Archive for Mattie Do

Celluloid Screams 2016: Dearest Sister Review

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Dearest Sister (Nong Hak) is the second feature film from Lao Director Mattie Do following on from 2013’s Chanthaly. Mattie’s work is groundbreaking for several reasons; firstly Laos has a very small film production with only 13 films to this date being produced in the country. Secondly, Mattie is the only female director to have made horror movies in Laos and faced creative restrictions in how much graphic imagery she could visualize on screen which include both gore and scenes of intimacy between actors. With a strong crowd funding campaign behind her courtesy of Indie Go Go, Dearest Sister proved to be a passionate project and has resulted in a potential trilogy of films focusing on the characterization of women in Laos.

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Starring Amphaiphun Phommapunya in her third on screen role, her debut being ChanthalyDearest Sister centers on Nok, a young village girl who travels to Laos capital city Vientiane to care for her visually impaired cousin Ana (Vilouna Phetmany). Ana faces vulnerability and confusion as her sight begins to fail her. She then develops a paranormal ability to communicate with the dead which Nok uses to her own advantage.
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Dearest Sister is an intriguing character study of female hierarchy and the place of women within their own society and culture. It depicts Ana, the wealthy housewife who’s status was achieved through marriage to an Estonian man. Her role is complex due to being looked down on by her peers and detested by her servants. Nok is portrayed as coming from a poor village however through her familial association with Ana she is again met with resentment from the maids. Instructed by Ana’s strict husband Jakob, Nok is to care for Ana but is permitted from partaking in domestic housework. The dynamics shift throughout the film which adds to the compelling drama. Amphaiphun Phommapunya who previously played a more empathetic part in Chanthaly is given a edgier role this time around, she’s an untrustworthy protagonist. Nok isn’t necessarily bad however her poor upbringing and experience of a higher class in her cousin’s home motivates her to look out for herself financially which results in her using Ana’s “gift” for her own gain. The film’s underbelly is layered with the ghostly subtext and Mattie presents the idea of a spiritual world with subtly. The idea of fear and an otherworldly presence is created through the atmosphere coming across as genuinely spine chilling rather than using the obvious jump scares tactics.
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 The film offers up something different in comparison to any genre film on the circuit this year as well as any female fronted horror film that has emerged during 2016. You won’t find Lottery ghosts anywhere else! Dearest Sister is an authentic portrayal of Lao culture amidst a horror subtext. It’s cinematography is beautifully composed, the characters are compelling to watch aided by strong performances by the cast, namely Amphaiphun Phommapunya and Vilouna Phetmany in the leading roles, there’s a naturalistic quality about them. Mattie Do is setting the standard for Lao horror and Lao filmmaking and is a director to look out for.
The Ghostface Girls interviewed Mattie Do and Producer Annick Mahnert at Celluloid Screams here.
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Dearest Sister will screen at the Abertoir Horror Festival in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre  on Thursday the 17th November at 12:00pm.
Hayley Alice Roberts
Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

**Horror News, End of June**

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals, Love Horror, Press Release, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As we approach the end of the month in the dark depths of the horror world, two pieces of news have emerged today on some upcoming projects that are sure to ignite discussion amongst the community.

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Firstly, Child’s Play creator Don Mancini has announced he will be working on his seventh instalment from the killer doll franchise. Teasing ideas surrounding the potential plot line, Mancini plans to continue taking Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) down his original horror roots rather than the comedy angle that was taken in 1998’s cult classic Bride of Chucky or 2004’s less successful offering Seed of Chucky.

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The slash-worthy, seventh sequel will kick off where last year’s surprise success Curse of Chucky (2013) left off, the iconic Chucky will return to torment his new nemesis Nica, meaning Fiona Dourif will be reprising her role once again. Proving to be a resourceful and determined ‘final girl type’, Nica’s return is a welcome one. Mancini was also questioned on whether Jennifer Tilly (Chucky’s Bride, Tiffany) or Alex Vincent (Andy Barclay from the original trilogy) will be included in the film, considering Curse’s ending featured a cameo and hints towards them both, however at this stage he claims its early days to discuss any further but left fans up in the air by announcing ‘Who Knows’?

