Archive for Der Fan Aka. Trance

**Fifth Anniversary Review** Hayley’s Top 10 Favourite Horror Death Scenes Of All Time

Posted in Anniversary Pieces, Ghostface Girls, Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Five years ago I was a film and television student in my first year at University. I decided to start a blog as a side project separate from my studies. It began as a way to express my views on recent films both independent and mainstream that I’d seen from all genres. Naturally, the first review I ever wrote was of Scream 4 (2011) then eventually I made the site completely horror specific and Hayley’s Horror Reviews is what it is today. Several great opportunities have come my way since beginning the blog, including the chance to get to know and review the work of a number of talented filmmakers. I am now very lucky to be writing for the Horror Movie review site LoveHorror.co.uk and working alongside Caitlyn Downs (from Scared Sheepless) on our collaborative project Ghostface Girls where we provide festival video coverage and record podcasts. Our next event will be the UK’s Horror Con in July 2016!

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In previous years my anniversary reviews have covered My Top 10 Horror Films of all time (since 2011 it has more than likely altered!), Urban Legends on screen and behind the scenes, why we watch Horror Films and last year my favorite underrated slashers. This year I’m taking on a countdown of a subject I’m surprised I haven’t covered by now. It’s all about the visual effects as I reveal my personal favorite horror movie death scenes. Death scenes are at the core of horror movies, even if a film might be particularly badly executed sometimes the saving grace can be some good old splatter. On the opposite end of the spectrum sometimes it’s what you don’t see and what’s implied that can really get under the skin. There’s also nothing more heart-breaking for a horror fan than when one of your favorite characters is hacked to pieces leading to emotional trauma!

Here are my top Horror Movie death scenes of all time! Remember folks, as always its subjective.

There will be spoilers, so get that TV on if you haven’t seen any or some of these films and come back to this article.

**WARNING** This Article will include blood, guts, gore and strong language. Not for the faint-hearted! 

Comment below if you agree or disagree with my choices or tweet me on @Hayleyr1989.

10. Final Destination (2000): Terry Chaney is splattered by a bus!

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To kick things off is a death scene so quick and unexpected it’s pure brilliance! This moment marked the beginning of the darkly twisted sense of humour in the Final Destination franchise. Up until this point Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his friends have survived a harrowing plane crash and are grieving over the apparent “suicide” of best friend Tod (Chad Donella) whose brother died on Flight 180. Both scenes deliver a suspenseful build up with gruesome results. This moment however takes place in the middle of the day, Alex and love interest Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) are trying to figure out death’s design. Enter rival Carter (Kerr Smith) and girlfriend Terry (Amanda Detmer). Carter is convinced that Alex is to blame for the deaths of the plane victims as well as Tod but he soon gets more than he bargained for! While antagonizing Alex, his long-suffering girlfriend finally snaps. In an ironic speech, Terry speaks about never wasting another second of her life and states Carter should have better things to do than fight with Alex. She then utters the immortal lines of “you can just drop fucking dead!”. Backing into the road Terry is hit by an incoming bus and the remaining survivors recoil in horror as her blood splatters on their faces. It’s the twisted irony of this scene that makes it surprising and thrilling letting the audience know that anyone can go at any time by any means.

9. Zombie Flesh Eaters (AKA. Zombi 2) (1979): Eye Splinter Scene

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Even without context the eye splinter scene from Lucio Fulci’s notorious ‘video nasty’ Zombie Flesh Eaters is an iconic cinematic moment in horror. The scene is so sqiurmworthy as you (literally!) see it coming a mile off but it doesn’t let up on the suspense. Paola, the wife of Richard Johnson’s character Dr. David Menard is alone in the house when a zombie breaks in. Actress Olga Karlatos displays a genuine look of horror as her vulnerable character attempts to bombard the Zombie from entering the house. Unluckily for her she is dragged through the door and impaled right through the eye with a piece of splintered wood. Her eye is pierced right through in a masterful visual effect, we see the eye squelched and the object penetrate right through her skull!  The moment sets the tone for the carnage to come making it one of Italian Horror’s nastiest kills.

