Archive for November, 2013

The Short Films of Dream Seekers Productions: Little Reaper (2013).

Posted in The Short Films of Dream Seekers with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Dream Seekers Productions is the brainchild of brother and sister team Peter and Aubery Dukes. Together they have brought to life some innovative and eclectic short  genre films. Their main goal is to create films that will appeal  to and be appreciated by a more niche audience, the kind of films that under-appreciated on the whole within the vast industry that is film production.

obj106geo132shd8pg1p29Hayley’s Horror Reviews has had the pleasure in viewing a few of the short’s that Dream Seekers had to offer and will give an overview of what to expect from this quirky yet ambitious film company by presenting monthly reviews of one of their short films. Dream Seekers certainly have a lot of promise ahead of them with their strong storytelling, interesting visuals and slick editing and cinematography.

Little Reaper (2013).

  • Directed By Peter Dukes.

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Little Reaper is Dream Seekers latest short film. It’s an endearing and frequently funny look at a difficult father/daughter relationship under the backdrop of some well-known horror mythology. Grim Reaper is having trouble getting his only child, the typically teenaged Little Reaper to listen to him and take her responsibilities seriously. Little Reaper is the only one who can eventually take on her father’s duties but has other things on her mind such as trying to get in with the popular, cool Banshees, chatting on her phone and going to the dance with her boyfriend, much to Grim’s dismay and frustration. When grounding her doesn’t work, Grim passes on his role to her for one day where she will be expected to collect the souls of those who will pass on into the next life, in an attempt to teach her a lesson.

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After being handed the monotonous task, Little Reaper doesn’t quite play by the rules which leads to ultimate chaos! Taking a simplistic story, Little Reaper makes a commentary of the breakdown in communication between parents and children, highlighting the difficulties of the teenage years. Through incorporating the reaper lore as a metaphor, it brings in a comedic effect that is cleverly translated on screen. The entire film is shot in black and white which gives it a stylistic yet gothic tone. The cinematography is flawless and the editing is sharp which works perfectly when transitioning between the constantly funny dialogue.

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Athena Baumeister in the lead role is one to watch, with a charming screen presence she carries the film well, John Paul Ouvrier as Reaper plays his part straight as the strict father type which results in hilarity. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, there is nothing not to like about Little Reaper. For being adorable, good-humored and entertaining, I’d go as far as saying this has to be one of my favorite short films of 2013.

View Little Reaper Here:

Dream Seekers Productions Info:

www.dreamseekersprods.com
www.facebook.com/dreamseekersproductions
www.twitter.com/dreamseekerfans

Keep Your Eyeballs Peeled my Gore Freaks as more Dream Seekers Short Reviews are on the horizon!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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**NEW** Web Series: Our Zombie Mother

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Hayley’s Horror Reviews would like to present all you zombie freaks with this press release from an upcoming web/TV series titled Our Zombie Mother. The show’s pilot episode is currently in post-production as we speak and will be splattering onto our computer screens very soon! What’s interesting about this show is it’s aim to appeal to a young audience as well as bringing in enough for adult, horror enthusiasts to enjoy. At this site, I am definitely on board with horror targeted for children, ages ten and over is what they’re aiming for, due to my own love and fascination for the genre beginning at a young age. Horror is an extremely versatile genre that can evoke a whole batch of different emotions from absolute fear to side-splitting laughter and it definitely has a place in children’s entertainment.

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The premise revolves around two children who wake up to discover their mother has transformed into a zombie. It appears to be going for a comedic tone and definitely has the sort of plot that can benefit from being both scary and funny at the same time. In recent years we’ve seen how zombie movies work very well as comedies as well as in a metaphorical sense.

Our Zombie Mother is a collaboration between Patrick Griffin of Griffin Studios LA and Maria Olsen from MOnsterworks66. Its very clear that they have been working incredibly hard on this project seen from keeping updated with Facebook posts. Maria is no stranger to the genre and has had plenty of experience co-producing several horror products and is also involved in another web series which is currently being filmed titled Sunday Night Slaughters, she is also taking the role of the mother in this new series. Starring alongside her are Naomi and Tyler Griffin, Tyler recently starred in James Wan’s Insidious 2 therefore will already have a recognizable screen presence.

