Apologies for not being around very often, so hear is myself and Hayley of Hayley’s Horror Reviews latest podcast on shocking cinema. You can also find more of my writing at moviepilot.com/ghostfacegirls
Apologies for not being around very often, so hear is myself and Hayley of Hayley’s Horror Reviews latest podcast on shocking cinema. You can also find more of my writing at moviepilot.com/ghostfacegirls
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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
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…
Director: Renaud Gauthier
Starring: Jérémie Earp-Lavergne
Discopath (also known as Discopathe) is a rather strange film to try and pin down for a review, largely because upon first viewing you’re not really sure what you’re getting yourself into. The synopsis reads as a primarily comic one, but anyone going in expecting a straightforward comedy will be disappointed, as I think the case has been with some audiences. As a result, Discopath demands at least a second viewing – one to get to grips with it and one to really enjoy it.
Discopath is set in the 1970s (and later the early 80s) and concerns a young man, Duane Lewis (Jérémie Earp-Lavergne) living in New York who hears disco music for the first time, but far from being moved to dance…the music motivates him to kill. But his world and potential relationships are becoming ever more saturated by this new musical genre that turns him into a psychopath.
The initial premise does sound like a generic slasher with a quirky reason for the killer’s motivation, but Discopath, with it’s incredible 1970s design (if I’d not seen the date I would have easily considered it to be from that time period), high levels of gore and of course, a great soundtrack, becomes so much more. It is of course, funny throughout, including a few segments that had the whole cinema howling with laughter but there’s an exceptionally grubby overtone to it all.
For one, Jérémie Earp-Lavergne, playing Duane Lewis (or any of the other alias he takes on through the course of the film) utilises his somewhat stilted and unusual accent to great effect in earlier scenes, simultaneously balancing the naive and the sinister. This also positions him as an outsider during early scenes in New York – Duane is not like everyone else around him and so he does not experience life in the same way as them. The other actors deliver their deliberately hokey dialogue with straight faces, further adding to the effect that you’re watching a decidedly ropey 1970s slasher.
Secondly, the song that repeats throughout the film, while initially seeming a straightforward disco song soon changes to something at a near-shriek, spiralling into a madness along with the character. Perhaps more interestingly is that the music itself doesn’t change, just the circumstances around them but the film is honestly so engaging it really does seem to sway the viewer into the frame of mind they need to be in. Another well-known song is used to great effect later in the film, but I don’t want to spoil it. The poster gives a great big hint though.
Thirdly, and perhaps the largest element detracting from the moments of genuine humour are the effects. Largely produced by Remy Couture, who some may recognise as having faced legal action over his potential to cause ‘moral corruption’ (sounding eerily similar to the Video Nasty nonsense of Britain which I will never tire of ranting about) and was tried under Canadian obscenity laws for the graphic nature of the short films and effects he had made. Shorts so effective in their design they had convinced one viewer that it simply couldn’t be fake and so Couture had to provide evidence that all his actors and actresses were over 18 and that no one was hurt during their production. Good publicity for an effects maker you might think, but no one needs the massive legal costs that come with such a thing. As you can imagine, however, the effects in the film are really good, and pretty sick.
Overall, I would say Discopath is an incredibly dark, but occasionally very funny film that will divide an audience – delighting some and alienating others. I’m very glad I’m in the first camp and I look forward to more of Renaud Gauthier’s work, particularly if it is as inventive and well-designed as this.
Director: Brian Netto
Starring: Laurel Vail and Danny Barclay
Delivery is another entry into the seemingly never-ending found-footage sub genre that is showing no signs of letting up, with Paranormal Activity 5 and a spin-off The Marked Ones arriving next year alongside many others attempting to cash in on the easy-scare capabilities and relative cheapness of the form. I’m not quite sure why a first-time director would choose a found-footage film to launch their career (other than it being cheap and easily marketed) as the medium doesn’t really allow for any great showcasing of skills, largely relying on shaky-cam or static surveillance cameras but that is another rant for another time.