8. I Spit on Your Grave (1978): Blood Bath

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The second video nasty on this list. I Spit on Your Grave is unapologetically exploitative cinema centering on the brutal, unrelenting rape of a young woman. Aspiring writer Jennifer (Camille Keating) retreats to the backwoods as she works on her novel, but she is horrifically brutalized and gang-raped by a group of local men. However, it wouldn’t be a rape-revenge film without a nasty dose of payback! After some time has passed Jennifer is back tougher and stronger than ever as she sets about to seek vengeance on her attackers. In one of the film’s most gruesome scenes Jennifer lures ring leader Johnny (Eron Tabor) into her car, inviting him around for some wet, and bubbly fun…or so he thinks! Jennifer hides a knife under the bath mat and as she begins to seduce Johnny when he least expects it she takes a knife to his most sensitive area!! It takes him a few moments to comprehend what’s happening while Jennifer leaves him there to bleed to death. She proceeds to lock him in the bath room and makes her way downstairs while Johnny yells that he can’t stop the bleeding. She drowns his screams out with a nice bit of classical music. The scene is particularly disturbing as Jennifer allows herself to be in a sexual situation with her rapist. Johnny completely goes along with it showing what a horrendous character he really is. It’s so well executed and unsettling, making ‘blood bath’ from I Spit on Your Grave one of cinemas best revenge death scenes of all time.

7. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987): Welcome to Prime Time Bitch!

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There are many inventive death scenes in the most highly regarded Elm Street Sequel Dream Warriors but this one had to be selected as it captures Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) darkly menacing, twisted sense of humor. While the Puppet Master moment and Needle fingers sequence are exceptionally creative and unique death scenes it’s difficult to overlook fame-seeking Jennifer’s (Penelope Sudrow) TV demise. This moment is fourth wall breaking and surreal as Freddy possesses the television, manifesting himself onto a late night talk show. The television turns static encouraging Jennifer to approach it. In a crazy visual effect mechanical arms emerge from the sides of the television, clutching Jennifer. Freddy materializes from the top of the television set sprouting antennas. He then smashes her skull through the television set uttering the iconic line “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”. The Elm Street franchise is known for its elaborate and creative death scenes that are more entertaining than a man in a mask just slashing with a knife. This scene is a solid example of how the franchise utilizes its special effects accompanied with quirky dialogue enhancing that when it comes down to Freddy Krueger anything is literally possible!

6. The Burning (1981): We’ve found our canoe!

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The Burning appeared on my list last year as one of my favorite underrated slasher films. It centers on a scorned caretaker who seeks revenge on the inhabitants of a summer camp where he suffered a horrific accident several years previous. It’s under the radar due to the success of Friday the 13th (1980) but then became infamous in the UK once it appeared on the Video Nasties list, and this death scene is the reason why! Tom Savini’s sensational gory FX during this scene cemented The Burning as being one of the first to receive it’s ‘video nasty’ reputation. A few of the camper’s head down the lake on a makeshift raft in order to fetch their canoe back. The typical teenagers argue while rowing but become excitable as they get nearer to the abandoned canoe. The scene is set up well using a sense of dread as they become closer and closer. No matter how many times you watch it and are aware what lies ahead it’s still shocking as the killer Cropsy (Lou David) appears from the canoe with his shears and the bloody massacre commences! This moment of the film features the image that appeared on the iconic cover art of Cropsy’s silhouette holding up the shears. It’s pretty harrowing as unlike the majority of slasher films the teenagers cast in the film genuinely look their age rather than having 25-year-old’s playing a 16-year-old’s. The fact that it takes place in broad daylight in an idyllic location makes this deadly moment even more horrific.

5. Hellraiser (1987): Jesus Wept

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This scene is one of my earliest, goriest cinematic memories and has made the list for being downright gruesome. At a young age this was one of the coolest death scenes in horror that I’d ever seen. It’s time for Uncle Frank (Sean Chapman) to get his just desserts at the hands of the Cenobites. Wearing the meat suit of his brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) he attempts to kill niece Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) in the attic but thankfully (as thankful as it gets in a horror movie situation!) Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his demons appear ready to drag Frank’s damaged soul directly back to hell. Pinhead promised he had “such sights to show” us and this unrelentingly proved what the Cenobites were capable of. There’s an otherworldly presence to the scene with the bell chime ringing and the mist surrounding the attic. Hellraiser was famed for its dynamic make up effects, with Pinhead’s appearance making him an intriguing horror villain; but it’s Frank’s demise that is as grizzly and gory as it gets. As he raises a blade to Kirsty he is stopped in his tracks with a hook through the hand, chaining him to the Cenobites world forever. Hooks pierce his skin, tearing his face. As Kirsty recoils in sheer disgust Frank says “Jesus Wept” before being ripped apart, with blood and guts galore!