The latest piece of genre info that emerged today isn’t one I’m particularly looking forward to. So, we’re due another remake of an unforgettable Japanese shocker? That’s right, Takashi Miike’s quietly brutal 1999 film Audition is getting a US make over. The Asia Extreme frightmare was one of the most suspenseful and gritty horror movies of the decade, but sources say that the remake is actually an adaptation of the 1997 Ryu Murakami  novel that Miike’s version was based upon. Australian director Richard Gray is on board and will be writing his own screenplay for the upcoming feature.

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According to The Guardian, the Hollywood remake will focus on a lonely man named Sam Davis who is encouraged by a filmmaker friend to hold auditions for a new wife following the death of his first, seven years prior. Sam meets an enigmatic ballerina with a past just as mysterious, but is she all she seems? Fans of Miike’s violent, spine-tingling chiller will be aware of the dark depths the plot takes. Audition, has never needed the remake treatment, being a clever yet disturbing film all on its own.  Whether it will be successful, who knows? I personally suggest, Get your own ideas Hollywood!

During my write-up of last year’s Abertoir Horror Festival, I discussed a cultural, game-changer from Laos. Mattie Do is the first female director from her country and not only that she created the first horror film there too. Chanthaly was a hauntingly beautiful, supernatural tale about a young woman coming to terms with her mother’s death during childhood, searching for answers to questions unanswered by her strict father.  Do faced restrictions within her culture regarding  imagery she could include within the film (Laos is a communist country), therefore no scenes of gore or intimacy of any kind.

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Following a fantastic response to the film, she is now planning her second, Nong Hak which translates to Dearest Sister, Do has campaigned via indie-go-go in order to raise the funds for the film which sounds like yet another innovative project. She also raised $15,000 of the funds locally and has reached her target from the help of dedicated supporters. There’s still a few days to donate if you can so check out this link (including Do’s humorous campaign video) : nong-hak-dearest-sister-a-lao-horror-film, share it around and spread the word. Nong Hak will be the 13th Laon film and the most ambitious, definitely an exciting time for the country’s cinema and something exciting to get involved in.

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Congratulations to indie, genre director Jessica Cameron, as London’s Film 4’s Fright Fest festival recently announced its line-up its emerged that Cameron’s eagerly-anticipated grisly Truth or Dare will be making its UK debut in August, marking the fesitval’s 14th year. This means the film may potentially screen around other UK festivals later in the year. Fingers Crossed.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews has a few things lined up for July, so keep your eyeballs peeled, plus more from my contributions at  Love Horror and Ghostface Girls on the way.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

 

 

The Top Ten Horror/Genre Movies of 2013

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As 2014 soon approaches us it is time to reflect on the genre movies that held an impact this year. Unlike last year which saw massively, popular titles like  American Mary and Sightseers, 2013 has been underwhelming in that sense with what has been on offer from the violent and sinister side of cinema. With that said however, there have been some innovative, hard-hitting and thought-provoking independent films that remain long lasting in the mind and fully deserve the recognition that the lacking-in-quality mainstream films have received. 2013 also saw a ground-breaking re-boot of one of the 80’s/90’s most popular franchises that surprised a hoard of fans. A few spooky, supernatural entries have emerged as well as the crossover between horror and disco music in some grindhouse, throwback fun! The majority of the films on this list have already received coverage from Hayley’s Horror Reviews and Scared Sheepless, therefore summaries will be provided as well as the links to my full reviews. Hope you’ve all had a goreific Christmas and have a Happy Horror New Year!

10. The Collection (2012)

  • Directed By Marcus Dunstan
  • Original Release Date: 30th November 2012, USA

collection  The reason I’m including a film that originally came out in 2012 is due to the fact it gained a wider release in 2013 on blu-ray and DVD. The Collection was an unpleasant surprise and I mean that in a positive light. This film is proof of how a modern, horror sequel can find itself superior to the original. While The Collector was dull and contrived and came off as a knock-off Saw film, director Marcus Dunstan raised the stakes in the second installment which included an imaginative, blood-soaked and unforgettable opening sequence which saw a mass slaughter of several young party-goers in an abandoned warehouse! Josh Stewart returns as Arkin, a victim of the ambiguous serial killer who goes by The Collector. Second time round he is blackmailed into rescuing Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), the masked killer’s latest capture from his warehouse, filled with torturous traps! Less torture porn and more edge-of-the-seat thriller, The Collection keeps its audience gripped as Arkin leads a team of police officers to the Collector’s lure only for them to inevitably get picked off one by one. The Collector himself is brutal and irredeemable and is currently one of the genre’s most underrated horror killers. What makes him interesting is the film doesn’t feel the need to create some measly backstory in an attempt to explain his actions, he is the embodiment of ruthlessness and evil and is true identity is never fully revealed which leaves more to the imagination. While this may not be to everyone’s taste, especially those who became tired of films such as Saw and Hostel very quickly, Dunstan has taken a concept he knows well and challenged it a little bit more which proves that in the right hands more can be done with the sub-genre. The Collection is stylistic with some interesting and unexpected imagery, gory in the right places and not as predictable as one may expect!

