Archive for August, 2013

Abertoir Horror Festival News

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

The Abertoir Horror Festival returns to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre for its Eighth successful year, this November. Located deep in the heart of Wales, the festival delivers an eclectic selection of films, bringing both classic and the latest in horror to the big screen.

The unveil of the wonderful festival poster by the talented Peter Stevenson.

The unveil of the wonderful festival poster by the talented Peter Stevenson.

2013 will prove to be a very special year for Abertoir as the festival will be celebrating the centennial of horror icon Peter Cushing. Not only that, this year will also mark the 50th anniversary of Robert Wise’s classic spine-chiller ‘The Haunting’, in honor of this, actor Richard Johnson will play a huge part in the festival’s opening night by joining us as this year’s special guest, providing a Q&A at the end of the screening. Another special guest comes in the form of composer Fabio Frizzi, a long time collaborator of Lucio Fulci; along with a screening of one of the notorious ‘video nasties’, ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’. It wouldn’t be Abertoir without a live music event, this year organizers and fans will be pleased to welcome back Zombina and the Skeletones and the Laze who will be putting together a special and sure-to-be memorable collaboration under the name White Blackula. The rest of the line-up has yet to be announced, however I’m sure there will be plenty of unique, new offers from the genre to satisfy us  dedicated festival-goers.

Early bird passes have recently gone on sale at the generous price of £49.50, with only 40 available and selling fast, the price will slightly increase to the usual cost of £58. Call 01970 623232 (Arts Centre Box Office) or visit http://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/ to reserve yours now!

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On October 19th, in partnership with the BFI’s ‘gothic season’, the Arts Centre will be screening two classic Cushing films, ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’, alongside the UK premiere of Chris Crow’s ‘The Darkest Day’ followed by a Q&A, keeping in the essential Welsh connection. This night will be the perfect taster before the main event!

I am pleased to announce that along with my co-reviewer Caitlyn Downs of ‘Scared Sheepless’ we will be providing daily video updates of all the gory going’s-on which will be available on Youtube. We are currently discussing our plans for this year’s coverage. Please feel free to check out our efforts from last year. .

If you’ve never attended Abertoir before, I assure you are in for a treat. Prepare for a six day spook-tacular thrill ride of movies, special guests and much, much more.

Previous Posts:

Abertoir 2011

Abertoir 2012

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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“Blood and Ice Cream” A Review of The World’s End (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS**

The World’s End has been one of the most anticipated mainstream films of the year. Following on from 2007’s superbly gory Hot Fuzz and 2004’s zombierific Shaun of the Dead before it, this latest British blockbuster from Edgar Wright, starring  usual suspects Simon Pegg and Nick Frost has a great deal to deliver. The film has received some mixed reactions thus far prior to opening in the US on the 23rd. The final (mint cornetto) installment in the famous “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy ends the series in a spectacular fashion, taking on the science-fiction genre. But was it all it was cracked up to be? In my personal opinion, yes!

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The film was very enjoyable with quirky humor, out-there scenes of body horror but most of all it came across as very relateable in terms of its themes and characters. Twenty years ago, Gary King (Pegg) along with his group of friends attempted an epic pub crawl, consisting of consuming a pint in each pub (twelve in total) beginning at ‘The First Post’ and concluding at ‘The World’s End’. The task was never completed. Fast forward to the present day and 40-year-old Gary is hell bent on reuniting the old gang for a trip down alcohol-fulled memory lane. The problem is his friends Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) have moved on with full time jobs with family lives, whereas Gary remains stuck in the past, which is explored in detail. Reluctantly the group join him on an adventure back to their home town and encounter a threat to the human race with all their future’s hanging in the balance!

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Wright’s films have always provided a commentary on British society, this one echoing the recession with lack of hope for the future among the younger generations. Teenage chavs loiter the streets and the population in general appear disconnected, making way for the robot aesthetic within the film. The main message the film conveyed was demonstrating how far humans could go to destroy civilization from this point in time. The heart and emotion comes from the principal characters in terms of the reflection they have on how their lives have turned out, Gary being unable to move forward as that one night twenty years ago represented all his hopes and dreams which since deteriorated, Peter’s reminder of his torment at the hand of the school bully who didn’t even remember him made powerful viewing. However Steven finally getting the girl he loved for two decades restored a glimmer of optimism. The film really pin points how we can become extremely nostalgic, reflecting on simpler and more innocent times but at the same time must let go of what has passed.