4. Inbred (2011): Dwight’s Dirrrrty Death!

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Over the past five years Inbred has become one of my favorite horror films. One of the several reasons is due to its creatively nasty death scenes. It stands out in what it does, with strong character development allowing the audience to empathize with its protagonists, as well as a twisted sense of tongue in cheek humor that equally puts us on the side of the villains. It’s somewhat of a black comedy but goes right for the jugular with a set of cruel and mean spirited methods of bumping off its victims. The warped villagers of Mortlake attend a show put on by local landlord Jim (Seamus O’Neill). Having already killed off one of the young lads involving vegetables and a horse, this time the Inbred’s capture Dwight (Chris Waller), the remaining protector of the group. Sacrificing himself for the safety of his care worker and fellow youth offenders, Dwight is subjected to a rather dirrrrrrty demise! Tied to a chair and forced to wear a wig, he is cruelly tormented by a man resembling a droog from A Clockwork Orange (1971) who proceeds to empty a hosepipe of shit down Dwight’s throat until he explodes all over the unusual members of the audience! It needs to be seen to be believed but commended for its use of old school FX over CGI giving us an old school backwoods bloodbath!

3. Der Fan (AKA. Trance) (1982): Killer Obsession

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Der Fan is a film I’ve mentioned a bunch of times on the site. An undiscovered gem that screened at Celluloid Screams in 2013, Der Fan enters unexpected territory with an unforgettable and bizarrely crafted death scene. A German Exploitation film, it pushed the boundaries with its female lead being played by a 16-year-old. Household name Desiree Nobuch of Radio Luxenburg fame played psycho fan Simone and did full frontal nudity in the film as well as acted out a scene of murder and cannibalism which certainly would not be done in cinema today! Simone sleeps with R (Bodo Steiger), a Gary Numan inspired pop star who she’s absolutely obsessed with. When reality bites and Simone becomes another used fan girl to R what happens next is completely out of the left field. In my original review I described it as one of the most “chilling and extreme” deaths in cinema. It’s lengthy, horrific, controversial and unsettling leaving the viewer feeling grubby once the credits roll, making it feel like a completely different film from the one that started. This is one I won’t spoil for you however if you’ve already had the experience of watching this underrated exploitation check out my original review.

2.Scream 2 (1997): Randy Meeks Death Scene

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Master team Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson taught us no one was safe in their iconic slasher-revival Scream. When Drew Barrymoore is killed off in the opening moments of a film it’s guaranteed that anything can happen! Scream 2 is the strongest sequel in the franchise as it raised the stakes. There are so many excellent set pieces in the entire film from the cinema slashing’s at the beginning to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s brutal demise being stabbed in the back and thrown out of a window; however, the death that really cuts close to the bone is that of Jamie Kennedy’s popular character Randy Meeks. Self-confessed “movie buff” Randy survived Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher’s (Matthew Lillard) reign of terror in the first installment closely following the horror movie survival rules. But even he knows that he could be disposable as a new Ghostface stalks the campus of Windsor College. Randy’s death scene is well executed and unexpected. The most shocking aspect is that unlike the previous deaths this one takes place in broad daylight. He is pulled into Gale’s (Courtney Cox) news van and stabbed repeatedly. It’s horrific as it goes unnoticed by crowds of people on the campus. The camera focuses on the van’s wing mirror as Randy is brutally killed, a group of students unknowingly walk by with a boom box drowning out his screams of pain! His bloodied face is then revealed. It’s tragic and heart-breaking as he never does get the girl and is a missing presence from the dynamics of the core characters. It’s certain that it’s Mrs Loomis (Laurie Metcalf) who murders Randy as she viciously attacks him for speaking “poorly” of her delightful son Billy in an act of revenge. The most ironic element of Randy’s death is because he knows the rules of a horror movie inside and out the killer cleverly catches him at the most unexpected moment and doesn’t wait until dark. Craven and Williamson kept the franchise fresh with surprises like this!