9. The Purge (2013)

  • Directed By, James DeMonaco
  • Release Date: June 7th, 2013

The-purge  Following on from his performance in the terrifying, supernatural thriller, Sinister, Ethan Hawke’s latest genre role was eagerly-anticipated. The Purge took the home invasion sub-genre to a whole other level. A futuristic look at American society, the film takes a frightening view on the idea that what if violent behavior was suppressed with the exception of only one night a year without consequence! The premise turns into a traumatic ordeal for one wealthy family as a group of masked, psychotic, middle-class criminals led by the sophisticated yet demented “Polite Leader” invade their highly-secured home. They bring with them the nastiest of threats if they don’t hand over an African-American known as the “bloody stranger” who has also entered their home in the hope for safety. With the non-violent Sandin family at the forefront of the chaos; tension is created as viewers will be left wondering if they’ll sacrifice the life of another human being in order to save their own skin? Or whether they’ll take on the thugs, putting all their lives on the line. The masks worn by the criminals are inventive and provide a sense of creepiness with their menacing grins. While not overly original, The Purge attempts to cover unexplored ground when it comes to the home invasion movie and the concept brings in a different dynamic. By the film’s conclusion an unexpected twist is in place that will leave the audience on edge as an element of security is cleverly taken away. Clearly the formula is in demand with the upcoming sequel set for release in 2014.

For my full June 2013 Review, Click Here.

8. To Jennifer (2013)

  • Directed By James Cullen Bressack
  • Original Release Date, 15th October 2013, USA.

jennifer  2013 saw the first Horror movie to be shot in its entirety on the iPhone 5, showcasing the full potential of D-I-Y film-making. While demonstrating a resourceful approach to the found-footage sub-genre, To Jennifer is accompanied by an engaging story that keeps up its enigma throughout. Played out with a sense of realism, when watching To Jennifer, its like viewing a home movie that you accidentally stumbled on but are determined to get to the end to find out what happens to these characters. This is the core similarity the film shares with Bressack’s previous hard-hitting film Hate Crime (2012) but that is where the resemblance ends between the two. The narrative of To Jennifer centers on love sick Joey (Chuck Pappas) who believes his long-term girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica Cameron) has been cheating on him. Enlisting the help of his cousin Steve (James Cullen Bressack), he goes ahead with shooting a video documenting his feelings with the intent of confronting his unfaithful partner. With high emotions on the line, intensity is created as Joey and Steve travel across the country to discover the truth about what Jennifer has really been up to! To Joey’s annoyance, Steve doesn’t take the situation as seriously as he’d like and brings along his buddy Martin (Jody Barton) along for the ride who continuously leads them astray as he encourages Joey to move on. Each characters perspectives are documented giving different insights into the story. Its as realistic as it can possibly be and builds itself up at a steady pace. To Jennifer is a psychological thriller rather than straight-up horror but it manages to remain suspenseful until the brutal end. There are plenty of gasp-worthy moments as the shocks are delivered. As a found-footage film it is easy to watch as Bressack opts out of the shaky-cam approach giving the film a more naturalistic feel. It’s well-acted, shot and directed as To Jennifer is the first of its kind, an iPhone feature film. But the root of the film is an examination of communication or lack there of in a world where the lines are blurred between reality and social networking.

Click Here for my full review from July 2013.

