Archive for November, 2015

Abertoir Horror Festival 2015 Review: Tales of Halloween (2015)

Posted in Horror Festivals on November 11, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Halloween may be over, but why not still keep in with the spirit? Axelle Carolyn’s anthology, Tales of Halloween certainly helps beat those post spooky night blues. What a treat it was seeing these gorgeously gruesome scary stories unfold on the big screen, most definitely worth the wait! This is the strongest film screened at the Abertoir Horror Festival so far.

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Anthology Horror has always been a popular trend, resonated mainly in television from Tales from the Crypt to Goosebumps, however also translate well to segment styled films such as Creepshow and most recently The ABC’s of Death and V/H/S. Tales of Halloween is a cut above the rest, showcasing a whole lot of talent from actors to writers and directors who all know how to conjure up a good scare!

Tales of Halloween opens with a visually stunning stop motion animation sequence, allowing a glimpse into the tales to come and the fantastic filmmakers that have brought them to life. Adrienne Barbeau wonderfully recaptures her famous role from John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980) as the husky voiced radio show host, narrating throughout the film, following with clever puns after each short story.

Tales of Halloween brings together familiar faces from the past and present of horror that proves a real treat for fans. Its highly stylized and beautifully shot, capturing the spirit and essence of this time of year, going all out with recognizable iconography from pumpkins to ghouls set to a score that John Carpenter would be proud of. Each segment has its own unique spin and twist, with startling surprises around every corner and grotesquely good visual effects.

Here are ten terrifying segments that make Tales of Halloween a frightengly festive film.

1. Sweet Tooth

  • Directed By Dave Parker

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned from horror movies its that urban legends are guaranteed to backfire. If you don’t believe in them then you better start! Sweet Tooth, by The Hills Run Red Director Dave Parker is the tale of a young boy who enjoys his hard-earned Halloween candy a little too much. When his menacing babysitters warn him of the local legend of Sweet Tooth, an apparent “rite of passage”, the boy decides he’s best off sharing his sweeties if he wants to remain in one piece! As imagined events take a nasty turn teaching those meddling babysitters a very valuable lesson. Sweet Tooth kicks things off with a bang with lashings of gore and setting us up for the recurring theme to never underestimate creepy kids! Sweet Tooth incorporates its own inventive yet twisted mythology.

2. The Night Billy Raised Hell

  • Directed By Darren Lynn Bousman

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SAW II and Repo! The Genetic Opera Darren Lynn Bosman is at the reigns of this darkly comical tale, featuring a completely brilliant performance from Rocky Horror cult star Barry Bostwick. Just as much as treats, Halloween is equally filled with tricks. When a young boy is literally egged on by his teenage sister and her mean boyfriend to play a prank on an old man’s house, he makes a grave mistake when the man turns out to be the devil himself. Bostwick’s excellently evil character goes on to teach the young boy a lesson he will never forget. The Night Billy Raised Hell is tongue in cheek and hilariously executed as Bostwick takes the boy on one hell of a night out which sees his bad behaviour receive nightmarish consequences.

3. Trick 

  • Directed By Adam Gierasch 

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Arguably the darkest segment of the anthology, the director of 2009’s Night of the Demons, Adam Gierasch shows that its not just the kids who are bad. A seemingly, traditional and ordinary Halloween night, two sets of couples enjoy an evening in front of the television with a horror movie playing. But they get more than they bargained for when a young trick or treater dressed as a witch brutally stabs one of them kicking off a night of carnage with nowhere left to run and nowhere left to hide. But are the victims as innocent as they seem? Appearances can certainly be deceiving. Trick is a cathartic piece that unapologetically pushes the boundaries in a tale of justice and revenge. If there’s one short guaranteed to shock, its this one!

4. The Weak and the Wicked

  • Directed By Paul Solet

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A combination of  a horror and western, Grace director Paul Solet presents a stylish tale of vengeance which sees a teenage boy seek out a group of rebels led by Alice (Grace Phipps) who nastily perished his parents in their own home when he was a boy. Nothing is what it seems as The Weak and the Wicked surprises the audience with an unexpected and satisfying twist, teaching that karma will always win out in the end. There are some strong performances in this power struggle between good and evil.

5. Grim Grinning Ghost

  • Directed By Axelle Carolyn

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Mid way through, its creator Axelle Carolyn’s moment to shine in the creepy Grim Grinning Ghost. Starring Lin Shaye (Insidious), Grim Grinning Ghost centres on a spooky urban legend guaranteed to make your spine tingle! Starry Eyes’s Alex Essoe gives a convincing performance as the spooked young woman who leaves her friends annual Halloween gathering and heads home. Freaked out by Shaye’s tale of an evil spirit, the woman keeps her wits about her. Once she’s in the house, she can finally relax or so it seems…! Grimm Grinning Ghost is a classic ghost story, choked with an ethereal and tense atmosphere and perfect for a good scare.