  1. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997): Death of the Beauty Queen 

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What sets I Know What You Did Last Summer apart from its slasher counterparts is the well written and well-acted main characters. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a tragic performance as Helen Shivers, the former Beauty Queen who loses her future after being involved in a hit and run and an ill thought out cover-up. After she witnesses the murder of her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Phillippe) at the hands of the psychotic fisherman; the police do next to nothing to help her. Helen’s death scene is harrowing as she almost makes it to safety. There’s a slow-paced build-up of tension from escaping a crashed police car to running for her life and hiding out in her sister’s store; Helen fights for survival. Her death isn’t shown explicitly but is incredibly effective and atmospheric set to a chilling score composed by John Debney. Helen falls from the stores window but then finds an alleyway leading to the 4th July Summer parade. Fireworks blast into the air and there’s a sense of relief; albeit momentarily, Helen then approaches the parade but becomes distracted and looks behind her. She is then face to face with the evil fisherman and slashed with his sharp hook amongst a stack of tires. There’s quick cuts, flashing lights and the sound of screams but one thing is certain, the true heroine of the film has met her demise. Helen’s body is later discovered by traumatized best friend Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) on the fisherman’s boat officially confirming there is no return for her within future films in the series. It’s Gellar’s helpless performance as the doomed young woman that hits hard with emotional impact. As sad as the scene is it’s essential to the progression of the film as many fans agree if Julie had been the one to meet her maker it wouldn’t have achieved the same upsetting impact. Helen’s death goes to show that you don’t need to go gory to execute an effective and gut-wrenching death scene.

As always thank you for reading and supporting Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

….

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Festival’s Top Feature Films.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Celluloid Screams once again delivered an outstanding festival bringing us the latest and best within the genre. 2013 marked my third visit to Sheffield’s Horror festival and the quality in all aspects from the organization to the films themselves have been fantastic and that’s the reason I will continue attending for plenty more thrills and chills, blood and gore every October. This year my partner in crime Caitlyn Downs attended with me for the first time in order to provide daily coverage on the film’s shown and general festival going’s on. Unfortunately due to the busy nature of the festival and the charge of WiFi in the hotel we were unable to edit on the go therefore the videos recorded will be uploaded to my Youtube Channel over this next week.

There was so much great high amongst the features this year, so it has been a difficult task narrowing down my absolute favourite pick. From the Backwoods to the Revenge Flick, Body Horror to the Psychological Thriller, Zombies to Vampires this year’s programme provided a wide range of features that meant there was something on offer for everyone. Each film had its own characteristics that made them an incredible and welcome entry into modern horror. Also, some older films were shown adding to the variety. Some would argue that it would be unfair to include them within the top list of movies from Celluloid Screams, however as I had not seen any of them prior to the festival, I think they deserve a worthy mention and will be included. Overall I have complied a list of the nine best films I discovered this year.

So, my gore-freaks, let’s indulge in a list of ghoulishly good films that made Celluloid Screams 2013 a memorable weekend!

Please note that these are the opinions of Hayley’s Horror Reviews and do not reflect the overall audience vote in relation to the winning films of the festival.

9. The Battery

  • Directed by Jeremy Gardner
  • USA

For what it is, The Battery achieves what it sets out to do. Its a character driven piece that uses the zombie metaphor as a social commentary. Interestingly, the zombies remain firmly in the background as the audience explore these two characters who provide the main focus. We were informed during the introduction, that the title derives from the Baseball term that describes the relationship between the catcher and the pitcher. In another sense The Battery is a road movie as we step into the world of two ex-baseball players Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) as they aimlessly drive around a desolate New England avoiding shuffling corpses that now walk the earth. Ben and Mickey contrast each other greatly as characters. Ben is the type who will take action and fight for survival when presented with danger. Mickey on the other hand struggles to accept the change in their environment which creates a compelling dynamic between the two leaving the audience wondering if these two guys can really make it out alive together in the long run.

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The framing of the characters with wide spaces between them helped convey their differences well and create the feeling of isolation. The relationship between Ben and Mickey is the film’s strongest element however the reason it’s so low on my list is because there were a couple of filmic decisions that didn’t quite zombie-fy me, so to speak! The main problem with The Battery is the pacing, its understandable that Gardner had a clear idea of what he wanted; to create this slow-burning sense of reality however it just dragged the film out longer than was necessary. At times it lacked atmosphere then something would happen that would pull it back up again but then it would return to a slow pace. The slow-pacing was also accompanied by several montage sequences which came across like an advertisement for promoting bands and turned the film into what seemed like an extended music video.