Delivery opens with the announcement that first-time parents to be Kyle and Rachel Massy had agreed to take part in an MTV-style programme to chronicle their journey to parenthood – something the pair have struggled with. As with most found-footage films before it, it also foregrounds that all was not well with the production and this is displayed through news footage and also interviews with the show’s producer and the Massy’s families, including one important fact – Rachel’s body was removed from the house on October 20th 2009.
During a Q&A with the director Brian Netto immediately following the screening he explained that he had been writing the film before the first Paranormal Activity came out so it is fairly likely that there have been some development problems for it to have taken so long to make it to the screen. Unfortunately, the release comes at a time where found-footage is used so often it has lost a lot of its initial punch and the buzz that surrounded early screenings of Paranormal Activity. The same tropes are employed here as in every other found-footage film with nothing new or different to offer aside from the show that makes up the first act, shot in an ultra glossy, fast paced MTV style, complete with emotionally manipulative musical cues as Rachel’s pregnancy progresses. Of course, this is totally at odds with the usual, dark setting of horrors and makes for a nice change. It is a shame really, that this style is abandoned for the rough-cut footage that comes later, although it is incredibly difficult to imagine how it could have been sustained as the subject matter becomes more intense and dark.
It does serve a purpose in positioning Kyle and Rachel as a likeable enough couple, both played well by Vail and Barclay. Vail in particular has the most to do as Rachel’s pregnancy begins to inspire sinister paintings and sleepwalking and her performance is convincing, as is Barclay’s as the increasingly suffering and protective Kyle, who is angered by the intrusion. However, my problem is that there is very little ambiguity surrounding whether Rachel is suffering from a mental illness or there is a demon involved, although this is mainly down to the writing not allowing for there to be any real doubt. The unfortunate-looking demon is revealed via an illustration with a small explanation of his purpose, although this fails to explain his presence amongst the Massy’s. A small side-plot rumbles on throughout the film whereby the interviewer repeatedly questions the producer about his intentions in keeping the filming going, even when Kyle wanted to remove the cameras and how much he was motivated by potential profits and infamy but never really goes anywhere apart from a few harsh words between the two. Indeed, given the subject matter the in-universe reasoning for the editing together of unaired footage from the incident would indeed be exploitative, so it isn’t hard to see where the interviewer is coming from.
Now, something about the film really annoyed me, far more than it just being a generic found-footage film was the constant camera interference in the latter part of the film, cutting out during dialogue and then restarting loudly with a hiss. I have no idea how many times this happened, but I know it grated on me every time as loud isn’t scary and I found it constantly broke me out of watching what was happening on screen. It isn’t scary in Paranormal Activity where seemingly hours of inactivity and crushing boredom pass before something goes ‘BANG’ and it isn’t in this either. Also, can we stop the inclusion of animals whose sole purpose is to be brutally killed? Seriously, every single time I see an animal in one of these films it may as well have a flashing siren on its head indicating its impending doom.
However, I suppose I say this as someone who is definitely not a fan of found-footage and its conventions. I’m sure that people who aren’t burnt out by the found-footage phenomena and just want something easy to follow will enjoy this – it certainly received a good reception during the Q&A from some and I would imagine would be a prime candidate for a possible sequel down the line, or maybe even a franchise thanks to a message at the end of the film. Overall, I can’t really find anything in this to hate (irritating camera cut-outs aside) because it isn’t doing anything more than following a set of codes and conventions set out by multiple films before it but it did leave me with a feeling that I’d seen it all before.
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.
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.
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…
In keeping with my own Abertoir tradition I did not make it to the short films. I think I made it to one set in the first year. I will say though that I’m really surprised that again, Butterflies did not sail past the competition. It is a beautiful piece of work, but obviously, without having seen many of the others I can’t say whether it was the best (it probably was though).
So, yeah, the first thing I saw on day five was something I was looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. A found-footage film. Yeah, I know, I was looking forward to it, for a change, but also with that same feeling that I’d spend my next 2 hours watching an empty room until a cupboard door opens. Imagine my surprise when it was not only a great film, but I was also scared out of my tiny mind by it. I described the style of it in the videos as Peep Show goes ghost-hunting, due to the head-cams that document much of the action, managing to avoid the vomit-inducing shaky-cam of so many before it. Also, while it does a fair bit of stationary camera watching, when things happen, things really happen and the effect is an incredibly nerving experience. Can’t wait to terrify myself with this one again in April.