Make sure you visit, http://blip.tv/ozmnewz for news and updates on how production is going plus movie reviews and plenty of zombie-tastic fun facts.

Our Zombie Mother offers something refreshing and has pin pointed a gap in the market to make appealing, fun yet scary horror for children. Hayley’s Horror Reviews wishes Maria, Patrick and their cast and crew all the best with the series.

For more information, here is the introductory press release for the project, sent by Ms Olsen herself:

OUR ZOMBIE MOTHER

INTRODUCTORY ARTICLE

 

Patrick Griffin of Griffin Studios LA and Committed Artists Entertainment is teaming up with Maria Olsen of MOnsterworks66 to bring kids and zombie lovers alike the brand new web / TV series Our Zombie Mother!

Post-production is almost done on the pilot episode of this hilariously horrific new series, which introduces us to the world of Jon and Wendy and tells us what happens when two kids wake up to find their mother has suddenly become a zombie, and they are forced to quickly cope with the curious consequences.

Both Griffin and Olsen have been incredibly active in the film scene over the last couple of years, with Griffin scoring movies and TV series such as the Emmy-winning Dan Vs and the action-packed Renegade Force. This is, however, the first time he’s taken the reigns, and Our Zombie Mother, which promises to both tease and terrify, is entirely his concept.

Of the two, it is Olsen – and MO66 – that has been most active in the horror world and has, over the last eighteen months alone, partnered up to produce several features including Seth Metoyer’s Squeal: Blood Harvest (pre-production), Brandon Scullion’s Live-In Fear and Christopher Dye’s Something Sinister (both in post-production), Carl Lindbergh’s Blood Angel (development) as well as the web / TV series Edward Payson’s Sunday Night Slaughters (filming). Olsen, who is best known for her turn as Mrs Dodds / The Fury in Fox’s Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, has also worked alongside and learned from horror icons like Bill Oberst Jr, Lynn Lowry and Rob Zombie. She also absolutely adores playing the challengingly non-verbal title role that Griffin has created for her in Our Zombie Mother.

Supporting Olsen are both Tyler and Naomi Griffin, and, as of Friday the 13th of September, Tyler will be extremely well known the world over for his pivotal role in James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2. Naomi, whose hobbies include writing Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction, may, at the moment, have fewer credits to her name than her industrious brother, but is still a name to watch.

Our Zombie Mother might be a series that’s specifically aimed at pleasing the youngsters, but it does have scares enough to enchant all zombie lovers – it IS rated DD (Double Digits: 10 AND UP) after all – and it will also engage kids’ parents as anyone of us could turn into a zombie at any time, right?? The show’s tagline “BRAINS Before Beauty” says it all!

Eerie and amusing, creepy and comical, Our Zombie Mother is sure to be a hit among the World War Z, The Walking Dead and the Shaun of the Dead zombie-loving army. Promotional trailers will be released sequentially on Youtube so be sure to subscribe to the fanatical horromedy of it all!

You can find out more about the project on:

Its website: http://ourzombiemother.com/

Its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OurZombieMother?fref=ts

Its Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GriffinStudiosLAX

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Abertoir Horror Festival 2013: The Top Feature Films.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Zombie-fied is one way of describing how I feel after attending six long yet enjoyable days at the Abertoir Horror Festival, located in my hometown of Aberystwyth last week. Abertoir celebrated its eighth successful year which saw regulars return as well as some welcome new faces. 2013 was a special year as the festival celebrated the centennial of the truly wonderful Peter Cushing and presented a broad showcase of his career and his contribution to the genre as a whole. This included a Hammer film The Mummy (1959), two poignant talks by Peter Hutchings, Madhouse (1974) in which he co-starred with horror icon Vincent Price and a television episode Silent Scream (#1.7) from The Hammer House of Horror series (1980).

The special guests in attendance this year were British actor Richard Johnson and Italian composer Fabio Frizzi, who both took part in individual and a joint Q&A on the Saturday evening which was a doubly exciting treat for fans. Mr Johnson and Mr Frizzi had both worked with Lucio Fulci on his 1979 cult, gore-fest Zombie Flesh Eaters, yet had never met in person until the festival which is something Abertoir can be very proud of. A screening of Robert Wise’s classic The Haunting (1963) followed, in celebration of its 50th anniversary. This demonstrates Abertoir’s versatility in reminding audiences why we love horror films in terms of going back to its roots as well as nurturing new and upcoming independent films. Abertoir also doesn’t just stop at the films, festival-goers are also treated to a pub-quiz,  a theatre performance and live music events.

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Another exciting aspect of Abertoir is getting the opportunity to see the latest and best in genre movies from all over the world. This year provided an eclectic selection which saw spine-chilling hauntings, sex-crazed vampires, intelligent science-fiction, misfit ghosts and supernatural cheerleaders to name a few. Abertoir screened Discopath, Chimeres, and Painless, three of my favorite offerings of 2013, however as they’re part of my recent Celluloid Screams coverage I won’t be including them in this list of top features.

Once again, these are my views and do not reflect the overall audience vote on what films won in the best features category.

6. All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

  • Directed By Lucky McGee and Chris Sivertson
  • USA

All Cheerleaders Die is a self-remake from directors Lucky McGee (May, The Woman) and Chris Sivertson (The Lost, I Know who Killed Me). Judging by the names involved, it certainly had a lot of promise. Originally McGee and Sivertson shot a non-budget movie of the same name back in 2001 therefore it could be argued that their 2013 remake is an example of improving on their own work following a more recognizable career path and a bigger budget. Their original All Cheerleaders Die is an incredibly hard find however the 2013 reboot will hopefully generate fan interest if nothing else.

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The film is a revenge flick and a teen movie with supernatural elements that come across as slightly surprising. All Cheerleaders Die incorporates an infectiously funny yet shocking opening sequence that goes right for the jugular, bringing in a great deal of promise in terms of setting up the events to come. That sequence is the main moment that wreaks of Lucky McGee’s brutal, indie style. If anything, the film is reminiscent of mid-to-late 90’s teen flicks such as The Craft (1996) and Jawbreaker (1999)  but also stands out in its own right.

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Maddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey) sets out to destroy the high school cheerleader squad and the Captain of the football team. Its fair to say that it shouldn’t be assumed what is going to happen as Maddy’s revenge takes a turn for the unexpected which spirals out of her control. A typical way of describing All Cheerleaders Die would be “The Craft meets Bring it on!” but then again its so much more than that. Its an interesting film however feels conflicted in terms of its tone, but that does seem intended. Its a blood-curdling, thrill ride that’s definitely worth-watching! It concludes just as it opens, with a huge, slap in the face of a surprise! Check it out for something different from Lucky McGee. ★★★

5. Kiss of the Damned (2012)

  • Directed By Xan Cassavetes
  • USA

Kiss of the Damned is a throwback to the euro-sleaze movies that emerged from the 1960’s and 70’s. With a lavish production design and plenty of melodrama thrown in, Kiss of the Damned is what vampire movies should be all about. With the right blend of comedy and goriness, the film proves an enjoyable watch.

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With the makings of a supernatural soap opera, the film tells the tale of a beautiful vampire named Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) who becomes attracted to a charming, young human screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia). She attempts to resist his advances but soon they give into passion and Djuna turns Paolo into a creature of the night like herself. Living in undead bliss, a spanner is quickly thrown into the works when Djuna’s seductive, unhinged younger sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives, threatening to sabotage Djuna and Paolo’s relationship as well as the entire vampire community.