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However, what made The Battery stand out was its ability to take expected zombie-movie tropes and completely subvert them, adding to that sense of realism, as in  how the situation would play out in real life. A portion of the film sees Mickey discover there could be others out there, bringing in hope following an accidental radio transmission. Naturally it would be expected to have the two characters join a community made up of existing survivors, however The Battery plays this out in an interesting way. Another interesting aspect was how the characters wouldn’t go searching for a fight, they’d deal with it if approached by the zombies. We were also informed The Battery had been a low-budget film, the quality of the sound was sharp and the cinematography was flawless, demonstrating that because something may be low budget does not mean it can’t look and sound professional. The Battery incorporated strong performances and offered something a bit different in a sub-genre that has been over done, although would have been more favourable if it had been edited down slightly in terms of its run-time. ★★★

8. Motivational Growth

  • Directed by Don Thacker
  • USA

An interesting choice for the opening film, Motivational Growth is a hallucinogenic, horror, comedy movie that features the voicing talents of recurring genre stalwart Jeffrey Combs voicing a talking mold. With a quirky premise, Motivational Growth has a lot of promise. The film follows Ian Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni), an introvert who hasn’t left his untidy apartment for a few months. Letting himself go, he only has an old-fashioned television, who he names Kent for company. Soon, he meets a grotty piece of mold on his bathroom wall. But this mold has some obscure intentions. The Mold begins acting as a motivational life coach for Ian, encouraging him to turn his life around but soon Ian begins to suspect that there’s more to The Mold’s intentions than he first thought.

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Motivational Growth is a strange, surrealist piece. It has the makings of an out of the box indie style film, it also includes some video game sequences that prove pretty inventive. The set design is brilliant and it does well in terms of breaking down the fourth wall. It makes a commentary on the repetitive nature of television as well as the power that television has to manipulate its viewers, this is demonstrated in a series of moments where Ian starts to think the television is talking directly to him. It also conveyed society’s obsession with exercise during some humorous television scenes, relating back to 80’s films when exercise videos began emerging. My only criticism would be that the narrative proved difficult to follow at times, making for a confusing watch, therefore it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Echoing films such as Basket Case and even Little Shop of Horrors, Motivational Growth will appeal to those who enjoy talking monster movies. It’s well-acted with believable chemistry between Adrian Giovanni and Jeffrey Combs talking mold as well as Adrian’s scenes with love interest Leah (Danielle Doetsch). It has entertaining moments with very out there humour and sequences. ★★★

7. Basket Case

  • Directed by Frank Henenlotter
  • USA

Celluloid Screams special guest this year was Frank Henenlotter who was in attendance to introduce his films Basket Case,  Basket Case 2 and Frankenhooker as well as celebrate his contribution to Horror Cinema. As Basket Case was a film I hadn’t previously seen, I felt it deserved a mention in my top festival films for its sheer brilliance. Basket Case is an exploitation film meets body horror, the slasher and the monster movie all rolled into one. It follows the story of Duane Bradley, a young man who checks into a sleazy hotel in New York carrying a basket of all things. To the horror of those around him, little do they know that the contents of the mystery basket is his grotesquely deformed twin brother Belial who was separated from him as a child by some calculating doctors leaving him for dead. Now Belail and Duane are out for revenge on them. A complication arises when Duane begins dating a doctor’s receptionist causing Belail to become very jealous and destroy anything that comes in his path.

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Belail becomes out of control, which threatens their quest for vengeance. Basket Case is an entertaining and often gory look at the complications between being so close to someone as well as being somewhat of a burden. Belail appears hideous on the surface but there is a great deal of empathy for him as he did not choose to be that way. Basket Case contains a lot of black humour and a seedy setting, making it the perfect late night movie. Belail has remained a memorable horror monster and the film has put its influential stamp on the genre with inspiring later films such as the previously discussed Motivational Growth. ★★★★

6. Der Fan (Aka. Trance)

  • Directed by Eckhart Schmidt
  • West Germany

Kier-La Janisse, author of The House of Psychotic Women introduced Der Fan (UK title Trance) a self-confessed favourite film of her’s. Providing the audience with some background information, Der Fan comes with a controversial history in cinema as a whole. Actress Desiree Nosbuch who plays the lead role of Simone was already a household name in Germany through appearing on Radio Luxenburg at the young age of twelve. She was around sixteen when shooting Der Fan and did full frontal nudity as well as performed scenes of chilling violence which would not be welcome in cinema today for someone of that age. Seedy exploitation or art film? Whatever you may view it as Der Fan remains to have a relevant commentary on the obsession with media figures, in this case the pop star.

