Archive for Celluloid Screams 2012

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

Celluloid Screams 2012: Day Two Coverage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Day Two of the festival caused some mixed reactions with its selection. I did not attend Manborg or Into the Abyss: The Savage Cinema of Dennison Ramalho, however I will be checking some of his stuff out online soon as I was incredibly curious of the fact there was a “disturbing content” warning in the programme regarding his work. I also missed the final film Hidden in the Woods which has created quite a stir with its controversial subject matter and as Rob promised, divided audiences.

Opera (1987) + Yellow [Short]  (2012)

Dario Argento’s Opera was screened in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The film is an unsettling piece that gets under the skin as it deals with themes of superstition and voyeurism. Accompanied by a powerful and breathtaking score composed by Claudio Simonetti and Brian Eno, Opera focuses on a young singer named Betty who becomes nervous when she must take on the role of Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s adaptation. Betty finds herself the target of an obsessed psycho killer who takes pleasure it literally forcing her eyeballs to watch the murder! The scenes are played out as uncomfortable and squirmworthy as Betty and the people around her attempt to unmask the killer! The film’s tone throughout is intense and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, until the ending! The film’s final moments was probably one of the most bizarre transitions of mood ever witnessed, it went from dark and chilling to silly and campy in a matter of minutes and it was as if a different film had been put on! It could be that Argento was attempting to make a comment on the silliness of slasher films where the killer re-emerges at the end after being killed off but it just felt out of place in this instance. Overall Opera is an intriguing, dark horror/thriller that showcases Argento’s trademark visual style, it was screened following a short film titled Yellow which paid homage to giallo sub-genre and demonstrated its appreciation for directors like Argento.

V/H/S (2012)

Found Footage…[Insert Disheartened looking face!]. Mixed reviews circulated this anthology sub-genre offer and to its credit it did have some effective moments but on the whole it was tedious and distracting especially in terms of how it was filmed. It was clear they were going for a “authentic”, “naturalistic” and “amateur” approach but seriously, a person would have to shake a camera so hard in order to achieve what was witnessed on screen, it was far too over the top. V/H/S begins with a group of guys breaking into an abandoned house to steal a specific video tape, upon arrival they are greeted with a corpse and a mountain of tapes to shift through and thus begins 116 minutes of motion sickness style camera work and cliched, expected twists.

The first tale, Amateur Night did have some disturbing moments and visually generated a few scares especially with the demon girl’s appearance, the distorted and uncontrollable effects of an alcohol fueled evening reared its ugly head as the group of guys fear for their lives, this was no doubt probably one of the better segments.

Second Honeymoon featured irritating characters and an odd scene where the husband attempts to force his wife into being filmed sexually following her reluctance, they are then stalked by an unknown entity and what occurs next can only be described as a strange finale to the piece.

Tuesday the 17th was predictable and had the most annoying and unlikeable, cliched characters. In its attempts to be a “fresh” spin on the slasher sub-genre, it came across like a bad Blair Witch spoof showing that the crew were thinking they’re more clever than they actually are.

The film redeemed itself to a degree with The Sick thing that happened to Emily when she was younger, clearly a homage to the Paranormal Activity films was freaky and effective until the final moments which is where it lost direction. The use of the Skype conversations brought in a sense of isolation and helplessness with the idea that the person on the other side of the computer is unable to do anything.

Lastly, 10/31/98 was the better shot segment and featured some creepy imagery. When the characters enter the haunted house and find a young woman tied up and taunted the frightening aspect is they are unable to distinguish whether its fake or not, again it was the cheesy, predictable ending that let it down.

Below is my initial reaction to V/H/S, apologies for the rantiness!