6. Ding Dong

  • Directed By Lucky McKee

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Pollyanna McIntosh teams up again with Lucky McKee (The Woman) in Ding Dong, an outrageously bizarre spin on the classic Hansel and Gretel tale. A psychotically broody witch and a pug in a wig, what more do you need at Halloween? The witch longs for a child and doesn’t understand why she can’t have any leading her to despair. She puts on a show every spooky season in an attempt to ease her heartbreak by entertaining prospective trick or treaters. Her put upon husband goes along with it while walking on eggshells in order to avoid her wrath with unsuccessful results. McIntosh is absolutely amazing with her over the top and undeniably funny performance. The make up effects in this segment are expertly crafted. The creature could easily come from a warped Tim Burton film. Cleverly, there’s an underlying metaphor underneath all the madness.

7. This Means War

  • Directed By Andrew Kasch and John Skipp

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The notion of “keeping up with the Jones’s” is taken to a whole new level in This Means War, as a man competes with his new heavy metal neighbour over the best Halloween display. A clash of egos fight to the death in this darkly funny piece which sees a more traditional Halloween set up go against a blood splattered, hair-raising gorefest. A comment on the polar opposites of the old horror film verses the new perhaps?

8. Friday the 31st

  • Directed By Mike Mendez

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If Dorothy Gale was terrorized by Jason Voorhees, then Friday the 31st is what you’d get! A love letter to old school slasher movies namely the Friday the 13th Series and more recently the Hatchet franchise, Friday the 31st takes an unpredictable direction that notes the absurdness of these kinds of films where all sorts of crazy events can happen. Friday the 31st is everything you love about slasher films, from the iconography to the blood shed. It goes to introduce the most cutest stop motion animation character to ever grace horror movie screens. All he wants is some candy. It really has to be seen to be believed.

9. The Ransom of Rusty Rex

  • Directed By Ryan Schifrin

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John Landis literally gives a pair of bank robbers a run for their money as he cameos as a wealthy man who has his son kidnapped by the dastardly duo. They get more than they bargained for when the  boy turns out to be a strange and nasty little creature (played by the late American Horror Story: Freak Show actor Ben Woolf). Now its a case of how to get away from this menacing little guy who just won’t give up. The Ransom of Rusty Rex goes to show that its best to think before acting!

10. Bad Seed

  • Directed By Neil Marshall

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What a way to end this frightening and fantastic set of stories with Bad Seed, from The Descent and Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall. Bad Seed will make you think twice about buying a pumpkin on Halloween in a combination of Little Shop of Horrors meets Halloween III: Season of the Witch! Bad Seed brings everything full circle, tying each segment together. This B-movie inspired short guarantees plenty of laughs as the evil pumpkin bounces around the place, eating everyone and everything in sight in one gore-filled spectacle. Halloween has taken over and there’s nothing anyone can do! Look out for a cameo from Gremlins director Joe Dante in a whole different kind of creature feature. Bad Seed concludes the film in style, wrapping up one unforgettable anthology.

Verdict:

Top 3 Favourite Segments:

1. Friday the 31st

2. Ding Dong

3. Trick 

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

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RIP Gunnar Hansen

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

2015 continues to be a sad year for horror fans. Today we mourn the loss of another icon as news broke that Gunnar Hansen passed away yesterday from pancreatic cancer, aged 68. Hansen was of course best know for his role as Leatherface in the groundbreaking 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a vital and important film for the genre.

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What makes the news even more shocking is Hansen was a special guest this July at the UK’s first Horror Con in Sheffield. I was extremely lucky to meet Hansen and take a photo with him, a dream for any lifelong horror fan. He spoke about his famous role in a fantastic Q&A which I wrote about here. He was still extremely proud of the film and talked about how effective it still is to this day.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of the main horror films that had an impact on me as a teenager, viewing it is like an adrenaline rush, its gritty, edgy and completely terrifying. It has everything a horror film should. Hansen’s performance was unforgettable, cementing Leatherface as one of the genre’s scariest villains. His performance is what made the film memorable and he is without a doubt the best creation of Leatherface there is.

Hansen was born in Iceland but grew up in the US. He resided in Maine for 40 years. He wasn’t just an actor, he wrote books and film scripts and was recently working on a film called Death House, due to be released next year, according to The Guardian.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to briefly meet him.

We will wield our chainsaws in his memory!

RIP Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface).