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Simone’s world surrounds a new wave pop star known as ‘R’, she carries a deep obsession for him and writes endless fan letters declaring her love. Each day she gets into an altercation with the post man when she receives nothing back from her idol. Determined to take matters into her own hands, she seeks out ‘R’ for herself outside a television studio. He instantly takes a liking to her, inviting her into his dressing room and to the rehearsal of his show. R comes across as very bland and uncharismatic, he is a puppet of the music industry and a projected image which is far from the reality of who he really is. Much to his entourage’s dismay he leaves without revealing his next move and takes Simone back to a friend’s apartment in which he has the keys for. After what seems like a long, drawn out sex scene, R rejects Simone, crushing all her fantasies of a life with him. Following what feels like a sleazy, low budget 80’s drama/thriller, the next sequence of the film came unexpectedly and could be considered one of the most chilling and extreme death scenes within cinema. Simone bludgeons R to death with a statue, then carves up his body and places his dismembered parts in the freezer. It doesn’t end there, we next see Simone cooking R, then eating him piece by piece. She grinds his bones into ash and scatters him outside the same television studio. When a bulletin emerges on the news as a shaven-headed Simone returns to her parents home, reporting the mysterious disappearance of R, Simone eerily writes him his last fan letter stating he’ll always be a part of her (literally!) and that she missed her period!

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Desiree Nosbuch gives one of the most disturbing performances in horror movie history, the nature of the crime she commits is beyond shocking especially for the age of the character. Its a film that will be long-lasting in the mind for taking such a U-turn in direction. The version screened was an English dub which sounded stereotypically British, providing unintentional laughs, also the violence up until the dismembering sequence came across as pretty tame comparatively to today’s standards. What’s even more startling about the film is it has the potential to be remade today especially surrounding the hysteria and fan obsession of boy band One Direction, where some teenage females actually believe they will one day become the girlfriend the band members. Even with the use of Twitter nowadays it has the potential to up the ante. Definitely glad I had the opportunity to see this as it was a complex character study in obsessive behaviour and very underrated. ★★★★

5. Discopath

  • Directed by Renaud Gauthier
  • Canada

Celluloid Screams could not have chosen a better closing film. With its tongue firmly in cheek, Discopath pays homage to 1970’s exploitation as well as incorporating fragments of the slasher film in order to create an upbeat, funky, splatter-fest! Duane Lewis is a quiet young man who keeps himself to himself, until the summer of 1976 in New York when he is exposed to a new infectious music genre…Disco! A style of music that brings back memories of a traumatic past! Unable to keep control of his psychotic impulses he begins to kill! Its certainly murder on the dancefloor! Duane subsequently escapes to Montreal where he continues to carry out his murderous rampage on a Catholic girls school.

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Think Saturday Night Fever meets grindhouse cinema. Director Renaud Gauthier captures the essence of the 70’s well, bringing in a catchy soundtrack full of disco fun including KISS’s ‘I was made for loving you’ and retro costumes spinning us with pure 70’s flare. Discopath is a definite crowd-pleaser and the feel-good horror movie. Its campy and retro and there’s plenty to enjoy, from the unintentional comedy that grindhouse films often displayed, to the thrill of wondering if Duane’s murder spree will be put to an end. Its sleazy, fun and infectious. I can guarantee this film will put a smile on your face!  ★★★★

4. Chimeres (UK Premiere)

  • Directed by Oliver Beguin
  • Switzerland

Chimeres ended up being one of those absolute gems where you go into the cinema blind just knowing its a vampire movie you’re about to see and being completely stunned by how great it turned out. Chimeres cleverly introduces the audience to its protagonists before bringing in the horror angle. Its a love story but works well as it allows the viewer to get a sense of what Alex (Yannick Rosset) and Livia (Jasna Kohoutova) relationship has been like over the years. There’s a believable chemistry between the actors creating  characters that can be imagined in real life. The film kicks off when Alex, a talented photographer is involved in a devastating car accident following a romantic evening with Livia. He is immediately rushed to hospital in Romania (Livia’s place of birth) for an emergency blood transfusion. When the couple return home, Alex soon experiences some physiological changes and slowly transforms into a Vampire. The vampire metaphor is in place to depict the change in their relationship and how Livia must adapt to her lover’s new way of being, suggesting the notion, how far would you go for someone you love?

