Sheffield’s Short Shockers

Check out that alliteration right there…I think I may have spent all of my remaining creativity on that alone.  As most readers will know I spent Friday through Sunday at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield – a task that involved a three and a half hour drive each side of the festivities and during I was of course indulging in a few drinks.  I’d say it’s practically impossible not to during a festival.  As a result of all this I’ve spent much of my time since Monday morning tired, emotional and even a tiny bit unbalanced so this has taken a little longer than first anticipated.  I wanted to write about some short films I saw at the festival, as I hardly see short films and so don’t really review them that much.  There were some really strong shorts at Celluloid and sadly I didn’t see them all, so this is limited to being a personal overview rather than any exhaustive look at all of them.  I’m disappointed I missed Fist of Jesus from the team behind bat-shit insane Brutal Relax as it was shown during the all-nighter but hopefully will catch up with that one.  So without further non-short-related rambling I’ll make a start.

Lot 254 – Toby Meakins – UK – 2012 – 3mins

One of the shortest shorts on offer, coming in at only 3 minutes, this film featured a haunted camera that allowed the user to see things through the viewfinder that they could not see in reality.  Sadly, this one did very little for me, despite a solid attempt at creating something spooky, but I think the lack of time to allow things unfold let it down as there is a shortage of real tension.  Had this one had more time, I’m sure I would have ended up on the edge of my seat.  For some wider perspective though, this received an honorary mention in the judging of best shorts, so likely it worked for others.

 

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The Last Video Store – Tim Rutherford & Cody Kennedy – Canada – 2013 – 10mins

This short was far more up my street, featuring some great effects by Manborg’s Steven Kostanski and injecting some comedy into proceedings.  A delivery man is tasked with ensuring a package gets to a video store, where he finds an eccentric owner eager to discuss the virtues of VHS over digital means.  He also warns that there are nefarious methods being used, causing video stores to be decimated by a golden video tape that causes VHS machinery to turn against its owner and reap destruction upon other non-digital formats.  The owner and the delivery man find themselves pitted against a monster made from tape, packing laughs, gore and plenty of references into its 10-minute time slot.

Invocation – Robert Morgan – UK – 2013: 3mins

Stop-motion animation has featured in a great deal of horror shorts – none so more than in the hilarious film parodies and original works by Lee Hardcastle, who was presenting his show reel in Sheffield.  However, it is rare (for me at least) to see stop-motion animation used alongside live action actors.  This is exactly what Morgan’s Invocation does in its portrayal of a stop-motion directing session gone very wrong.  Coming in at just 3 minutes the short does much to cut straight to the gory chase after warming up with some zoom shots of the teddy bear subject’s expression being manipulated.  What follows is a gory, satisfactory and cyclical piece of work that maintains a fast pace and some great imagery.

 

butterflies

 

Butterflies – Isabel Peppard – Australia – 2013 – 12mins

This is possibly the most beautiful short I have ever seen.  The animation and puppetry is some of the most expressive and thoughtful work, giving the characters a grounded, yet magical appearance.  The subject matter is incredibly interesting too, considering how art and commerciality do not always go hand in hand and the trauma that some artists can go through when their work does not make money, yet their talents are forced into monotonous, yet technically-sound productions.  The best thing I can say about it is that I was genuinely sad when it came to an end as I really could have watched a feature-length version.

Shellshocked – Dominic Brunt – UK – 2013 – 12mins

Introduced by Brunt himself as the total opposite to his feature Before Dawn where the zombie apocalypse is told simply through the impact on an ordinary couple, Shellshocked introduces zombies into a World War II setting as both a British and German soldier find themselves underground, guns focused on one another, both waiting for the other to attack.  As they spend more time together, they appear to soften, offering one another chocolate and cigarettes despite the language barrier.  It seems that the story takes a great deal from the real story of the ceasefire on Christmas Day during World War II where soldiers took a break from shooting at one another to play a game of football, only to return to combat the following day.  That touching and tragic event weighs heavily on the short as it examines the capability of humans to adapt, overcome but also the consequences for breaking someone’s trust.

The Root of the Problem – Ryan Spindell – USA – 2013 – 13mins

Personal confession time: I’ve never had a fear of the dentist.  This means that a lot of dental-related horror is sort of lost on me (now laser eye surgery or something…yeah I’d squirm like you wouldn’t believe) so maybe this one didn’t have as much of an impact on me as it did for others.  While the construction of the dated dental office (fitting it’s 1950s setting) is good and sets the scene for the horror to come it is really the performances that make this short, with all three turning in wonderful performances that can be so hard to find in short films.  One actress is even limited to mostly mumbling, but manages to convey her move from general unease to total terror solidly and convincingly.  The tooth fairy mythology is something that despite fitting well within the genre has been relatively rarely explored so is nice to see a short tackle it.

 

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Cat Sick Blues – Dave Jackson – Australia – 2013 – 10mins

When I first read the description for this one it was probably one of the only ones to instantly creep me out.  People wearing masks are always fuel for nightmares and the idea of being followed home is an incredibly real and horrible one – even if that person isn’t wearing a cat mask.  It is an incredibly effective short, featuring a couple who stop to offer help and a kind word to a man passed out on the beach.  However, their kindness is unrewarded as the man enters their house.  There are a few comic moments arising from the surreal situation, but this is soon abandoned for a far darker tone that fits and leaves the short in your mind for much longer.

The Guest – Jovanka Vuckovic – Canada – 2013 – 4mins

Another shorter film which throws the viewer into a situation in progress – offering very little background or context aside from a man who appears conversing with an unseen voice in a mirror about the deal he has made.  It soon transpires that the man has killed his wife and daughter – a fact illustrated by a bleached out, haunting cutaway to images of his wife and child holding out severed hearts.  It is impressively shot with that fantastic imagery really lingering in the mind.

Angst, Piss and Drid – Fredrik Hana – Norway – 2012 – 19mins

Angst, Piss and Drid won the prize for best short at Sheffield and while certainly competently directed and suitably dark subject matter handled I was surprised that it did.  This may just be my Butterflies bias creeping in of course but that was really the only short that totally blew me away.  Angst, Piss and Drid is exceptionally dark – the sort of film you think you need a wash after watching, as would be expected for a film that chronicles the relationship between two serial killers.  However, we only see the male of the couple continuing to kill, while the female stays at home, cradling body parts in plastic bags and obviously finding a disconnect with her partner, regularly lashing out at him.  Their previous exploits together are shown via old film footage, featuring the two torturing and dismembering a victim, but the film grading makes it appear as a fond family home video – a return to happier times.  The film is relentlessly gritty, never allowing an out for the audience or encouraging enjoyment.

Eden – Todd Cobery – USA – 2012 – 14mins

Some shorts are films by themselves, with beginnings, middles and ends not dissimilar to their feature-length counterparts.  However, others are obviously used as pitches toward a feature-length version and I believe this is the case with Eden.  There is no exposition or real background provided for the strange goings-on, the panic, rioting or the terrorism as all of these things would be difficult to explore fully in such a short time.  As a result of this lack of background however, I found myself confused and unable to enjoy it as much as some of the others.  Of course, this could also be that I do struggle to hold an interest in sci-fi, which this appeared to be for the most part, with the horror as an addition to the dystopia.  In saying that though, the short is glossy and thrilling, making me wonder what could be done with the idea in a feature-length medium so if it was indeed a pitch, then mission accomplished.

 

hellno

 

Hell No – Joe Nicolosi – USA – 2013 – 3mins

One of the only shorts that was exclusively a comedy, acting as a trailer for a horror film in which good characters make smart decisions, playing on a variety of horror tropes that have had genre audiences screaming at the screen for decades.  A particular highlight for me is a cheerleader who approaches another student to ask if he wants to break into an abandoned building and play with a Ouija board, only for him to respond with a deadpan “No, no I don’t.”  The different scenes are intercut with reviewer quotes like ‘Kind of…anticlimactic’ and feature a voiceover typical to horror trailers.  Despite playing with these tropes to a hardened horror audience who is aware of them all Hell No got a great deal of laughs all the way through which is a great indication of its quality and how it hits all of the right notes for the jokes.

Delicacy – Jason Mann – USA/UK – 2013 – 11mins

An interesting little short that constantly manages to balance the comic, the ridiculous and the downright sinister throughout.  The film features a grumpy food critic who bemoans the fact that he hasn’t tasted anything exciting since 1991 and the chef who feeds him a mystery meat in order to prove him wrong.  However, when the chef can’t resist snatching the meat for himself it becomes clear that the meat is addictive and highly regarded.  Never has a short film changed so quickly with one word as in this film as the meat is revealed to be from a mythical creature.  I won’t spoil it as the delivery of the reveal is so wonderfully funny and strange it really needs to be seen.  The remainder of the film follows the pair as they go on a hunt for more meat with a virgin female leader and utilises the woods well in its balance between mundane nature and something far more fantastical.

Awake – Francisco Sonic Kim – USA – 2013 – 10mins

Another entry into the ‘children are creepy as all hell’ section of the horror genre that probably keeps the birth rate amongst horror fans relatively low.  The film drops us into the lives of parents of a young boy who is unable to sleep and have adapted their lives so one member of the couple is awake with him at all times.  The boy has a scar on the side of his head that bleeds from underneath its dressing and appears to be from some sort of surgery, likely to determine the cause for his lack of sleep.  However, the child is prone to violent outbursts and after striking his mother, heads off into the woods.  This is another film I would be interested in seeing a feature length version of, with more exploration of the boy’s condition and also the parent’s attempts to cope as the short does not quite have the creep factor that it could for me, although there is a solid and frightening idea behind it.

 

body

 

The Body – Paul Davis – UK – 2013 – 19mins

Last year Davis’ short Him Indoors was a real favourite of mine, packing in horror, comedy and a healthy dose of irony and Davis has used the same package here to great effect once again.  The Body follows a serial killer (played wonderfully by Alfie Allen who maintains a quiet, yet confident and sinister manner throughout) who uses Halloween to transport the body of his latest victim.  However, he is stopped by some people who are attending a costume party and want him to bring along his fantastic costume with them.  The short fits wonderfully within its time frame, with no wasted time and closing off the story at an appropriate point, showing that Davis has a real grasp of pacing.  I’m very interested to see if he will make the transition from shorts to features at some point and can safely say I’d buy my ticket in advance.

 

So there’s my view on a selection of shorts from Celluloid Screams 2013.  Pretty soon I’ll be getting some full reviews of a few features that should go up over at AllHorror.net but will keep people posted on that. Hayley is also sorting out more of our videos from the festival.  Twitter, as always is @caitlynmdowns

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.

Horror and Gender

Horror and Gender

I’m working on a blog for February relating to the expectations for males and females within the horror industry.  The Storify link is the Twitter conversation that really sparked this interest for me.  I’m also looking for experiences from those involved in the industry in hopes of putting together a fairly in-depth look at the subject.

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

manborg

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

resolution

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

citadel

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

chained

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

errors

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

beforedawn

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

cabin

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

sightseers

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

antiviral

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

americanmary2

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.

Carnage After The End

This theme tends to do strange things to punctuation in headers so I’ll just clarify here that the title is meant to be Carnage: After the End.  Anyway, once again I am really pleased to be involved in the announcement of a new horror anthology from Sirens Call Publications.  More accurately, two new books, as After the End is split into two volumes, each with ten stories – a credit to how much writing talent there is right now.  So with no further ado, I will let the book explain itself to you, starting with volume one!

Carnage: After the End – Volume 1

The Apocalypse has come, leaving in its wake small pockets of survivors battling to stay alive; each carving out a new beginning for mankind.

The ten stories in Carnage: After the End – Volume 1 are the terrifyingly harsh and brutal realities those survivors must face. Each one takes us to a place where humanity’s stragglers are forced to battle with enemies outside of their control; mutant beasts, groups of depraved and desperate people, and the terrifying threat of a dwindling food supply. Their fight for survival gets even more difficult as they search among the tatters of civilization for the will to carry on.

In a world where society has collapsed and terror lurks around every corner, no one can be trusted and nothing can be taken for granted.

Hell has invaded and happy endings are a thing of the past…

Contributing Authors in Volume 1 include:

Kimberly A. Bettes, Shane Cashman, Shane R. Collins, Laura Diamond, Rodney James Galley, Michael Griffin, Russell Linton, Adam Millard, Christofer Nigro, and Julianne Snow.

 Carnage: After the End – Volume 1 can be found at any of these fine retailers:

CreateSpace

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Smashwords

Just in case one volume isn’t enough for you, then check out the details for volume two:

Carnage: After the End – Volume 2

Hell has invaded Earth and happy endings are a thing long since forgotten.

The ten stories in Carnage: After the End – Volume 2 tell of the frighteningly horrific and cruel lives the survivors must face. Each one takes us to a place where humanity’s stragglers are forced to battle for their very existence against their own grim reality; creatures from different worlds or times, individuals or groups of miscreants who feed on the fear of the weak, and even the terrifying threat of unknown bacterial organisms. Their will to go on diminishing among the tatters of the civilization they once knew.

In a world where society has collapsed and terror lurks around every corner, no one can be trusted and nothing can be taken for granted.

The Apocalypse has come, leaving in its wake small pockets of survivors battling to stay alive; each carving out a new beginning for mankind…

Contributing Authors in Volume 2 include

Angel D. Callido, Charlie Fish, Harper Hull, Magda Knight, Jason Lairamore, Harry Manners, Zachary O’Shea, Wednesday Silverwood, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and L.E. White.

Carnage: After the End – Volume 2 can found one at any of these fine retailers:

CreateSpace

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Smashwords

You can find more from Sirens Call Publications from the website or by contacting Kalla Monahan (@KallaMonahan) or Nina D’Arcangela (@Sotet_Angyal) on Twitter.

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.

Abertoir is Looming

Tomorrow I am off to Aberystwyth for a jam-packed six days of horror goodness.  I am also lucky enough to be involved in covering the festival with fellow horror blogger Hayley with coverage set to range from footage of talks and a Rocky Horror themed party to on-the-ground video reviews and reactions from festival-goers.  Very excited (and truth be told, a little nervous) about all this and hope that people will be interested in what we produce.  At the moment it is likely that I will be reblogging from Hayley’s blog, that can be accessed via this link to save on time spent uploading videos to two different computers.  Should also have some written reviews following the festival after I’ve recovered too.  Keep an eye on my twitter account (@caitlynmdowns) for bite-size morsels of what’s currently happening.

All in all I can’t wait for the festival and to share the experience with readers. I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Check out Abertoir for a full list of films, talks and stage shows that will be covered.

Portmanteau Horrors

I’m going to start this blog by just stating that I’ve still yet to see a huge number of portmanteau or ‘anthology’ horrors but due to being excited about V/H/S wanted to take a look at those I’ve enjoyed most.  I’m grateful to any lovely people who can suggest any others to watch, either on the comments here, or on Twitter @caitd5.  Likelihood of spoilers is pretty high.

 

 Arguably the first portmanteau horror is Dead of Night and despite its release in 1945 is still thought of highly to this day.  It does hold up well, threading together the stories, blended with elements of comedy and the ever-spooky ventriloquist dummy and builds towards a shocking climax.  It sets the scene for future portmanteau films by weaving together the stories in an interesting way, preventing what could be a simple film gimmick into a successful, enjoyable and yes, at times scary piece of work.  This pioneering work clearly inspired the work of Amicus studios throughout the 1970s as they adapted horror comics into films starring some of the biggest names in horror.

One of these comic adaptations is The Vault of Horror and contains my favourite segment of any anthology horror (so far) ‘Midnight Mess’ and also my second favourite ‘The Neat Job’.  The framing device for the film involves a group of men (including Dr Who star Tom Baker) entering a lift, that instead of taking them to their desired floor opens out to a basement room where chairs are arranged in a circle.  The men all take a seat and begin to tell tales of strange dreams they have had in which they meet their demise.  While the content has certainly aged the stories have a camp, dark humour to them and the sense of the grotesque that I really love.  The idea of blood on tap, direct from the neck of a still-living human being remains a horrifying idea, as does the frustration and anger of a housewife who, unable to keep up with her husband’s meticulous sorting regimes decides to kill him, chop him up and store him in carefully labelled jars.

The segment ‘The Neat Job’ clearly inspired the Dawn French segment of the Psychoville Halloween segment in which the tale is modernised to include the perils of improper recycling.  Creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith use the anthology formula in order to set-up a variety of different stories that would be unable to fit into the Psychoville storylines but still, through a bit of clever writing, manages to further and set-up the second series.  It’s a device the pair used alongside Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss for The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special to use some of their characters in a different way while still remaining true to the worlds they have created.  Mark Gatiss also used a form of portmanteau story telling in his fantastic series Crooked House, that moves through different times of the house and the effect it has on its inhabitants.

The thing I really love about anthology horrors is that they allow for a wide variety of horror themes.  It can deal with the supernatural, serial killers or any other sub-genre of horror in small chunks.  Most anthologies include paranoia, revenge, betrayal, grief and obsession which are integral to the nature of horror.  For example, in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’, one of the stories concerns a horror author who begins to see his serial killer creation Dominic around the house, often attacking his wife.  This theme of obsession and the dark interests of those who work in horror works well as a story opener.  The sight of Dominic is one of the more genuinely creepy things within the often camp nature of some of Amicus’ output.

Another great thing about the anthology horror is the line up of cult and horror names involved in the productions.  Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot, Anna Massey, Tom Baker and Vincent Price have all been a part of one or more and the format often allows them to play against type.  A good example of which is found in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ where Christopher Lee appears to be playing the role of a villain before a twist in the tale showcases his talents in a different way.  Of course, the performances that conform to their usual roles are just as fun, with Vincent Price explaining the breeds and cross breeds of various monsters in ‘The Monster Club’ being a particular highlight.

So that’s my little ramble about anthology horrors, inspired by the fact that V/H/S is out soon, the format of which (if successful) could allow new directors to collaborate with others and hone their craft by working on smaller tales, but with the creativity to weave them together.  My only problem with V/H/S is that its another found footage film and they really have outworn their welcome, but at least there’s a little change to the format and the handover to a variety of directors should inject some life into the genre.  Plus, who can argue with how cool that poster is?

Thanks for reading and as already stated at the start of the blog all suggestions for more anthology horrors are welcomed, either here or on Twitter.

1 Year and 10 Days

I’ve been terribly inept and neglectful lately due to ongoing work but am going to try and post more regularly from now on.  Worst of all I’ve even missed commemorating the 1st birthday of Scared Sheepless by 10 days.  So this post will just be a little catch-up type of deal then I can sort some more (hopefully interesting) stuff out for the next few weeks.

Scared Sheepless came directly from my starting to write horror film reviews for AllHorror.net, where I realised that I didn’t just like writing about the films themselves, but rather those things around it.  A huge thanks first off to Robin and Julie for being so awesome and not only giving me the opportunity to write for such a great site, but also for recommending Martyrs – a film that still hasn’t left my head.  I’ve always had really great responses from people who’ve read the reviews, even if they disagree with what I’ve said, people have always been polite.

So about a year or so ago I was in a little market stall and saw a possessed Regan in bed that had sound and movement and I realised that was the sort of wonderful thing I wanted to write about.  Coupled with this is the fact that The Exorcist is one of my favourite films ever (and a fair candidate, I think, for one of the best films ever made) and I came back to find out more about the merchandise and Merchandise Monday was born.

Following on from this I was able to attend my first film festival – Abertoir in Aberystwyth.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many films in such a short amount of time.  The Abertoir organisers are great and really do find and showcase some gems.  Also met some other wonderful film fans who I’d been able to speak to a little bit on Twitter, but nothing bonds a group of people like heavy drinking at Inn on the Pier.  Look out for Moore and Roberts too who are currently doing some great audio/visual reviews.  Looking forward to going back again this year to see what will be showcased and hopefully getting some reviewing done.  One of the best things to happen as a result of Abertoir and AllHorror was that my review of Some Guy Who Kills People was used in a press piece for Newcastle Cinema…the finished piece is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I can’t quite believe its my words on there.

Also huge thanks to authors like Jake Bannerman and Julianne Snow (and Sirens Call Publications as a whole) for being so accomodating and being interviewed and doing guest posts for the blog.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve yet to encounter anyone unpleasant or difficult in my time of writing stuff, so long may that continue.  So with that said, I’m hoping to get back into the blogging and try and include more opinion type pieces.  Thanks to everyone who has read or retweeted my reviews or blog entries, it means a lot.  Now on to year 2!

Site Spotlight

I know, I know, I’m a terrible flake and have forgotten yet another Merchandise Monday.  To be perfectly honest it’s proving more difficult than I thought to find new stuff each week and also keep my bank balance in check.  Some would say I need more will power and to them I say…well yeah probably.  So from now on, Merchandise Monday’s will be reserved for when I find stuff that simply must be seen.  Saying that, this week’s entry is something of a merchandise themed one.  Just go with it :).

 

Thanks to Twitter, I can pretty much fill my day browsing at all sorts of online shops and avoiding doing anything vitally important but every now and again a site pops up that I really want to revisit.  One of those sites is T-Shirt Bordello and as you can probably tell by the name, they sell t-shirts.  However, that’s not all they sell as there are also pretty good mugs and such on there too.  Now normally I can pick out my favourite shirt from a site, but so many of these are so good I simply can’t choose.

 

From the Shaun of the Dead themed ‘Zombaid’ shirt (priced at $15.99:

 

To prints inspired by The Shining (priced at $14.99):

All the way to the not-at-all horror themed, but still great This Is Spinal Tap design ($14.99 too):

The great thing about not being able to choose from any of the designs is that there’s currently a special offer on where you can get 1 shirt free if you buy 3 items.  Most of the designs are available in both the men’s and women’s styles so its a great place to pick up some fun gifts for anyone in your life.  As well as the online shop, they are also on Twitter on the handle @tshirtbordello.  Check it out now, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.