Ciso who seeks to prove herself in both her profession and personal life. My personal highlight is Paz de la Huerta, however, who in her role as former actress Josephine steals near enough every scene she is in with a pout and whispery delivery.

Overall, The Editor feels like a group of film-makers and actors really hitting their stride and producing a thoroughly enjoyable and unique film despite its debts to giallo. What is also wonderful about Astron-6 is even though they heavily lean on and pay homage to other genres (in particular, bad VHS films) they always leave you feeling that you’ve seen something original, even though the trappings are familiar. My only complaint is having to wait to see it again and to show it to other people, so for the time being I’ll mainly be watching Breaking Santa and Inferno of the Dead on a loop. I suggest you do the same by going here.

Celluloid Screams Day Three

The last day of a festival is an emotionally trying time – you’re pretty much exhausted, but have had such a lovely time you don’t want it to end. A difficult balance. Kicking off the final day were two shorts – Canis: a hard-hitting stop-motion shot that while impressive, definitely wasn’t to my taste and Emptied: a ‘based on a true story’ short about a dentist with a grudge. The first feature of the day was Suburban Gothic, from Excision’s Ricky Bates Jr. Now anyone who has heard me speak about Excision knows I’m not a fan of it at all and I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Suburban Gothic either, but it is a marked improvement. Comedy, particularly the type favoured by John Waters is clearly where Bates’ strengths lie and transporting it into a film about a haunting really, almost surprisingly, works.

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Up next was another feature introduced by Brian Yuzna – this time a film he had produced: Dagon. Ahead of the introduction a sea-themed short from the director of last year’s short film winner Angst, Piss and Drid played, which was described as what would be the result of Ingmar Bergman made a straight-up horror film. Dagon itself is an interesting film concerning a town where all the people are changing into…something, based on a HP Lovecraft story. Yuzna’s Q+A afterwards was also intriguing as he was able to discuss his role as a producer and the importance of branding in film distribution.

Following this was the short film shortcase of festival favourites Astron-6. This was downright hilarious – Astron-6 are such an inventive group who really love their subject and are therefore the best people to parody them. My favourite of their shorts has to be Inferno of the Dead, which happily, you can watch for free on their website here. Their short trailers are the kind of things you would happily watch all the way through a festival. Kennedy, Brooks and Sweeny were also on hand to answer more questions.

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The next film was probably the one that I had the most reservations about – The ABCs of Death 2. The first one was problematic due to an overuse of toilets (even though T is for Toilet is genuinely great), Nazis and some incredibly lazy film-making from some big names. The second instalment, I’m pleased to report is a far better film, with a balance of the shocking and funny. At the moment I can’t recall any of the shorts I actively hated – whereas with the first I probably had half an arm full of letters I didn’t care for. A Q+A afterwards, including special guests The Soskas via Skype mentioned that each director had been sent a manifesto warning them off certain subjects. It seems that using the first film as an experiment has resulted in learning lessons and vastly improving the second, so much so that I’m excited for the third.

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The penultimate film was the secret film and while there was a buzz around several fairly high profile films it could have been the film was nothing I’d even heard of. Asmodexia at first, seemed an appealing film, an exorcism story which had yet to feature in the line up. However, it offers very little in terms of a story that is anything different to a million other exorcism films other than a twist in the tale that takes too long to reveal itself, leaving the film generic for far too long. As an aside, the majority of people said they’d guessed the twist before it was revealed, so they didn’t even have that enjoyment out of it…which is unfortunate. Still, great to see how many people were interested in seeing a secret film as the screening was pretty full.

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So we’ve arrived at the final film – the hotly anticipated Dead Snow 2: Red or Dead. From reports before the screening I’d heard that the sequel takes all of those crazy moments from the first film and turns them up to 11 and that is certainly accurate. Backstory and build is pushed aside for more gore and impressive set pieces but it remains well-paced and doesn’t rush to each piece. The cast are engaging, particularly the American group of zombie hunters who are perhaps too keen to journey to save the day – only realising how inept they are upon their arrival. In short, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and does exactly what anyone watching it wants which is all you can ask for.

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There you have it – my complete round up of Celluloid Screams 2014. If you’ve enjoyed this please check out more of my work, follow me on Twitter (@caitlynmdowns) and also check out my joint project with Hayley (of Hayley’s Horror Reviews), Ghostface Girls (moviepilot.com/ghostfacegirls), for podcasts, videos and articles. Thanks for reading!

Top Horrors of 2013 Part Two

In an attempt to avoid too-long-blog-post fatigue here is part two of my top horror films of 2013, again in no particular order.

 

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A Field in England

I was so excited for this.  Excited to the point that I nearly chased the postman down on the morning of its release.  Luckily for me and the postman, it was not a disappointment and is a great example of a film where everyone involved is working towards one particular vision.  Everyone knows I’m a big Ben Wheatley fan and it is exactly because of films like this – daring, dynamic and not easily forgotten.  It also contains the tent scene….oh the tent scene.  My review is on the blog and also at AllHorror.net

 

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Stoker

Some may argue that Stoker is more of a dark drama than a horror but there are some tension-filled sequences within it that for me, more than qualify it for inclusion in a horror list.  The piano scene in this, although one more fitting with drama than horror, is one of the most well-crafted scenes I’ve ever witnessed

 

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Chiméres

One of the films on this list I could totally write a very long (and spoilery) essay on, having seen it twice so far and am pretty much sure I’d get even more from it on future viewings.  The romance at the heart of the film feels like a genuine romance and the character development and actor chemistry adds an extra punch to an action-packed, tragic story.  Some wonderful, yet fairly subtle vampiric make up grounds the tale in a gritty reality.

 

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Big Bad Wolves

A morality gut-punch with a side of dark comedy that deserves all the praise it has received and more.  Really one of those films that hits you so hard that you can’t adequately discuss it until much later on…and then you can’t really stop talking about it.  Fantastic comic and emotive performances combine to create a film about torture that takes the consequences of vigilante justice very seriously

 

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Jug Face

Speaking of gut-punches, Jug Face delivers a frank discussion about acceptance of consequences and the restrictions that secluded cultures and rituals place on those within them and at no point backs out.  Everyone knows that I love a film that sets something up and no matter how unpleasant it is, follows through rather than backing out for a more favourable outcome and this does exactly that.  Worth watching for fans of The Woman to see Sean Bridgers and Lauren Ashley Carter reunited.

 

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The Borderlands

The scariest film I’ve seen all year.  Genuinely unnerving and a fine departure from the glut of found footage films out there.  By using a Peep Show POV shooting style you are thrown right into the thick of the action, yet are still allowed to see things that the characters themselves don’t.  At times, this is wonderfully subtle, but maintains enough tension that the big scares truly scare.  For further evidence, check out the Abertoir video where I look most like I need a pint.

 

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All Cheerleaders Die

Out of all the films on this list this one is probably the one I’ve recommended most to people, simply because it is so different.  A little bit late 90’s witchcraft movie wrapped up in an innovative, exciting, yet ultimately cynical Lucky McKee coating.  Bookended by one of the best opening and best closing moments All Cheerleaders Die is one I can’t wait to see again.

 

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Discopathe

First, a confession: I was not sold on this film upon starting to read the synopsis before Celluloid Screams.  Second, another confession: by the end of that synopsis I was in love with the idea and wanted a theme song.  Another one on this list that I’ve seen twice, Discopathe is a grubby, occasionally very darkly funny film that will get its infectious soundtrack and gory imagery stuck in your head.  My full review is just a few entries ago so feel free to check it out for more details.

 

So that concludes my favourites of this year. What are yours?  Anything else I should be checking out?  As always, my twitter is @caitlynmdowns, or you can just comment here. Thanks for reading!

Top Horrors of 2013

For the past two years I’ve done the conventional top 10 horror films of the year gimmick, but this year I’m passing up the ranking system because I simply can’t decide on any order for the films I’ve enjoyed most this year.  Much of this is because 2013 has been a somewhat strange year for horror with some of the bigger names absent from festival schedules giving way to some new and some re-emerging talents which can only be good for the genre. In addition, all of these films are so different that I’m finding it hard to rank them as each pretty much do what they want to do comfortably and confidently.  I did initially start to rank them but it turned me into such a conflicted mess I just had to abandon the idea.  I’m also aware that some of the films in this list were probably out last year but that is often the case so we won’t worry about that (am seeing a good few of my last year’s choices on lists this year – mainly the mighty American Mary and Antiviral.  As it is a pretty big list I’m going to split this into two parts…

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Yep…I was not expecting this to be anywhere near a year-end list of mine when I first saw the DVD cover and took a chance on it being so bad it might be entertaining.  However, it is a super fun reimagining of the Hansel and Gretel tale that really hit all the right notes with me.  Sometimes that’s all you need, but at the same time, it lacks the substance to be any further up the list.

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Evil Dead

This one may be slightly controversial, given the fairly negative response from many genre fans, but I enjoyed it.  Plenty of gore and enough small references to the original to keep me happy and some great imagery toward the end too.  My only complaint really is that maybe it would have benefitted from not being associated with The Evil Dead as it was bound to be compared unfavourably to it and perhaps could have been given more creative freedom if not under the Evil Dead banner.

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Chantaly

A deserving entry on any list considering the fact that it is the first horror film made in Laos and also the first film made by a woman there too.  However, that is not the only reason it appears here as it is a strong, haunting ghost story in its own right with its own spiritual background woven into the film by director Mattie Do.  Ooh, and an awesome whippet who greatly appeals to a crazy dog lady like myself.

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Lords of Salem

After many years of only mentioning Rob Zombie’s film efforts in a disgruntled mumble (Halloween grrrr) he is finally back in my good books with a more original project that includes some genuinely creepy moments that is satisfying enough before something of a drop-off toward the end.  Still, a nice turn away from his previous work and one of the most interesting on-screen depictions of witches in recent memory.

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Bad Milo!

Funny, touching and with frequent arse jokes Milo! is a really fun film, ideally enjoyed with friends and beer.  The titular Milo is very cute, but also very deadly and is off-set by some wonderful performances.  The easiest way to describe it would be something like a horror version of Ted, which looks at growing up with the help (or should that be hindrance?) of an unusual ‘friend’.

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Painless

Superb Spanish film that I’ve already expressed my appreciation of in a full review.  A stunning study of a country coming to terms with past brutalities wrapped up in a personal story about children who have no concept of physical pain.  It kept me gripped from its sinister opening to its emotional conclusion – a tall order during the festival overload. My full review is up at AllHorror.net

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Maniac

The Maniac remake has to be on this list for having the dubious achievement of making me feel genuinely, physically sick during one particular kill.  It is relentless both in its violence and the style behind it, culminating in the closest thing to a fevered nightmare I’ve seen on screen in some time.  Doesn’t Elijah Wood do creepy so well?!

Part Two is coming soon…

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…