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Introducing the Vampire aspect after establishing the love story is an inventive and clever choice, separating Chimeres from all the Twilight films and others of that style. Chimeres works as a dark, intense and intimate piece. It incorporates some stunning visual effects especially when Alex sees the changes in him through the bathroom mirror. These scenes demonstrate Alex’s polar opposites, we see him as his normal self then as a blood-soaked fiend. Oliver Beguin admitted he made the decision to expand on vampire lore and bring in some of his own ideas which sets it apart in its own right. Having Alex get the vampire curse from a transfusion rather than bitten by another vampire brought in a different dynamic, yet there were also conventions in place such as fear of sunlight. There’s a rawness to the film which draws the audience in to these characters lives. There’s plenty of blood and sex which is essential when it comes down to the vampire sub-genre. The sex scene itself came across as powerful and animalistic but was shot tastefully and added to the intensity. Livia is an empowering female character, there is a lot of focus on her being a kick boxer, demonstrating she can handle herself. Its finally refreshing to see a heroine that can be vulnerable and strong at the same time. There’s a scene where the couple are attacked by a group of thugs and in a turn of events Livia is the one to pull the first punch. So more Buffy less Bella which is what fans of these movies want to see. Catriona McColl plays a small role as Alex’s mother, she’s a fantastic actress and brings in a strong screen presence.

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Chimeres is the best vampire film I’ve seen in a long time. It has everything this type of film should have, its emotional, romantic, passionate, gory and well-acted. It came so close to becoming one of the top films I’d seen at Celluloid Screams and I can’t wait to re-visit it again at the Abertoir festival next week. ★★★★

3. Big Bad Wolves

  • Directed By Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
  • Israel

Big Bad Wolves isn’t something that should be taken lightly. The film tells the story of a series of horrific child murders within a community in Israel. A sick, twisted paedophile has abused and murdered innocent young girls and left their bodies behind for the police to uncover with their heads missing. One father and a police officer take matters into their own hands when their worlds collide on the hunt for the supposed paedophile. The father locks him up in his basement with the sole intention of torturing him into admitting where he has buried his daughter’s head. I had my reservations before viewing this, the subject matter is usually far too upsetting for me to handle however I’d heard very positive things about Big Bad Wolves and made the decision to give it a chance but if it became too much I’d leave the cinema. Surprisingly I stayed until the brutal end and was blown away by how phenomenal the film really is.

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The most interesting aspect of it was how it blended in genres within the backdrop of the harrowing subject matter. Big Bad Wolves is a psychological thriller and features some well-crafted torture scenes but the most surprising element was the use of black comedy that actually worked very well. In a sense it made the film more bearable when things became intense. There was much empathy for the father character as even though he transitioned between bumbling and tough guy, it showed how human he was. He was just a regular guy who had the most precious thing in his life taken away from him so cruelly. Tension was built up incredibly well as random real life interruptions including taking a phone call ensured that it would be a long period of endurance as to if and when the father and the audience will discover the truth. Plenty of twist and turns concluded the film in an exceptionally chilling manner that will be difficult to forget. Another interesting angle in Big Bad Wolves was the hints of racial tensions in Israel with the Arab community, which ends up being more vital to the main plot than first expected.

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The score was beautiful and heightened the emotion throughout. Big Bad Wolves is one of the most powerful films I’ve ever witnessed with a harrowing on-screen portrayal of an issue prominent in society, yet is difficult to talk about at the same time. I suppose this is why these kind of films are made to give an insight into the complexities of dealing with the horror of paedophilia and the protection of children but also demonstrates that taking justice into your own hands will end in messy consequences. The film wasn’t gratuitous by any means, it carefully dealt with the nasty stuff with a quick shot of the murdered little girl from an angle and only used a description of the evil methods of the supposed paedophile which was graphic enough. The torture scenes themselves were shot in a way that put the audience on edge, almost wanting to look away without being too exploitative. Big Bad Wolves deserves a lot of credit as a whole from dealing sensitively enough with the prospect of child murder and creating a unique piece that combines genres that wouldn’t usually work well together, the entire cast gave exceptional performances, which made for a compelling watch. It will be long-lasting in the mind but I do highly recommend it. There’s no surprise that it won best feature film of the festival. ★★★★★

2. Painless (Aka. Insensibles)

  • Directed by Juan Carlos Medina
  • Spain

Painless is a deep and harrowing portrayal of how a country has been impacted by a long dictatorship and the mistakes of the generations before them. Painless operates as a psychological and historical horror with the genre firmly in place as a metaphor. The title Painless is ironic in its own way as what the characters go through is incredibly painful to watch. Set between the past and present, Painless focuses on David, a neurosurgeon/workaholic who survives a horrific car accident that kills his pregnant wife. He soon discovers that he has an aggressive form of cancer which can be operated on with a bone marrow transplant. When visiting his parents it is revealed that David was in fact adopted and must seek the truth about his biological parents before its too late.