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Once Mimi’s presence is made, it comes across as pretty obvious of what direction the film’s heading in but still plays out as thrilling and suspenseful. The characters are easy to engage with especially Djuna as she fights to stay strong for all she stands for within the vampire community. The dialogue and performances in general aren’t played straight, there’s plenty of entertaining and hammy one-liners which work well. On the whole, its beautifully shot and shows off its gothic locations. In the hands of a female director, the sex scenes are tastefully done without being exploitative, shot in a way that are appealing to both women and men. Another welcome element of the film was having the female turn the male into a vampire, subverting the usual vampire-human romance that’s been popular in mainstream, teenage-fiction in recent years. Campy, sexy, sleazy and bloody, Kiss of the Damned is a film worth taking a bite out of!  ★★★

4. The Machine (2013)

  • Directed By Caradog James
  • Wales

A visually intoxicating science-fiction/horror hybrid. The Machine is one of the main reasons Abertoir provides support for films with a Welsh connection. Much thought and care has been put into creating a film that really gets under the skin, questioning the future of humanity itself. Whereas the majority of science-fiction films focus on giant threats to the world as we know it, The Machine gives the genre a sense of intimacy. Its surprising to discover the film was made on a small-budget due to its mesmerizing visuals.

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Echoing back to the conflicts of the cold war, the UK and China are locked in a futuristic, technological battle. Scientist Vincent is in the process of creating machinery which will improve the UK’s weaponry. At the same time he is determined to discover a cure for his gravely ill daughter. His prayers seem to be answered when he begins to attempt to replicate the brain-patterns found in his lab-partner Ava’s mind leading to the two of them creating the first piece of sophisticated and self-aware artificial intelligence. But nothing remains straight-forward when the MOD get their hands on Vincent’s creation and begin to use it as a deadly weapon against their Chinese opponents.

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The Machine tells a compelling story of what would happen if we were able to create artificial versions of ourselves and what would that mean for our future. Inspired by the classic Blade-Runner (1982), The Machine evokes some interesting ideas and imagery, with strong performances. Its no surprise that its a Bafta, award-winning Welsh film. Profound, dark and occasionally funny, The Machine holds a lot of promise for the future of Welsh cinema. ★★★★

3. Chanthaly (2013)

  • Directed By Mattie Do
  • Laos

Chanthaly is a groundbreaking film for two reasons. Its the first Horror film ever made in the country Laos and also the first female directed film.As Laos is a communist country, director Mattie Do faced restrictions when making her first feature which meant she was unable to include any gore and on the whole had to be careful on how she approached the project. It was the first genre film approved by the Laotian government however her original cut faced several issues due to it featuring elements such as suicide and disrespect towards parental figures which are not accepted within their culture.

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Chanthaly is a haunting, ghost-story that focuses on a young woman who lives a sheltered life with her strict father. She suffers from a life-threatening heart condition that she monitors daily with pills. Chanthaly (Amphaiphun Phimmapunya) never knew her mother as she passed away during childbirth due to the same heart-condition. She soon begins to see the spirit of her deceased mother as well as memories of her from childhood. Dark secrets threaten to blow apart Chanthaly and her father’s already fragile family life as she searches for the truth surrounding her mother’s death.

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The film is a slow-burner, allowing the audience to really empathize with the characters. The performances are very naturalistic as they pull the viewer deep into the story. I respect Chanthaly a great deal for providing something different to a sub-genre in horror that is reliant on loud noises and frequent jump scares in order to frighten the audience. Chanthaly doesn’t do this, instead it brings in some subtle scares that get under the skin and are long-lasting in the mind. Mattie Do has created a beautiful, chilling ghost story as well as a character study and an examination of her culture which is a strong achievement. On the whole Chanthaly is Asian, supernatural horror at its best and I am eagerly anticipating seeing much more of Do’s work. ★★★★

2. Forgotten (Aka. Du Hast Es Versprochen)

  • Directed By Alex Schmidt
  • Germany

Du Hast Es Versprochen became an unexpected festival favorite that leaves the viewer astonished and thought-provoked. Part ghost story, part fairy tale, part psychological thriller, part drama and part mystery, Du Hast Es Versprochen is a chilling, genre-bending rollercoaster ride that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats until the credits roll.