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

The Top 10 Short Films of Celluloid Screams 2015

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Just as much as the features, viewing a selection of short films is a vital part of the festival experience. Celluloid Screams screened some mind-blowing shorts that demonstrate how filmmakers can achieve effective storytelling in a limited time frame. This year’s festival saw a versatile mix from laughs and gore to hard-hitting to the bonkers and the bizarre. Please note that these are my views and do not reflect the winning films selected by the short film jury panel. Please comment if you agree or disagree with my picks.

10. Remnant

  • Director Andy Stewart
  • Country: UK
  • Run Time: 15 Minutes

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Andy Stewart returned to Celluloid Screams with his brand new short Remnant. Best known for his grizzly visual effects in his body horror trilogy, Dysmorphia, Split and Ink (that screened at last year’s festival and July’s UK Horror Con); Stewart shifted direction for his latest short which could be described as a combination of A Nightmare on Elm Street meets Jekyll and Hyde. Remnant is more narrative led than his previous offerings, Claire Miller (Lucy Goldie) suffers with nightmares and finds herself waking up in places with no memory of how she got there. Goldie delivers a masterful performance as the tormented young woman who struggles with daily life and holding down her job. Hellraiser and Nightbreed icon Nicholas Vince makes an appearance as Claire’s somewhat sympathetic boss, Ian. For its short run time, the audience are able to empathize with Claire as the film rockets towards its worth-the-wait climax. Remnant is a dynamic and psychological piece.

9. Slut

  • Director: Chloe Okuno
  • Country: USA
  • Run Time: 21 Minutes

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Its the classic tale of the ugly duckling who transforms into a beautiful swan in Chloe Okuno’s Slut. This impressive entry is a graduate AFI thesis film, that is tremendously shot and inventive in what it does. Already, an award-winning short, Slut centers on a naive, young girl named Maddy (Molly McIntyre) who lives with her invalid grandmother in a small Texas town. Tired of being ridiculed, Maddy decides to reinvent herself to impress the boys and prove fierce competition for the established town “slut”. With a 1970’s flair, Slut is a visual throwback that takes an unexpected turn. Incredibly professional and well-made. Fans of exploitation and old school horror will relish in it.

8. There’s Something in the Attic

  • Director: Lee Hardcastle
  • Country: UK
  • Run Time: 2 Minutes

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With the shortest run time of all the short films screened at Celluloid, There’s Something in the Attic is from Lee Hardcastle, best known for his inventive and extremely funny stop motion animations (T is for Toilet, ABC’s of Death). Starring Sightseers’s Alice Lowe, There’s Something in the Attic centres on a woman who finds something terrifying living in her attic, however all is not what it seems. Hardcastle delivers an unexpected twist, while Lowe brings in an expressive performance. There’s Something in the Attic marks Hardcastle’s first non animated film but still supplies some fantastic special effects, in a heartwarming tale that teaches don’t judge a book by its cover. Incredibly short but increasingly effective.

7.  Crow Hand

  • Director: Brian Lonano
  • Country: USA
  • Run Time: 3 Minutes

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Crow Hand is a gore effects visual spectacle. A husband gets more than he bargained for when he dismisses his wife’s warning and picks up an enigmatic crow totem from the ground in a parking lot. Highly played for laughs, Crow Hand is the kind of gory, comedy that is essential to the horror festival experience. An audience crowd-pleaser, events get crazier and crazier. Crow Hand is splatterific!

6. The Chickening

  • Director: Davy Force and Nick DenBoer
  • Country: Canada
  • Run Time: 5 Minutes

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Keeping in with the absolutely bonkers theme, The Chickening is unlike anything you’ve seen before! This Canadian collaboration will change the way you view Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining forever! The Chickening needs to be seen to be believed. Its the perfect midnight madness though cleverly put together to re-create imagery from the famous film but with chickens! Quirky, strange but completely hilarious. This is a film that should be seen amongst a group of friends if not with a festival audience.

5. The Mill at Calder’s End

  • Director:  Kevin McTurk
  • Country: USA
  • Run Time: 14 Minutes

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The Mill at Calder’s End is a beautiful combination of stop motion animation and puppetry, standing out from the rest of the Celluloid shorts offerings. Kevin McTurk tells a traditional ghost story centring on family and a deep seated secret that threatens to spill with grim effects. There’s a dark sense of dread throughout as Nick Grimshaw (Jason Flemyng) returns to his childhood home to unearth the secret of the Mill and attempt to break the curse that’s impacted his family legacy. Dark, ethereal and gothic, The Mill at Calder’s End also features the voicing talents of Barbara Steele, Piotr Michael and John Alexander. An exceptional and well crafted piece, The Mill at Calder’s End delivers genuine, spooky horror. The stop-motion world created is both stunning and impressive.