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The scenes of violence were constructed in Wright’s traditional fast-paced, humorous style. The robot CGI effects were done outrageously, showing Wright wasn’t afraid to keep the crazy goriness of his previous offers. A number of well-respected and talented British actors made some more than welcome cameos including Bill Nighy, Reece Shearsmith, Pierce Brosnan, David Bradley, Steve Oram, Alice Lowe and Michael Smiley. In this sense these films could now well be considered a British institution and a significant part of our culture. With expected conventions The World’s End managed to stay true to the trilogy while being a little different in other aspects. It may not be the strongest out of the three, Hot Fuzz will always remain my favorite, however the film still has a repeated watchibility about it. With well-rounded characters, suspense, violence, humor and emotion The World’s End keeps its versatility in terms of genre and will surely impress its fans. A film about alcohol and robots taking over the world has much more to offer than what might be expected!

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Hayley Alice Roberts.

“Don’t Feed The Plants!” A Review Of Little Shop of Horrors (Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Summer Season 2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As a major fan of Little Shop of Horrors, I will summarize its history before reviewing Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s 2013 summer season adaptation. This review does contain spoilers, therefore anyone not familiar with the show should look away now!

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Little Shop of Horrors has become a well-loved, cult hit musical over the years since it debuted on the off-Broadway stage back in 1982 at the Orpheum Theatre located in Manhattan. This Science-Fiction, Horror, Romance, Musical Extravaganza originated from the 1960 B-Movie  of the same name directed by Roger Corman; then was subsequently developed into a musical by composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (of Disney fame). Lee Wilkof and Ellen Greene starred as leads Seymour and Audrey in the original production and these beloved characters have since been played by many talented actors as I will further discuss . The main plot focuses on hard done by florist Seymour Krelborn, living in the grimy, urban Skid Row his luck changes when he discovers a ‘strange and interesting plant’ who he names Audrey II after the girl he desires. The unusual plant soon reveals its blood-thirsty intentions as it seduces Seymour into killing for fame and fortune with dire, moral consequences. Little Shop of Horrors was given the big-screen treatment in 1986 in the Frank Oz screen version starring Rick Moranis in the lead role of Seymour, Ellen Greene reprising her role as Audrey (a first for its time where the original stage actress would transition the part to film), Steve Martin as the demented dentist Orin Scrivello, Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik  and Four Tops singer Levi Stubbs voicing carnivorous plant Audrey II. The film was certainly ahead of its time with Lyle Conway’s magnificent Audrey II puppets and through no fault of its own was forced to differ considerably from the stage version with the change in ending due to the original test audience reactions. It has however recently been restored in full color in time for the brand new blu ray release. If I had to choose, I prefer the stage version’s ending as it brings Seymour’s story arc full circle, behind the tongue-in-cheek comedy and family-friendly horror its a story of moral consequence. Seymour is a likeable character but he does unforgivable things to get where he wants to be, “You know the meek are gonna get what’s comin’ to ’em” as ‘Greek Chorus’ Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal sing.

The film spurned a short-lived animated TV series, Little Shop (1991) and has been parodied and satirized in modern popular culture such as in South Park and Family Guy.

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Little Shop is one of the musicals that I’ve had a frequent history with and have seen on stage a handful of times. It has been tailored to both the professional theater as well as amateur productions. Its been with me throughout my childhood, my first experience being with the 1986 film, then a school production in 2003. In 2004 I saw my first professional version of the show at the Jersey Opera House with former Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw as Audrey and John Altman aka. Eastenders ‘Nasty Nick’ as the Dentist which proved a treat! The last production I saw was performed by a local Youth Theatre a few years ago. Admittedly, it has been nice to re-visit the show and in a sense see a refreshing take on it in Anthony Williams’s current production.

Following on from last year’s popular and successful Hairspray, Williams has chosen to stay within the 1960’s themed genre by selecting Little Shop and bringing it to the Theater-Y-Werin stage. What struck me was the darker turn the production took in terms of its lighting and set design giving off a sense of grimness. Revolving sets between the bleak exterior of Skid Row to the brightness of Mushnik’s flower shop and the blood-splattered dentist’s office transitioned smoothly into each other capturing the story beautifully and strongly helped to contrast the desires for escapism the lead characters sing about in well-known numbers such as Somewhere that’s Green and Skid Row.  The sound effects used such as the dentists drill and Audrey II chomping on human body parts are done very well to a convincing effect. The sets came across as very stylistic and well designed. One issue in the performance I attended on August the 7th was the instrumental music did drown out the singing in some instances.