Cell Count (2012) (UK Premiere) + Q&A with Director Todd E. Freeman

This stunning body-horror from Todd E. Freeman showcases how far someone will go for the person that means the most to them. Cell Count incorporates some innovative and interesting imagery as well as a human, thought provoking narrative. The film focuses on Russell Carpenter (Played by Roberts McKeehen), a desperate man who makes the decision to admit his wife Sadie (played by Haley Talbot) into an experimental treatment facility due to her suffering from a life-threatening disease. What follows is the pair find themselves along with six strangers locked in the isolated area where they are unknowingly being used and “treated” with a mystery “cure”, this of course goes horribly wrong and the characters enter a state of fear and panic in their confined environment.

One of the most frightening aspects of Cell Count is the sense of isolation and claustrophobia it creates in its clinical setting. It makes a statement on modern day society and notions of “reality” in popular culture as the characters are constantly being monitored in the facility, the sense of no escape and weakness brings about a startling effect. The closeness of the relationship between Russell and Sadie is powerful and heartbreaking and draws the audience into a state of empathy. Even though the villainous surgeon character isn’t an original concept, he is definitely fun to watch. The special effects are outstanding with realistic looking scars. Tension is created and built up well as its only a matter of time before the scars rip open and carnage is unleashed, these are edge of the seat-worthy moments and the level of gore does not disappoint. What Cell Count has going for it is convincing performances from the leads, unusual imagery, plenty of blood and gore and of course an exploding dog which lightens the tone momentarily!! The cliffhanger ending comes as a surprising twist but Todd E. Freeman promises us a Cell Count 2 where all our questions will be answered. Count me in!

Familiar (2012) (Short)

Familiar was the perfect short to screen following Cell Count, with it’s twisted take on body horror and cynicism. Familiar deals with a middle aged man generically named John who is dissatisfied with his home life and in particular his relationship with his wife. The narrative takes an unconventional approach as it mainly uses John’s voice over in order to convey his twisted thoughts and feelings. As we get an insight into his head, we uncover his most disturbing secrets and how he plans to act on them, matters are made worse when his wife traps him into having another child. Its a dark piece of psychological horror as John plots against her and feeds her tablets in the hope of an abortion! As the story progresses, not all is what it seems and is there more to John’s madness than we initially thought…?? A gory, nasty little surprise awaits!!

The Secret Film: Citadel (2012)

Emotionally-charged Horror doesn’t get any better than Citadel, one of the most moving and frightening Horror films to emerge from the UK in a long time. The nightmare begins when Tommy (Played by Aneurin Barnard) helplessly watches on as his pregnant wife is attacked by a group of youths and is stabbed with a syringe. Tommy is left to care for their baby daughter while suffering with severe agoraphobia. Citadel is an intense portrayal of a young man attempting to overcome his fears. It merges disturbing horror elements with the tone of gritty British cinema and the balance of genres pays off well, making Citadel a fresh, unique offer into British Horror Cinema. Aneurin Barnard carries the film and proves he is an exceptional young actor, his performance is tear-jerking and devastating and he brings a realistic sense of empathy to the role. James Cosmo stars as the Priest, bringing in both aggression and humor as he guides Tommy through his nightmare in a cruel to be kind manner, the supporting cast that include Wunmi Mosaku as Tommy’s potential love interest and Jake Wilson, a mysterious blind kid are also exceptional, the latter character being the most interesting as the plot develops.

The Horror aspects of Citadel were unnerving and the film used sound to its advantage, creating some terrifying and unexpected jump scares, combining those with Tommy’s vulnerability was brutal to watch. The appearance of the demons/youths were freaky however as previously stated, it was the noise that sent shivers down the spine! Director Ciaran Foy loosely based the idea behind Citadel on his own personal experience of suffering with agoraphobia and with his outstanding direction he conveys a real, gritty sense of loneliness and isolation which plays out devastatingly on screen. Citadel makes a profound statement about society and the state of youth culture and the horrendous effects gang violence can have on the mental health of individuals. In my opinion, Citadel was the best film of the entire festival and completely deserved to win best feature film. Its certainly one that will remain in the mind for a long, long time.

Day Three will be on its way very soon….keep your eyeballs peeled!

Hayley Alice Roberts.