Celluloid Screams 2012: Day Two Coverage
Day Two of the festival caused some mixed reactions with its selection. I did not attend Manborg or Into the Abyss: The Savage Cinema of Dennison Ramalho, however I will be checking some of his stuff out online soon as I was incredibly curious of the fact there was a “disturbing content” warning in the programme regarding his work. I also missed the final film Hidden in the Woods which has created quite a stir with its controversial subject matter and as Rob promised, divided audiences.
Opera (1987) + Yellow [Short] (2012)
Dario Argento’s Opera was screened in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The film is an unsettling piece that gets under the skin as it deals with themes of superstition and voyeurism. Accompanied by a powerful and breathtaking score composed by Claudio Simonetti and Brian Eno, Opera focuses on a young singer named Betty who becomes nervous when she must take on the role of Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s adaptation. Betty finds herself the target of an obsessed psycho killer who takes pleasure it literally forcing her eyeballs to watch the murder! The scenes are played out as uncomfortable and squirmworthy as Betty and the people around her attempt to unmask the killer! The film’s tone throughout is intense and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, until the ending! The film’s final moments was probably one of the most bizarre transitions of mood ever witnessed, it went from dark and chilling to silly and campy in a matter of minutes and it was as if a different film had been put on! It could be that Argento was attempting to make a comment on the silliness of slasher films where the killer re-emerges at the end after being killed off but it just felt out of place in this instance. Overall Opera is an intriguing, dark horror/thriller that showcases Argento’s trademark visual style, it was screened following a short film titled Yellow which paid homage to giallo sub-genre and demonstrated its appreciation for directors like Argento.
Found Footage…[Insert Disheartened looking face!]. Mixed reviews circulated this anthology sub-genre offer and to its credit it did have some effective moments but on the whole it was tedious and distracting especially in terms of how it was filmed. It was clear they were going for a “authentic”, “naturalistic” and “amateur” approach but seriously, a person would have to shake a camera so hard in order to achieve what was witnessed on screen, it was far too over the top. V/H/S begins with a group of guys breaking into an abandoned house to steal a specific video tape, upon arrival they are greeted with a corpse and a mountain of tapes to shift through and thus begins 116 minutes of motion sickness style camera work and cliched, expected twists.
The first tale, Amateur Night did have some disturbing moments and visually generated a few scares especially with the demon girl’s appearance, the distorted and uncontrollable effects of an alcohol fueled evening reared its ugly head as the group of guys fear for their lives, this was no doubt probably one of the better segments.
Second Honeymoon featured irritating characters and an odd scene where the husband attempts to force his wife into being filmed sexually following her reluctance, they are then stalked by an unknown entity and what occurs next can only be described as a strange finale to the piece.
Tuesday the 17th was predictable and had the most annoying and unlikeable, cliched characters. In its attempts to be a “fresh” spin on the slasher sub-genre, it came across like a bad Blair Witch spoof showing that the crew were thinking they’re more clever than they actually are.
The film redeemed itself to a degree with The Sick thing that happened to Emily when she was younger, clearly a homage to the Paranormal Activity films was freaky and effective until the final moments which is where it lost direction. The use of the Skype conversations brought in a sense of isolation and helplessness with the idea that the person on the other side of the computer is unable to do anything.
Lastly, 10/31/98 was the better shot segment and featured some creepy imagery. When the characters enter the haunted house and find a young woman tied up and taunted the frightening aspect is they are unable to distinguish whether its fake or not, again it was the cheesy, predictable ending that let it down.
Below is my initial reaction to V/H/S, apologies for the rantiness!
