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Hayley’s Top 5 Feature Films of Celluloid Screams 2017

Posted in Horror Blog, Horror Festivals, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Celluloid Screams 2017 presented festival attendees with one of their strongest line-ups to date. With classic anniversary screenings of Suspiria (1977) and Hellreaiser (1987) and an Inside No. 9 showcase with both its creators, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith present, the ninth edition of the festival proved fantastic. As well as familiar films for fans to rediscover on the big screen, Celluloid Screams also programmed a diverse selection of feature films from all over the world. The common thread between them all was that most of them contained a tongue-in-cheek flair to them, allowing the audience to experience laughs and scares and an equal amount of tension.

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This list has sure been a tough one to compile as each film managed to bring its own identity to the table however these were the movies that struck a chord with me. So, without further ado, here are my top five feature films of Celluloid Screams 2017.

5. The Endless (2017)

  • Directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson
  • USA

the endless

Celluloid Screams 2017 launched on a high note, which therefore set the tone for the remainder of the festival. Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are staples of Celluloid having screened both their previous feature films, Resolution in 2012 and Spring in 2014, respectively. They have hit a hat-trick with their latest flick, The Endless. Moorhead and Benson not only write and direct but this time around they both star in the film. Their unique flair for filmmaking is present yet again as they stray away from convention bringing something surreal and intriguing to the table. In The Endless, Aaron and Justin play two brothers who happen to be former cult members. After ten years and undergoing deprogramming, the two are invited to revisit their old way of life when a mysterious videotape arrives on their doorstep. What follows is a mind-bending journey of intrigue that leads the viewer into unknown territory. Established fans will already know to expect the unexpected with their instantaneously captivating style of storytelling. The film looks beautiful which is aided by the picturesque cinematography, the open outdoors setting signifies the vastness of how the plot is essentially bigger than what is initially thought. Moorhead and Benson continue to grow within their craft, creating films that are not pigeonholed to one specific genre. The Endless is a mesmerizing film experience that is best going into without knowing too much. It will be exciting to see what these multi-talented filmmakers come up with next.

4. Creep 2 (2017)

  • Directed by Patrick Brice
  • USA

creep 2

Creep 2 is the highly anticipated sequel from director Patrick Brice. Mark Duplass makes a delicious return to his role as the batshit insane, serial killer that he made popular in the first one. This time around, he lures ambitious journalist, Sara (Desiree Akhavan) into his lair (home!). Disillusioned with his life as he approaches 40, he puts out an online ad for a videographer which draws in the disenfranchised young woman who is struggling to make a success of her obscure web series. Following an initial meeting with Aaron, the bizarre encounter provides her with enough scope for her next video. Feeling galvanized by the experience, will Sara bite off more than she can chew or will she hold her own against the unpredictable psychopath? Creep 2 is equally as superb as its predecessor, but manages to venture into even darker territory. It is nerve shredding from the outset while containing an unnerving sense of humour. Erratic and unpredictable just like its core antagonist; Creep 2 is a nail-biting, unique cinematic experience that works excellently among a festival audience. It is gasp-inducing madness and proves to be one of the most effective found footage entries within the genre right now. Between them, Brice and Duplass have created an exhilarating sequel which remains consistent to the original while challenging audience expectations which is highly ingenious to see.

3. M.F.A (2017)

  • Directed By Natalia Leite
  • USA

MFA

M.F.A is certainly a revelation in light of the recent Hollywood sexual assault scandal. This film is both timely and imperative as it fearlessly tackles a subject that still faces a taboo outlook surrounding it. Introverted art student, Noelle begins to embrace college life when she is invited to a party by a pretentious yet charming classmate named Luke. The party takes a harrowing turn when Luke shockingly rapes Noelle and plays it down in the aftermath. Traumatized and violated, Noelle reports her ordeal to the appropriate channels to no avail. She then decides to take matters into her own hands, heading down a dark route of revenge which heartbreakingly is all she has left. M.F.A is astonishingly brave as it highlights the ignorance and hypocrisy surrounding reported rape and the many women who face suffering in silence. The approach the film takes is bold without being exploitative or highly controversial but strongly gets its message across. Francesca Eastwood gives the performance of the year in a transformative role with layers of character development and a realistic arc, from her vulnerable beginnings to the astounding journey she takes. M.F.A is a prime example of the dynamicity of the genre and how it can successfully display a very real but disturbing issue and glare a light on that. It is wholly frustrating but will hopefully spark a conversation that society absolutely needs to have. Uncompromising, confrontational and powerful in its execution, M.F.A needs to be seen and spoken about.

2. 68 Kill (2017)

  • Directed By Trent Haaga
  • USA

68 Kill

Annalynne McCord stars as the baddest bitch of them all in this fast-paced, high octane, comedic thriller. Soaked in exploitation, 68 Kill delivers the “perfect midnight movie” and then some. Perfectly placed in the 12am slot on the first night of the festival, 68 Kill fought any festival jet lag away as its thrilling nature keeps the audience engrossed from start to finish. Featuring a slew of reprehensible characters that will kill, maim and mangle to get their hands on cold hard cash, 68 Kill ensures edge of the seat action until those end credits roll. The cast gel exceptionally well together, with Matthew Gray Gubler’s sweet-natured Chip finding himself in a bizarre, unexpected situation, torn between two crazed beauties with more outrageousness to come. A surprise performance is delivered from Sheila Vand, from the mid-way point as a ruthless, gothic store clerk. 68 Kill is a movie Tarantino could be proud of and thematically it has all the ingredients in place to homage his brand of filmmaking. Tasteless, indulgent, unapologetically trashy and completely in your face, 68 Kill is one of 2017’s and Celluloid Screams most exciting offerings.

1. Better Watch Out (2017)

  • Directed by Chris Peckover
  • USA/Australia 

Better Watch out

Christmas has come early with this fantastic, festive fright flick. Better Watch Out encompasses all the components of the killer Christmas movie while embodying its own unique capability. This is a home invasion like no other that supplies nerve-shredding suspense with darkly thought out humour. The plot centers on hormonally-charged twelve-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), a regular Suburban kid who anticipates an evening alone with his babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). Having already established a comfortable rapport with each other, Luke’s chances of finally confessing his feelings don’t go quite to plan when they are targeted by an unknown assailant, subsequently becoming embroiled in a twisted cat and mouse game with shocking consequences. Better Watch Out incorporates delightful twists and turns that will supply shocks and surprises for its audience. It is advisable to enter this film totally blind to experience the punch it packs! The bright, festive aesthetic the film displays provides a welcome contrast to the more darker themes. It’s a crowd-pleaser from start to finish with exceptional performances from its young cast. Much like Andrew Muschetti’s IT (2017), kid-cast led horror films are proving to be a hit right now and this is no exception. If you enjoyed Netflix favourite, The Babysitter (2017) then you’re going to love, Better Watch Out.

Well, there we have it, my top five personal outstanding feature films of Celluloid Screams 2017. Comment below if you agree or disagree with my choices and let me know which films hit the right note with you at the sensational Sheffield festival.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

 

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Celluloid Screams 2016: Trash Fire Review

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , on November 1, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Richard Bates Jr. (Excision, Suburban Gothic) is renowned for his quirky style and skill for creating detestable yet compelling characters, this directorial trait is still strongly prominent in his third feature film and the third to be screened at Celluloid Screams, Trash Fire.

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Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur) are a couple embroiled in a turbulent relationship, displaying mutual resentment and repulsion for one another. Close to breaking point, the couple unexpectedly face a life changing event that binds them together. After a horrific fire that burnt down his childhood home and resulted in the death of his parents, Owen is estranged from his remaining living relatives; his kooky religious freak Grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) and badly scarred sister Pearl (Annalynne McCord). With Isabel’s encouragement, the couple set off to make amends but little do they know the kind of weirdness that lies ahead for them. The real test of their relationship is set to begin.  But will the experience destroy the couple or bring them closer together?

trashfire

Trash Fire is Bates Jr.’s strongest film to date, it’s side-splittingly entertaining from beginning to end accompanied by a razor sharp script that doesn’t let up on it’s sarcastic humour. The pacing works well, we are gradually introduced to the protagonists Owen and Isabel, learning about their toxic relationship and how they reached that point. The second part of the film takes the characters out of the environment we were initially introduced to them in and places them in the strict religious confines of the grandmother’s home, shifting the tone and feel of the film in a different direction.