4. Evil Mexican Child

  • Director: Michael Noonan
  • Country: Mexico
  • Run Time: 8 Minutes

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Appropriately screening before Emelie, Evil Mexican Child menacingly fits in with this year’s creepy kids trend. Never underestimate the power of a seemingly innocent child as the parents of a young boy are about to find out. Playing on conventional horror tropes, Evil Mexican child (Maximo de la Rosa) draws horrific pictures that foreshadows the grizzly fates of those closest to him. Played with a blend of black comedy, the mother (Xochitl Hernandez) soon realises she can use this to her advantage! Tongue in cheek, twisted and entertaining, Evil Mexican Child keeps up the surprise element until the very end.

3. Selfie

  • Director: Geoff Harmer
  • Country: UK
  • Run Time: 7 Minutes

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Geoff Harmer, director of indie psychological thriller Addict returns with a freaky short film that asks what if there was something else in the picture with you when taking a harmless selfie? Stacy Hart’s character is about to find out! Relaxing at home one evening, the young woman partakes in some text flirting. The person in question encourages her to take some selfies to send to him. An innocent bit of fun turns into something far more sinister when the woman’s admirer insists that she’s not alone in the image. Selfie is ghoulish fun acting as a commentary for young people’s obsession with self-image and the vain, inescapable phenomenon of the Selfie. This nightmarish short could come straight out of a creepypasta. You will never Instagram in the same way again!

2. Surgery

  • Director: George Clemens and Samuel Clemens
  • Country: UK
  • Run Time: 11 Minutes

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Surgery is a bittersweet entry in terms of its background. Originally stemmed from an idea by Brian Clemens; writer of the popular 1960s series The Avengers. Clemens sadly passed away earlier this year. His sons George and Samuel Clemens continued their father’s legacy bringing his grizzly tale of vengeance to life in the squirm-worthy Surgery. Shot from the point of view of a man on the operating table, Surgery is a terrifying ordeal which sees him tortured by a mysterious figure known as “The Crude Surgeon”, but there’s more than meets the eyeball than first imagined. Surgery layers on the suspense and is tremendously acted, allowing us to feel empathy for the man as he undergoes the unimaginable. Nicholas Ball steals the show playing both caring and menacing equally well. The Clemens brothers have done their father proud, creating genuine horror. Surgery has everything a horror film should, intrigue, suspense and squeamish imagery. Unforgettable.

1. The Herd

  • Director: Melanie Light
  • Country: UK
  • Run Time: 20 Minutes

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The Herd deservingly won the best short film of Celluloid Screams but prior to the announcement it was without a doubt my personal winning short film too. Devastating, effective and thought-provoking, Melanie Light’s personal, political and feminist film gets under the skin and is hard to shake off especially once the end credits roll. A bleak and honest look at the dairy industry, The Herd is played as a metaphor placing women in the position of defenceless animals in a grim, run down medical facility. They are kept permanently pregnant and used for milk. If a female gives birth to a boy they are instantly taken away from her but if she has a girl, the cruel process is repeated from generation to generation. The Herd is a difficult watch, especially for animal lovers. Light however informs the audience of the harsh realities leaving us all with something to think about. The Herd features a stellar cast including Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman), Seamus O’Neill (Inbred) and Andrew Shim (This is England). With all the fantastical horror films out there, The Herd is what should be described as true horror, it holds nothing back making it an exceptionally powerful and upsetting film.

**SPECIAL MENTIONS**

Invaders, Good Hands and Portal to Hell.

Scared Safe: Real Horror From the Public Information Films Archive.

Each year Celluloid Screams delivers a showcase focusing on the work of a particular director, previous years have seen Astron-6, Lee Hardcastle and Dennison Ramalho to name a few. This year the festival gave us a special treat by delving into the archives and seeking out the most strange public information films from the 1970’s and 80s. From the famous “Charlie Says…” to Protect and Survive, these films were in place to inform and protect the public however to a modern audience come across as rather amusing with their uptight British voice-overs, hammy acting and low production qualities.

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Never go with Strangers from 1971 proved a highlight reminding young children to never go off with someone they don’t know. It comes across as rather simplistic but also bizarre in its techniques. Remember kids, if there’s no donkey in that field it was all lies!

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Toning down the laughs but upping the horror was the notorious The Finishing Line, teaching kids not to play on the railway tracks. This oddly constructed film showed children in the context of a sports day event yet instead of having fun they are playing with danger. The most shocking moments come towards the end which sees a mass death of children in the tunnel, only for the adults to lay their bodies on the train tracks. It comes across as shocking today let alone how it was received back in the 1970s. Re-watching the public information films was a trip down memory lane with a fascinating insight into how these films attempted to scare and shock young people into keeping safe. They certainly were effective in their own way.

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Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews