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).