Cell Count (2012) (UK Premiere) + Q&A with Director Todd E. Freeman
This stunning body-horror from Todd E. Freeman showcases how far someone will go for the person that means the most to them. Cell Count incorporates some innovative and interesting imagery as well as a human, thought provoking narrative. The film focuses on Russell Carpenter (Played by Roberts McKeehen), a desperate man who makes the decision to admit his wife Sadie (played by Haley Talbot) into an experimental treatment facility due to her suffering from a life-threatening disease. What follows is the pair find themselves along with six strangers locked in the isolated area where they are unknowingly being used and “treated” with a mystery “cure”, this of course goes horribly wrong and the characters enter a state of fear and panic in their confined environment.
One of the most frightening aspects of Cell Count is the sense of isolation and claustrophobia it creates in its clinical setting. It makes a statement on modern day society and notions of “reality” in popular culture as the characters are constantly being monitored in the facility, the sense of no escape and weakness brings about a startling effect. The closeness of the relationship between Russell and Sadie is powerful and heartbreaking and draws the audience into a state of empathy. Even though the villainous surgeon character isn’t an original concept, he is definitely fun to watch. The special effects are outstanding with realistic looking scars. Tension is created and built up well as its only a matter of time before the scars rip open and carnage is unleashed, these are edge of the seat-worthy moments and the level of gore does not disappoint. What Cell Count has going for it is convincing performances from the leads, unusual imagery, plenty of blood and gore and of course an exploding dog which lightens the tone momentarily!! The cliffhanger ending comes as a surprising twist but Todd E. Freeman promises us a Cell Count 2 where all our questions will be answered. Count me in!
Familiar (2012) (Short)
Familiar was the perfect short to screen following Cell Count, with it’s twisted take on body horror and cynicism. Familiar deals with a middle aged man generically named John who is dissatisfied with his home life and in particular his relationship with his wife. The narrative takes an unconventional approach as it mainly uses John’s voice over in order to convey his twisted thoughts and feelings. As we get an insight into his head, we uncover his most disturbing secrets and how he plans to act on them, matters are made worse when his wife traps him into having another child. Its a dark piece of psychological horror as John plots against her and feeds her tablets in the hope of an abortion! As the story progresses, not all is what it seems and is there more to John’s madness than we initially thought…?? A gory, nasty little surprise awaits!!
The Secret Film: Citadel (2012)
Emotionally-charged Horror doesn’t get any better than Citadel, one of the most moving and frightening Horror films to emerge from the UK in a long time. The nightmare begins when Tommy (Played by Aneurin Barnard) helplessly watches on as his pregnant wife is attacked by a group of youths and is stabbed with a syringe. Tommy is left to care for their baby daughter while suffering with severe agoraphobia. Citadel is an intense portrayal of a young man attempting to overcome his fears. It merges disturbing horror elements with the tone of gritty British cinema and the balance of genres pays off well, making Citadel a fresh, unique offer into British Horror Cinema. Aneurin Barnard carries the film and proves he is an exceptional young actor, his performance is tear-jerking and devastating and he brings a realistic sense of empathy to the role. James Cosmo stars as the Priest, bringing in both aggression and humor as he guides Tommy through his nightmare in a cruel to be kind manner, the supporting cast that include Wunmi Mosaku as Tommy’s potential love interest and Jake Wilson, a mysterious blind kid are also exceptional, the latter character being the most interesting as the plot develops.
The Horror aspects of Citadel were unnerving and the film used sound to its advantage, creating some terrifying and unexpected jump scares, combining those with Tommy’s vulnerability was brutal to watch. The appearance of the demons/youths were freaky however as previously stated, it was the noise that sent shivers down the spine! Director Ciaran Foy loosely based the idea behind Citadel on his own personal experience of suffering with agoraphobia and with his outstanding direction he conveys a real, gritty sense of loneliness and isolation which plays out devastatingly on screen. Citadel makes a profound statement about society and the state of youth culture and the horrendous effects gang violence can have on the mental health of individuals. In my opinion, Citadel was the best film of the entire festival and completely deserved to win best feature film. Its certainly one that will remain in the mind for a long, long time.
Day Three will be on its way very soon….keep your eyeballs peeled!
Hayley Alice Roberts.