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What’s great about Trash Fire is it veers off into unexpected territory and by the end it’s a completely different film to the one that first begun. It remains a mean spirited dark comedy in tone however as it progresses there is a certain empathy attached to the main characters. Owen, as a character is layered with issues and comes across as obnoxious and deliberately unpleasant however once his back story is revealed it provides an inclination of why his character is so unapologetically mean. For a film laced with a brutal sense of humour the character development is spot on, keeping the audience entirely compelled.

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There’s some hilarious moments of comedic tension shared between Grenier and Matthew Gray Gubler who plays his straight laced brother in law Caleb. Gubler is one of the film’s most welcome highlights. All the performances are brilliantly acted portraying over the top characters. Angela Trimbur play Isabel as a woman at her wits end, it’s incredible how her character managed to survive a three year relationship with Owen. Fionnula Flanagan is quick witted and unapologetically horrid as the ghastly Grandmother. Annalynne McCord is ambiguous and empathetic as Pearl with a side of uncomfortable weirdness, it’s refreshing to see her in a different kind of role and this one is certainly memorable.

Similarly to Bates Jr’s previous films, Trash Fire still incorporates bizarre visual sequences used for a metaphorical purpose but not to the same extent as his other offerings. With the focus primarily on the core characters and dynamics, it doesn’t need to include as many stylish visual sequences like Excision. On some level it has an 80’s B-Movie style thriller feel to it.

One of the genre’s best dark horror comedies of the year, Trash Fire is surprising, unpredictable and ensures that what you see is what you get and more!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2012: Day Three Coverage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Day Three proved to be the most spook-tastic day at Celluloid Screams with strong contenders in both genre features and shorts. Unfortunately Celluloid were unable to screen the UK premiere of Memory of the Dead due to a technical difficulty which could not have been rectified at the time. I missed Entity also due to taking a break, but I really hope I can view it soon as I’ve heard very good things. Sunday had so much to offer in terms of films and guests and was full of surprises!

Leyenda (2011) (UK Premiere) (Short)

This short from Spain plays out as a warped post-modern fairytale, reminiscent of the style and tone of the Brothers Grimm. A ten-year-old girl named Claudia reads her fairytale about a “big bad wolf” type creature much to her mother’s dismay on a car journey. When the family make a stop at the gas station, a mysterious woman appears and creates carnage and bloodshed. Leyenda is dark and brutal and holds no barriers, its a terrifying watch and requires a strong stomach, however the violence is done very well and leaves the heart racing.

Before Dawn (2012) + Q&A with Director/Actor Dominic Brunt and Producer/Actress Joanne Mitchell

With their marriage on the rocks Alex (Played by Dominic Brunt) and Meg (Played by Joanne Mitchell) retreat to the Yorkshire countryside in an attempt to fix their troubled relationship, but little do they know a zombie epidemic has spread across the area. As they attempt to fix their problems in a tense atmosphere, Meg soon falls victim to the virus after being attacked and bitten by a zombie, now Alex must do all he can and figure out what lengths he will go to in order to save his wife, will they be able to salvage what they have before its too late? Before Dawn incorporates stunning cinematography of the Yorkshire landscapes, and a sense of gritty British drama as it hybrids a social realist style with edge-of-the-seat, gory horror. The film is most definitely a refreshing take on the Zombie sub-genre. Joanne Mitchell proves that there are more avenues available to go down as a writer when it comes to the zombie concept rather than churning out a repetitive formula that’s been done over and over again. Along with Dominic Brunt’s direction, they really pull it off and the result is a relate-able story with identifiable characters.

Its every day life with a horror metaphor as a backdrop, Meg is very career driven while Alex is out of a job, the social and economical frustrations that affect many relationships in today’s society is therefore played out. Brunt and Mitchell ensure that the audience gains a sense of understanding and empathy with Alex and Meg and are compelled into their story. The whole scenario feels very naturalistic due to Dominic and Joanne’s existing chemistry and a lot of authenticity is brought into their performances. Nicky Evans is brilliant in a small role, his character Stephen’s scenes with Alex are great to watch with the right balance of humor and intensity. Apart from the performances, the FX used were outstanding and are some of the most detailed zombie make-up effects that have been featured in a recent horror film, Meg is barely recognizable when she turns. The FX team have achieved special effects of an impressive standard. Before Dawn is a must see and holds a wider appeal even beyond only genre fans. If you enjoy Horror, British realism or even Emmerdale and Shameless then this is the film for you!