Following this was The Forgotten, a German ghost story with a difference about a woman who returns to her home town with an old friend and begins to unearth an unpleasant past. It was a well-constructed tale, but the packing in of twists did take some of the shine off for me. Perhaps with even one less turn I would have liked it more. However, the first half and particularly the opening sequence is superbly creepy, with an almost fairytale feel to it. It’s something I’d definitely recommend and just goes to show the variety of films Abertoir screens.
Saturday was to be a very special night with a double bill of Zombie Flesh Eaters followed by The Haunting, with special guests Fabio Frizzi and Richard Johnson meeting for the first time on the stage at Abertoir despite both having credits on Zombie Flesh Eaters in the 1970s. This was a really special moment and we were treated to both sharing their experiences with Lucio Fulci in a light-hearted but reflective and thoughtful session. Zombie Flesh Eaters is perhaps best known for a scene in which a zombie and a shark fight and also a scene where a woman is pulled eye first onto a splinter of wood. While I’ve seen both scenes in isolation it was great to see them as a wider part of the story, even if the shark thing makes no sense anyway! The Haunting is one of my favourites and always scares me, with this screening being no different, but extra special for seeing it on the big screen.
To finish Saturday night it was the Abertoir party, in which band White Blacula played, followed by a DJ set by Bronnt Industries Kapital that incorporated a variety of Italian horror themes for us all to enjoy while sipping cocktails, reflecting on the previous films and also readying ourselves for the last day. *sniff, sniff*. No, that’s just something in my eye…
Due to attending Celluloid Screams in Sheffield pretty much just a week before Abertoir, Friday was host to two films I’d already seen and in the case of one…had very strong feelings about. First up on Friday was The Battery, a film I was very mixed on, feeling that it was over-long with the ability to get its message across without plunging the viewer into a real-time situation. While I understand the motivation, it soon lost its effect, but that’s not to say there aren’t some really great sequences in the film, just that it doesn’t quite come together for me.
Second on today’s agenda was a talk by Gavin Baddeley about the search for the original Gothfather, which took everyone on a journey through the past of the gothic tradition, including some notable figures along the way, before arriving at and crowning Montague Summers as the Gothfather. I always end up learning so much from Baddeley’s talks that often delve deeper into the reality and history behind common horror figures and tropes.
Following this was The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears – a real crowd-divider and I have to admit, I walked out during the Sheffield screening of it, so I can’t provide a full, detailed review as it wouldn’t be fair. It is an ultra-stylish Giallo-homage, but the lack of any coherent narrative and the constant repetition of scenes made it an incredibly frustrating watch for me and from what I heard afterwards, a few others too. However, those who liked it, really loved it and sometimes the best discussions are had when there’s such a difference between opinions, something which Abertoir’s emphasis on the social aspect of the festival allows for.
I was very unsure going into the next film. Obviously, I’ve stated my aversion to science fiction time and time again and The Machine seemed to be exactly that, with relatively little horror mentioned in its description. However, as there was a Q&A following the screening, I thought it would be interesting to hear that and would need to watch the film first. Q&A’s are a wonderful way to not only learn more about the film being screened, but also the film-making process in general. In the end I was thrilled and surprised to really enjoy the film, which although had very little going on in terms of new ideas, was sleek, well-crafted and well-acted, meaning that it was enjoyable, although certainly emotional in some parts.
Speaking of being enjoyable, the next film was spectacular comedy-horror Bad Milo!, a film I had originally discovered while doing the write up for AllHorror.net in October and all but wrote off from the description. After watching the trailer, however, I was sold by the blend of wit and disarmingly cute design of Milo himself. The film is exactly how the trailer pitches it, cramming in some kooky characters to put pressure on main character Duncan (Ken Marino) so the titular Milo can appear and wreak havoc while also creating some not only hilarious, but genuinely touching moments.