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Each performer within the show displayed masses of talent. James Gillan plays Seymour, the geeky florist as meek and conflicted as he must commit horrible acts in order to ‘better himself’ until his last minute heroic actions and eventual sacrifice. Gillan has a nice singing-voice and performs his solo and duet numbers e.g. Grow for me and Git It in a 60’s pop style manner. Sarah Earnshaw fits the part of Audrey beautifully, she makes the role her own and provides compassion and empathy for the character which makes her death scene all the more heartbreaking, I definitely choked up. Earnshaw and Gillan have convincing chemistry, their rendition of Suddenly Seymour is both powerful and emotional. Jimmy Johnston plays a self-indulgent Mr Mushnik with much humor, his duet with Gillan Mushnik and Son is one of the show’s comedy highlights and a fantastic opportunity to showcase their dancing skills. Richard Hurst takes the challenge of playing a number of parts throughout the show, a tradition for the actor playing the dentist and does it well, he is mostly humorous but ventures to the dark side during his scenes with Audrey as the abusive boyfriend to disturbing effect. Edward Baruwa voices the man-eating plant and sings soulfully in a performance just as fantastic as Levi Stubbs. Brett Shiels is the other man behind the botanical monster, both of them give Audrey II a grand stage presence that really stands out. I had a smile on my face every time the carnivorous plant appeared. Amy Coombes, Rachel Ann Crane and Mary Fox are sensational singers and remain charismatic throughout the show; they belt out the title number and give off a morbid vibe dressed in funeral attire and clutching lilies at the end of the first act. An interesting addition is Sam Giffard who opens up the show as a character titled ‘Demonic Child’, an otherworldly, sinister presence who informs us of an impending “deadly threat to the human race”. Reminiscent of Regan from The Exorcist (1973), with pigtails and a lollipop in hand, she laughs maniacally and is in place as a conscience for Seymour, chillingly appearing at the window each time he provides Audrey II with human flesh. To my knowledge this character hasn’t appeared in any other version but definitely provides an eerie tone.

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Anthony Williams’s Little Shop of Horrors is a must-see, he has managed to bring in traditional elements from past versions including the spectacular finale and the omission of Mean Green Mother From Outer Space (a song written for the film which admittedly I did miss!) while putting his own vision into it. I now look forward to seeing more of this talented cast in The Magic of the Musicals on August 18th, a yearly show that showcases the individual talents of its current summer season casts. The show is dark, creepy, funny and entertaining. Don’t miss it unless you want to be fed to a hungry plant!!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Horror Attractions: The Black Chasm (Silver Mountain Experience)

Posted in Horror Attractions with tags , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Deep in the heart of Mid-Wales lies the Silver Mountain Experience. The Ponterwyd tourist attraction based around a mining area encourages children and adults alike to use their imaginations as they stumble across tales and creatures from Welsh Mythology. The Black Chasm is the main highlight of the entire experience and is deemed “not for the faint hearted”. It heavily relies on audience participation and suspension of disbelief as visitors walk through the dark mine unaware of what could be behind each corner.

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I stumbled upon the  well-marketed attraction through a brochure for my local area of Aberystwyth. Today, I visited with my family, my parents and two nephews (aged 13 and 16). The Black Chasm has two versions, the PG and the 12A, tour guides insist the latter is designed to give out a good scare however I will vouch that it is suitable for most ages depending on the scare threshold of the child. Being related to me, my nephews opted for the 12A version as they know, the scarier, the better!

The tour lasts a good hour so you definitely get your money’s worth and hard hats are provided prior to entering the mine. A guide who refers to himself as “the tallest dwarf” takes visitors on a journey down the mine and tells graphic stories about what will happen to “victims” if they do not abide by his rules and warnings. The guide/dwarf provided a lot of interaction and audience participation mainly for the children but also included the “parents”. When asking what my job is I replied with “horror film reviewer”, he responded with “well, this is live action”, therefore a review of this entertaining attraction was definitely in order! Talk of monstrous creatures such as Morgens and Orcs are in place to unsettle the audience. However it wasn’t all thrills and chills, the guide incorporated plenty of quick-witted humor to balance out the tension and made jokes related to modern popular culture such as how disturbing Justin Bieber is! I give a lot of credit to the guide who relies on the power of acting to convey gruesome and frightening moments without having a lot of visuals to work with but it effectively instilled images in the mind.

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The main frightening aspect of the Chasm was the narrowness of the mines as well as the darkness, where you literally see nothing!  The jumpy parts came across in the style of a ghost train where Halloween-type skeletons flashed from the darkness along to pre-recorded sound effects. However, while that may terrify younger attenders it was definitely what you couldn’t see that made the experience all the more chilling. I will admit, I was expecting a bit more from what was actually offered and had the assumption there would be live actors in there rather than models.

Fun for all the family, with some cheesy effects, The Black Chasm is a dark attraction worth visiting.

Website: http://www.silvermountainexperience.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SilverMountainExperience

Hayley Alice Roberts.