7. Chanthaly (2013)

  • Directed By Mattie Do
  • Original Release Date, 18th May 2013, Laos.

chanthaly  The first festival film to be included on this list. I viewed Chanthaly at the Abertoir Horror Festival back in November and it was one of the films I eagerly-anticipated from the line-up and it certainly didn’t disappoint. As a fan of supernatural, Asian Horror, Chanthaly had the potential to completely unnerve me especially following my first viewing of the trailer. Chanthaly is ground-breaking for two reasons. It’s the first Horror film to ever be made in Laos and the first film to be directed by a woman. The project was incredibly challenging for Mattie Do as she faced restrictions of what she could and could not show within her communist country and thereby had to shoot different scenes, ones that would be acceptable in Laos and ones that would be fine to showcase in more liberated countries. This included not being able to show any form of gore or show a man and woman kissing on screen as in Laos it is considered respectful not to put any actors out of their comfort zone. With a very interesting background, Chanthaly tells the story of a troubled young woman with a life-threatening heart condition who is haunted by memories of her deceased mother. Chanthaly is a slow-burner as it primarily focuses on the strained relationship between father and daughter as Chanthaly does not accept her mother died in child birth and thinks there’s more to it than her father has initially told her. Soon, Chanthaly begins to see the spirit of whom she thinks is her mother which threatens her already fragile family life. Due to the slow build-up, the scares are even more profound as they come out unexpectedly and manage to get under the skin. The film also features an adorable dog and what’s not to love about that?! Mattie Do doesn’t need to rely on the obvious jump scares and loud noises to convey that there is an otherworldly presence. With being both a chilling ghost story and a cultural examination, Chanthaly is one of the most interesting Asian Horror films to emerge in a long time.

Click Here for my review from the Abertoir Horror Festival.

6. Curse of Chucky (2013)

  • Directed By Don Mancini
  • Original Release Date, 24th September 2013, USA

coc2  Following a successful screening at the UK’s biggest, Horror Festival Fright Fest back in August, Curse of Chucky was released straight onto DVD this Autumn and I for one couldn’t wait to see if the newest installment in the popular 80’s franchise would continue to be successful in 2013. It had been eight years since Chucky’s last murderous rampage in the abysmal Seed of Chucky (2005) and the series was in dire need of a re-vamp if it was ever going to be well-received. Mancini re-worked the film’s style which achieved the perfect balance of comedy and terror that reminded fans why we love the pint-sized killer doll in the first place. Instead of going down the tired remake route, Mancini focused on a whole new backstory that involves Charles Lee Ray before he transferred his own soul into the Good Guy doll and a score he is hell-bent on settling. Fiona Dourif provides an outstanding performance as the terrorized Nica, a young disabled woman who finds herself under Chucky’s wrath. As her family begin to drop off one by one, she discovers there is more to her family history involving the red-headed maniac doll that she ever imagined. Curse of Chucky brings in a sense of nostalgia while going straight for the jugular. It has its funny, ironic moments but remains brutal at the same time. The ending was beyond superb and extremely satisfying. Curse of Chucky defied expectations and came out as an incredibly decent genre film. Recent news suggests the series may yet continue in a possible sequel in the near future.

Click Here for my full review from October 2013.

5. Du Hast Es Versprochen (Aka. Forgotten) (2012)

  • Directed By Alex Schmidt
  • Original Release Date, 20th December 2012, Germany

201303_268861_3_024  Another entry that was screened at this year’s Abertoir Horror Festival. Forgotten became one of my absolute highlights of 2013’s line-up. An atmospheric, psychological drama/thriller, Forgotten incorporates plenty of twists and turns as it uncovers a childhood mystery for the protagonist Hanna (Mina Tander). When going through a rocky patch in her marriage, Hanna is reunited with her old friend Clarissa (Laura De Boer) by chance. Taking her young daughter, Clarissa and Hanna venture to the holiday home they spent many happy years in. But soon a threat lurks in the shadows, Hanna becomes haunted by a third friend who slipped her mind all those years ago and now seeks answers as to why the mysterious little girl keeps reappearing and what score she has to settle. What appears like a straight-forward supernatural chiller, Forgotten brings in an unexpected, thought-provoking twist that shocks to the core. Some audience members did feel the twists went too far however it came as a brave move for the film to break conventions and challenge expectations. The scariest moments come in the claustrophobic setting accompanied by some subtle jump scares that are enough to chill the bones. It’s a film that’s long-lasting in the mind yet leaves a satisfying conclusion. It’s a difficult film to discuss as I don’t want to give too much away! All I will say is check out Forgotten if you’re in the mood for a late night creepy little film with plenty of surprises up its sleeve. One to watch with the lights out!

Click Here for my Abertoir Horror Festival Review.