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During the 1930’s a group of children born with a rare condition enabling them not to feel pain are locked away allegedly for their own safety during the height of the Spanish Civil War, David must uncover the tragic truth of their fates while coming to terms with his own impending death. With two narratives running alongside each other, the film takes its time to tell both of them, making it run fluidly. With a haunting tone, it really sits with the viewer on how the past can still affect an entire country, there is a consistent theme of fire throughout which heightens the tensions of the fascist regime and its effect on Spanish society. With a beautifully poignant ending, Painless is a phenomenal debut from Director Juan Carlos Medina, who has presented a well-crafted, chillingly thought-provoking piece that combines stunning cinematography and flawless editing. ★★★★★

1. Jug Face

  • Directed By Chad Crawford Kinkle
  • USA

Jug Face is unlike any other backwoods film. Sure, comparisons can be drawn with other films with similar themes such as Rosemary’s Baby or any cult related movies but Jug Face does stand out on its own. The film opens with several pastel drawings conveying the community’s mythology and the significance of the Jug Face as well as their worship of a muddy hole in the ground known as ‘The Pit’ which feels like a character of its own during the film as well as the main threat. This sequence emphasizes the power of film as a visual means of story-telling as the it does not rely on exposition at any point following the opening moments. The pastel drawings also convey a childlike tone which hints at the simplistic way of living for these kind of backwoods community. We then meet a young girl Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) who appears to be living life by her own rules. She has sex behind her parents back which ultimately results in an unplanned pregnancy. Her family have arranged for her to be ‘joined’ with another local boy much to her dismay. Her closest confidant is a man called Dawai (Sean Bridges) who has a special ability to see and create the jug face, that is made to resemble a member of the community who will be sacrificed to the pit. Ada stumbles upon the latest jug and to her horror discovers she will be next, before her family and neighbours can discover the truth, Ada hides the jug face which leads to a series of tragic events that spiral out of her control. Chad Crawford Kinkle explained in the Q&A that he became inspired after discovering the jug face was part of a Southern tradition and developed the idea from there, with this film, he certainly offers something a bit different to the usual fare from this horror sub-genre.

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The film tackles complicated family dynamics. The community is particularly male-centric, indicating that traditionally the woman’s role is to be a wife and mother. The idea that they are willing to sacrifice their own children is savage. It also deals with taboo subjects such as incest, which is rarely portrayed as boldly as it is in this. Jug Face evokes very interesting ideas about belief systems and the disturbing nature of how people believe they are doing something good by murdering. The performances are of a high quality, Lauren Ashley Carter carries the film beautifully, she portrays Ada as innocent and naive yet devious at times as she let’s the brutal fates of others happen to save her own skin. Even so, at the same time she is caring especially toward her friend Dawai and her elderly Grandpa and seems to be the only one who looks after him. Sean Bridges proves how versatile an actor he is as the kind-hearted Dawai who would willingly give up his own life in order to save Ada, its a stark contrast from the twisted, chilling suburban Father he played in The Woman. He and Lauren Ashley Carter display believable on-screen chemistry. Both Sean Young and Larry Fessenden also give outstanding performances as the parents struck by grief and loyalty to their beliefs. Sean Young as the mother delivers powerful yet disturbing moments in her scenes with Ada when their ideals begin to break down due to Ada’s actions. Jug Face is incredibly suspenseful as it puts the audience on the edge of the seat in a guessing game of what twists and turns will come next. It also has a supernatural element which compliments the backwoods drama well. The gore effects are interesting and prove effective without having to be extreme, the rapid editing used when depicting how the pit consumes its victims is presented in an innovative and clever way, which almost comes across as hallucinogenic.

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Jug Face is unique and a refreshing take on cult mentality and all the devastation it can bring on a small group of people. Lucky McGee had a small role as executive producer and his style and essence is most definitely present within the film. With clear direction, a well paced narrative, impressive performances and plenty of suspenseful moments its the reason Jug Face had to take the number one spot on this list. It’s one that certainly works on a deep, psychological level and isn’t afraid to be daring. ★★★★★

COMING SOON:

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Festival’s Top Short Films

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