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Du Hast Es Versprochen is a tale about childhood friendship and how the past can literally come back to haunt us. Reminiscent of Nicholas Roeg’s The Witches (1990) in tone and setting and sharing similarities with Ingmar Bergman’s skin-crawling Persona (1966), Du Hast Es Versprochen tells the dark story about regret, the innocence of children and a horrific tragedy. As children, Hanna and Clarissa were inseparable and spent every holiday together in a summer house on a small, isolated fishing island. By chance, they are re-connected in later life as adults, Hanna’s marriage is in trouble and Clarissa has also suffered a trauma of her own, the two set off on a journey down memory lane along with Hanna’s young daughter to the the place they shared happier times. They become reminded of a third friend named Maria which evokes unexpected terror and truths they did not wish to uncover.

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With the sense of no escape and a claustrophobic setting, the film pulls the audience in one direction and pushes them in another, it takes the concept of twist and turns to a whole different level. By the end its difficult to decipher which character to empathize with. Well-acted, directed and shot, Mina Tander as Hanna has a startling screen-presence, while Laura De Boer’s Clarissa is reminiscent of a young Winona Ryder. The child actors in the film are phenomenal in terms of bringing in the creep factor. With some startling scares, Du Hast Es Versprochen is one of the best psychological/supernatural thrillers to emerge in a long time. ★★★★★

1. Ghost Graduation

  • Directed By Javier Ruiz Caldera
  • Spain

Ghost Graduation is one of those unexpected gems that ended up being the ultimate festival film of Abertoir 2013, and rightly deserved. Ghost Graduation is the kind of genre film that holds a commercial appeal outside of Horror audiences. It could be fair to argue that it isn’t strictly a horror film but more of a heart-warming comedy that happens to feature supernatural elements. The film opens with a perfectly choreographed dance sequence at a high school prom to non other than Whigfield’s huge 90’s hit Saturday Night, on that alone I think the audience was sold! Changing to the slower number of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, we meet our protagonist Modesto (Raul Arevalo) who is treated as a misfit due to his ability to communicate with ghosts, which paints him as a bit crazy to us normal folk! Fast forward to the present day and Modesto struggles to hold down a teaching job due to his special gift.

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Modesto’s luck changes when he is offered a position at a failing, prestigious school by harassed headteacher Tina  (Alexandra Jimenez) who has the school board constantly on her back. When he accidentally stumbles on an old abandoned library, he meets five spirits of former high school students who were tragically killed in a fire in  1986. With unfinished business on earth, Modesto makes it his incentive to help the teens cross over by helping them finally graduate! There’s also an entertaining sub-plot where Modesto frequently visits a hapless psychiatrist who is under the watch of his disappointed father creating plenty of comedy.

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It’s so easy to misjudge this film based on its marketing which makes it appear like a standard American Pie-style sequel and won’t initially come across as the most conventional choice for a horror audience as it doesn’t have a scary bone in it’s skeletal body! Ghost Graduation is filled with John Hughes shaped nostalgia and pop-culture references. It’s endearing, funny and is guaranteed to place a massive smile on your face. The ultimate feel-good semi-horror movie. ★★★★★

So that’s Abertoir done for another year and what a fantastic festival it proved to be once again. A huge thank you to Gaz Bailey, Nia Edwards-Behi, Rhys Fowler and Rebekah Smith for programming a brilliant selection of films for genre fans to enjoy. Caitlyn Downs and I have been working on video coverage which can be found here with more on the way! .

Visit: http://abertoir.co.uk/

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Top Short Films.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Similarly to my previous list discussing the feature films that stood out the most at this year’s Celluloid Screams, this list compiles together the most interesting and innovative shorts that were on offer at Sheffield’s Horror Festival. These are the views of Hayley’s Horror Reviews and once again don’t reflect the general outcome of the winning short films. Head over to http://scaredsheepless.com/ for more detailed reviews of Celluloid’s shorts.