The good mood I was in after Bad Milo! proved very important, as next up was another Abertoir staple – Nicko and Joe’s Bad Film Club in which the pair subject a willing audience to a dreadful film that everyone would rather forget about. Unfortunately due to a scheduling conflict Joe was unable to make it to the festival, leaving Nicko to tackle the terrible alone. Our ‘treat’ for this year was The Night Train to Terror, a totally nonsensical anthology utilising a wraparound story featuring God and Satan talking on a train, combined with an unbearably catchy musical number between each story. The stories themselves make no sense either and the film, if watched alone could drive even the most sane person to the end of their tether. Thankfully Nicko (with chocolates) makes the experience a far more pleasant one and led us into the weekend with a smile (and that bloody song in our heads).
My first film on day three was Chanthaly, a film that is not only the first film to be made by a woman in Laos, but also the first in the horror genre to come out of the country. It is always interesting with Abertoir in the way that they schedule films from a variety of countries, which makes for some fascinating comparisons and contrasts in terms of sensibilities, cultural practices, histories and also restrictions. The production of Chanthaly was carefully monitored in order to avoid causing offense in director Mattie Do’s native Laos which means there is no gore, very little violence but a quiet and reflective ghost story, with a focus on the family. Considering the inexperience of the director it is an impressive and ambitious debut, with my only complaint being that it ran a little long. However, it is deliciously creepy in parts, with scenes comparable to Ringu and the 2010 version of Whistle and I’ll Come to You and, perhaps most importantly has an awesome dog starring in it. That’ll always win points with me.
Next up was Kiss of the Damned – advertised as a homage to Euro-sleaze and on that it delivers. Perhaps more interestingly is the fact that director Xan Cassavettes is the daughter of John Cassavettes – known in the horror genre for his role as Guy Woodhouse in Rosemary’s Baby, but also for his directorial work on films like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, lending that extra expectation to it. Kiss of the Damned is like the ultimate guilty pleasure, containing vampires who live to have sex with one another, a simplistic plot with some awkward lines delivered ridiculously but it works! It is so well-constructed and charming (not to mention it has an awesome soundtrack) that you’re willing to instantly surrender to it and be taken along for the duration.
Following this was another talk from Peter Hutchings, again covering the life and times of Peter Cushing. The talk was an emotional one, filled with not only clips of the great man in action, but also personal anecdotes that left the majority of the audience at least a little misty-eyed. Also another great excuse to see the Morecambe and Wise clip, alongside other media inspired by Cushing.
Our last film before the Pub Quiz was Ghost Graduation – a film initially described as sounding a bit shit, having a terrible poster and was a last resort for organisers during a festival stay. However, this lovely Spanish comedy film turned out to be the best last resort ever taken – storming to a confident win as the Best Feature of the festival. There’s very little horror in it, even though it is a ghost story but functions more as The Breakfast Club (including at least one moment directly acknowledging this)…with spirits. What it is, though, is touching with great comedic timing and with tons and tons of feel-good moments.
It proved great scheduling as the fun-filled film put everyone in the right mood for the Pub Quiz. Now I’ve bemoaned the difficulty of the music round in this before, but this year (largely thanks to a bone thrown to us by Nia) we were able to secure a few more correct answers than previous years. Despite not winning (but importantly, also not losing), the Pub Quiz is always great fun, particularly when complimented by the specially designed cocktails.
Those cocktails would certainly help with the next film…Hentai Kamen Forbidden Superhero, which served as Abertoir’s annual slice of Japanese mayhem and weirdness. Before this though, we were treated to the final episode of series one of Danger 5, but happily were given a preview of series two, that will hopefully make its way to Abertoir for next year. Anyway, HK, is…odd. There’s not much I can say about the plot other than it is about a teen who unlocks his superhero potential, via perverted means. While the joke ran fairly thin fairly soon for me, there are some real laugh-out-loud moments in this one and a hellishly confident performance by the lead. Look up screenshots and you’ll see what I mean. Might be an idea to chuck a safe-search on first if you’re in a library or something though. Actually if you’re in public DO NOT LOOK IT UP!
With Thursday over, we can now look into the long weekend of Abertoir 2013…coming soon.
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.
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.
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. 1. Danger 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.