4. Discopathe (2013)

  • Directed By Renaud Gauthier
  • Release Date, 2nd November 2013, Canada

He was discopathemade for Loving You! I have a confession, I never liked the movie Saturday Night Fever (1977), the only aspect of that movie that stood out for me was its Bee Gees infectious soundtrack that remains popular today. You could therefore argue that judging by my tastes, Renaud Gauthier’s Discopathe is the perfect alternative. I first watched the film at Celluloid Screams Horror Festival back in October where it proved to be an absolute crowd-pleaser and the perfect closing film, leaving the audience on a high. Some may go into Discopathe expecting a black comedy/horror, which yes it does have elements of, however it is also a throwback to 70’s exploitation films in terms of its look and tone. The film has some dark, menacing and brutal moments amongst the tongue-in-cheek performances and humor. It’s pure, late night horror movie fun. The plot focuses on a young man named Duane Lewis, who is going about his business just fine until the summer of 1976 where he is exposed to a new breed of popular music that brings back memories of a traumatic past experience involving his father. The sounds of disco fails to make Duane dance but massacre anyone who crosses his path. Following the murder of a young woman at a retro night club, Duane flees to Montreal and takes up a new identity as Martin, the “deaf and dumb” caretaker of an all girls Catholic school. But Duane can’t escape those catchy, disco beats and feels compelled to kill again! Gauthier captured the sleazy side of exploitation and grindhouse in true 70’s style with grainy effect. When introducing the film he insisted the film to be played loud which added to the full enjoyment as KISS “I was made for Loving you” blasts into the audience towards the film’s climax. If you know what you’re letting yourself in for, Discopathe proves extremely entertaining and definitely one to catch with an audience or with a group of friends over a few drinks!

Click Here for my Celluloid Screams 2013 Review.

3. Chimeres (2013)

  • Directed By Olivier Beguin
  • Release Date, 5th July 2013, Switzerland.

Chimeres-Teaser  Another entry from Celluloid Screams 2013, Chimeres became a festival highlight for being the vampire film genre fans have been waiting an eternity for! Chimeres is very engaging as it allows the audience to get an in-depth view of the characters before introducing any kind of horror element, giving us the chance to get invested in the couple, Alex (Yannick Rosset) and Livia (Jasna Kohoutova). This is also aided by the strong on screen performances from both leading actors who provide believable chemistry as the heartbreaking tale of blood, addiction, love and fangs is told before us! Alex is involved in a devastating car accident while the couple are on holiday in Livia’s place of birth, Romania. When rushed to hospital, he is given an emergency blood transfusion which results in some pretty unusual side effects. Gradually Alex develops a vampyric nature as the film depicts how a long term relationship can survive in the circumstances, with the vampire aspect cleverly used as a metaphor. Olivier Beguin intended to separate the film from others in the sub-genre by creating a strong character study rather than having the vampire element as the reason the couple are brought together. The depiction of the male and female characters in Chimeres demonstrates equality. Despite having a strong, creature-of-the-night boyfriend, Livia is equally as tough with emphasis on the fact she kick boxes and can handle herself when it comes down to it, physically and emotionally. This provided a refreshing spin reminding us of why Buffy The Vampire Slayer appealed in the first place and how much vampire themed films and TV shows as of late have lacked empowering female characters. Livia is the embodiment of a tough, female character, both strong and flawed but ultimately the film allows its audience to believe in the relationship and empathize with both characters. With some mezmerizing visuals, Chimeres is the best vampire film that has emerged in recent years, its passionate, gory, intimate, emotional and devastating.

Click Here For my full Review from Celluloid Screams 2013.

2. Jug Face (2013)

  • Directed By Chad Crawford Kinkle
  • Original Release Date, 9th August 2013, USA