6. Cat Sick Blues

  • Directed By Dave Jackson
  • Australia

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Cat Sick Blues is one of those strange yet compelling shorts that’s a bit out of the box. It begins with a young couple having a dispute on the beach. They are subsequently distracted from their argument by the presence of a homeless man, donning a cat mask. The man displays typical cat mannerisms and begins following them home. Cat Sick Blues takes a gory direction, but doesn’t let on where it’s actually going to go, ramping up the suspense throughout its ten minute run time. If there’s a moral to this story: Don’t trust Kitty!

5.  Hell No

  • Directed By Joe Nicolosi
  • USA

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Hell No is a humorous, crowd-pleasing critique of the codes and conventions of Horror Movies. The short film/ trailer spoofs what generations of fans have been screaming at cinema screens for years. It takes the concept of “What would happen in a Horror film if they featured smart characters who made sensible choices?” and explores it in a very quick-witted, entertaining way. Hell No satirizes the slasher and supernatural flicks.

4.  Invocation

  • Directed by Robert Morgan
  • UK

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Invocation is a stop-motion animation crossed over with live action which already sets it apart and gives it its own uniqueness. A filmmaker unintentionally unleashes something nasty when attempting to create a film, focusing on a teddy bear. Very unnerving with an even gorier twist. Invocation offers something a little different.

3. The Root of the Problem

  • Directed By Ryan Spindell
  • USA

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The Root of The Problem plays upon a very common fear for some, a visit to the Dentist. The short builds up tension very well and puts the viewer into the feeling of unease just like the female patient. There is a sense of apprehension throughout. A young housewife living in 1950’s Suburbia suspects there is something wrong with the local dentist, but is she simply paranoid? The Root of the Problem explores the tooth fairy mythology which hasn’t really had a decent on screen portrayal. With the makings of a supernatural thriller, The Root of the Problem has the potential to be developed into a feature.

2. The Body

  • Directed by Paul Davis
  • UK

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Paul Davis new short The Body was eagerly-anticipated following the success of last year’s Him Indoors, surrounding the shenanigans of an agoraphobic serial killer. The Body is equally as twisted and well-crafted. It’s Halloween night and a Patrick Bateman-esque serial killer known as “The Man” uses Halloween Night to dispose of a body. Sounds straightforward enough? However on his way he meets a group of party-goers who delay his plans by admiring this “well made prop” he’s carrying around. Alfie Allen plays his murderer character straight while the other characters provide the comedy. Filled with irony, The Body is a high contender for the best horror short of 2013 with its comedic, yet dark humour and detailed set design and costumes.

1. Butterflies

  • Directed by Isabel Peppard
  • Australia

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If you’ve seen mine and Caitlyn’s video coverage of the festival, you will know that we cannot emphasize enough on how much we adored Isabel Peppard’s Butterflies. Filled with artistic and beautiful stop-motion animation, Butterflies tells a poignant tale about how true talent and art can be under-appreciated in favour of a more commercial and repetitive world that we live in. A young artist struggles to make money selling her drawings to passers-by, she encounters a businessman who offers her a paying job, designing greeting cards. Soon, her and those around her’s talents become suppressed and the new role threatens to destroy all her imagination, will she escape before its too late? With a stunning, gothic setting and animation so detailed and expressive, Butterflies tells a relatable story that effects many in society. Butterflies is a film I cannot recommend enough.

**Special Mention**

Claymania: The Films of Lee Hardcastle.

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Another feature of Celluloid Screams 2013 was the showcase of talented claymator Lee Hardcastle’s work. Without the restriction of live action filmic techniques Lee Hardcastle’s stop-motion claymation goes all out with plenty of quirky story-telling and imagery, gore and typical British humour that appeals to a wide audience. Visit his Youtube Channel:  to watch his latest short Ghost Burger, a sequel to T is for Toilet from the ABC’s of Death.

Hayley Alice Roberts.