Resolution (2012) (UK Premiere) + Q&A with Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

An unexpected and unconventional entry into the Horror circuit, Resolution is psychologically creepy while at the same time has an endearing commentary on what it truly means to be friends and what we do for those we care about. After seeing directors Aaron and Justin’s dynamic during their introduction and Q&A it is clear where the heart of this story really comes from, not only that but they are hilariously funny guys and stole the show at this year’s festival! Their collaboration has resulted in a genuinely interesting, heart-warming and sinister film. Resolution begins when Michael (played by peter Cilella) is sent a video of his best friend Chris (played by Vinny Curran) passed out in an abandoned cabin high on drugs, he then makes the decision to intervene. Chris is apathetic about the situation and has accepted that he is nothing more than a junkie, Michael handcuffs him to a pipe and forces him to go cold turkey in an attempt to help his friend sort his life out. The tension between the two friends is played out well with very sincere performances from the lead actors. Michael soon realizes that Chris never sent the video and from then on the two find themselves caught up in a series of odd events as they try to investigate who or what is manipulating them. Resolution is cleverly written, it takes genre fans out of expected cliches and does something different, the idea of the unknown and the mystery surrounding the events that unfold for Michael and Chris gives out an unsettling feeling for the viewer but keeps the audience gripped throughout. With likeable characters and a strong narrative Resolution shines as a genre piece, however there are so many layers to it than first imagined.

Him Indoors (2012) (Short)

An agoraphobic serial killer on the brink of eviction falls into disastrous consequences when his nosy neighbor/potential date unexpectedly visits! This is one of the funniest, comedy/horror shorts that’s emerged recently. The humor is laugh out loud funny and the dynamic between Reece Shearamith and The Woman’s Pollyanna McIntosh is just brilliant. Gregory Brewster is a modern day, bumbling version of Norman Bates, notions from Hitchcock’s Psycho are loosely referenced as well as Rear Window in terms of how no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It has a bit of a kitchen sink feel to it as well however it exaggerates an every day occurrence and uses it to its advantage. Him Indoors is without a doubt a highlight!

Excision (2012)

Take Tod Solondz and mix in some Lucky McGee with a hint of Ginger Snaps and the result is Excision! Visually, Excision is intriguing and mesmerizing to look at with its disturbing fantasy sequences. Its a twisted coming-of-age tale with some truly squeamish moments, Excision depicts the dark side of suburbia and how appearances can be deceiving. Pauline (played by Annalynne McCord) is a severely cynical and socially awkward teenager with a morbid and eventually dangerous obsession for surgery, she lives with her controlling mother (Played by Traci Lords), reserved father (Played by Roger Bart) and her long-suffering sister Grace (played by Ariel Winter) who has cystic fibrosis. Her family fail to understand her and the film portrays a breakdown in family communication as Pauline struggles to make sense of the world around her.  She goes as far as convincing herself that she can perform a surgical procedure to “cure” Grace resulting in horrific and devastating consequences. There are some wonderful cameos from the likes of John Waters and Malcolm McDowell which adds to its promising cult feel. Its a fairly satisfying film that pays off well, leaving the audience unsettled. Annalynne McCord is mostly known for her part in TV’s 90210, an American teenage-based drama, therefore the fact she plunged into this unconventional role as a repulsive and disturbed teenager is an interesting move. She proves herself as an exceptional young actress, and makes the character difficult to achieve empathy with for the majority of the film. Even if the main character is unlikeable, her psychological state keeps the audience drawn in and questions whether she will redeem herself by the film’s end. Excision is beautifully shot and edited and was the perfect way to close Celluloid Screams 2012.

And now for the fun…Short Film and Feature Winners + Closing Ceremony…I also encountered some INBREDS!

Final Thoughts (and a summary of my festival highlights):

Hayley Alice Roberts