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.
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.
The 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.