jug face  Backwoods movies don’t get any better than Jug Face. Featuring is own fascinating mythology, Jug Face stands out on its own as it breaks a different ground in the sub-genre. Jug Face is the compelling story of a teenage girl, Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) who makes the shock discovery that she’s pregnant. While attempting to hide the news from her oppressive family who have already planned an arranged marriage for her, she makes a second discovery of the jug face. Within the community, the jug face represents the latest sacrifice and those who resemble it will have their blood drained into a murky pit as an offering, in a bizarre, religious cult-like tradition. The jug face is created by a local man Dawai, known as “the seer” and luckily for Ada, he’s her closest confidant, played by Sean Bridges. Ada hides the jug face from the entire community  which leads to a series of devastating events to follow that spiral out of her control. As the blood-shed begins Ada struggles to find a way to escape her fate because no matter what, the pit wants what it wants! While those around her must come to terms with the tragic losses seeping through their small-scale community.  One of the films highlights comes in the shape of the touching friendship between Ada and Dawai portrayed on screen. Actress Lauren Ashley Carter and Actor Sean Bridges have previously worked together as psychotic father and abused daughter in Lucky McGee’s The Woman (2011) and their roles in Jug Face are in complete contrast. The performances are convincing and there’s a sense of edginess and brutality throughout the piece, despite including a moderate amount of gore. At times, the film places the audience in a trance-like state with swift camera shots and rapid editing conveying how the pit works and how it takes what it wants. It’s a fascinating study of cult mentality that observes how a small, backwoods community deem murder acceptable as part of their belief system and a depiction of complicated family dynamics; including the taboo subject of incest. Jug Face will leave you gripped from beginning to end, its dark, thrilling and captivating with some of the best performances in a genre movie this year!

Jug Face became my top film of Celluloid Screams 2013, read the full Review Here.

1. Big Bad Wolves (2013)

  • Directed By Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
  • Release Date, 15th August 2013, Israel

BBWposter-1  Chosen as the film to close this year’s Fright Fest, Big Bad Wolves brought with it a huge impact on independent cinema and for many was one of the most eagerly anticipated genre films of 2013. Catching a screening at this year’s Celluloid Screams, despite only making number #3 on what I considered the best offerings of that festival, Big Bad Wolves has proved to be the film that’s remained long-lasting in the mind and the most talked about. I’ve found myself  recommending the film to many people as I can guarantee, its a must-see! The film is incredibly hard-hitting and powerful and will take a strong stomach to get through as it deals with a harrowing subject matter. Even though its a community in Israel that’s represented, the issue at hand is ultimately universal and will affect a great deal of viewers. Devastation has spread through a close-knit Israeli town due to the sick, twisted murders of local young girls at the hands of a depraved pedophile. With the mutilated bodies discovered without their heads, one vengeful father and police officer take matters into their own hands and plan to exact torturous revenge on the man they believe to have committed the horrible and vile acts of violence. In an attempt to gain answers so he can bury his little girl, Gidi (Tzahi Grad) comes up with the complex plan of holding supposed pedophile Dror (Rotem Keinan) a religious, school teacher hostage in his basement with the intention of torturing him in the exact, sick manner he allegedly tortured his daughter and many other innocent children. The most surprising aspect of Big Bad Wolves was its incredible technique of creating moments of light relief in an emotive situation. It’s a genre-bending, edge-of-the-seat, thrill ride that gets completely under the skin. It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino regards this his absolute favorite movie of the year. The torture scenes are just enough to make the audience squirm without being over the top, they are done exceptionally well. Each actor brings in a phenomenal performance, reminding us that when it comes down to it, they are all human and have been placed in a destructive situation which can cause actions to take place that would normally be out of character. The film is accompanied by a breath-taking score that heightens the emotions throughout. I can’t praise this film enough, its cut-throat, it has its own originality and deals sensitively with its subject matter while achieving a thought-provoking effect. This is a film that will captivate a lot of people and in some ways may provide a sense of comfort as crimes such as the one depicted is all too prominent within the media and society as a whole.

Click Here for the full review from Celluloid Screams 2013.

Honorable Mentions:

Painless

Kiss of the Damned

Ghost Graduation

Coming Soon: Hayley’s Horror Highlights of 2013.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Abertoir Horror Festival 2013: The Top Feature Films.

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

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

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

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

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

6. All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

  • Directed By Lucky McGee and Chris Sivertson
  • USA

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

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

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

5. Kiss of the Damned (2012)

  • Directed By Xan Cassavetes
  • USA

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

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

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

4. The Machine (2013)

  • Directed By Caradog James
  • Wales

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

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

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

3. Chanthaly (2013)

  • Directed By Mattie Do
  • Laos

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

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

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

2. Forgotten (Aka. Du Hast Es Versprochen)

  • Directed By Alex Schmidt
  • Germany

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

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

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

1. Ghost Graduation

  • Directed By Javier Ruiz Caldera
  • Spain

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

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

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

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

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

Hayley Alice Roberts.