Archive for Short Films

Agatha (2015, short) Review

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

In the late 1800’s a young orphan known as Sophie (Louise Ogle) earns her keep by delivering slabs of meat to an ambiguous creature that resides at the top of the stairs in an old, eerie mansion. As Sophie climbs the stairs night after night her curiosity grows as to what inhabits that room. Is she prepared to discover the sinister presence that lurks in the shadows? Who is Agatha and what does she want…?

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Written and Directed by Timothy Vandenberg, Agatha is a prelude to what will eventually become a feature film, expanding on the mysterious narrative even further. Agatha is genuinely creepy in it’s tone and Vandenberg wholly utilizes the gothic location achieving a constant sense of tension and dread. With a concept such as this it would be so easy to throw in jump scares in order to unsettle and surprise the audience however the direction it takes is much more unnerving, notably with the use of rising music as Sophie enters the room.

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Shrouded in darkness with the prime focus on young Sophie’s reactions and the close ups of the unappealing food she is made to deliver, Agatha makes for a short but stomach churning viewing. Having the protagonist as a seven year old child makes the piece more heart-rendering as she is all alone and vulnerable in a frightening situation. Old photographs are extremely creepy and the photo on display with the baby’s face scratched out proves effective, allowing the audience to wonder what is wrong with Agatha.

There is plenty of scope to take the story further and heaps of unanswered questions and backstories to explore, particularly the mother character (Penny Kohut) and her motivations.

Agatha is a spine-chilling period piece with quality production values and gallons of potential for a much longer run time. Bring on the creep-fest!

In Autumn 2016, Agatha premiered at Screamfest LA in the Shorts Block. 

Watch the Trailer for Agatha Here:

https://youtu.be/kRNuI0ZqxxY

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

The Top 10 Short Films of Celluloid Screams 2015

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

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

10. Remnant

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

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

9. Slut

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

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

8. There’s Something in the Attic

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

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

7.  Crow Hand

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

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

6. The Chickening

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

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

5. The Mill at Calder’s End

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

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

4. Evil Mexican Child

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

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

3. Selfie

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

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

2. Surgery

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

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

1. The Herd

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

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

**SPECIAL MENTIONS**

Invaders, Good Hands and Portal to Hell.

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

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

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

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

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Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Celluloid Screams 2013: The Top Short Films.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Similarly to my previous list discussing the feature films that stood out the most at this year’s Celluloid Screams, this list compiles together the most interesting and innovative shorts that were on offer at Sheffield’s Horror Festival. These are the views of Hayley’s Horror Reviews and once again don’t reflect the general outcome of the winning short films. Head over to http://scaredsheepless.com/ for more detailed reviews of Celluloid’s shorts.

6. Cat Sick Blues

  • Directed By Dave Jackson
  • Australia

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Cat Sick Blues is one of those strange yet compelling shorts that’s a bit out of the box. It begins with a young couple having a dispute on the beach. They are subsequently distracted from their argument by the presence of a homeless man, donning a cat mask. The man displays typical cat mannerisms and begins following them home. Cat Sick Blues takes a gory direction, but doesn’t let on where it’s actually going to go, ramping up the suspense throughout its ten minute run time. If there’s a moral to this story: Don’t trust Kitty!

5.  Hell No

  • Directed By Joe Nicolosi
  • USA

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Hell No is a humorous, crowd-pleasing critique of the codes and conventions of Horror Movies. The short film/ trailer spoofs what generations of fans have been screaming at cinema screens for years. It takes the concept of “What would happen in a Horror film if they featured smart characters who made sensible choices?” and explores it in a very quick-witted, entertaining way. Hell No satirizes the slasher and supernatural flicks.

4.  Invocation

  • Directed by Robert Morgan
  • UK

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Invocation is a stop-motion animation crossed over with live action which already sets it apart and gives it its own uniqueness. A filmmaker unintentionally unleashes something nasty when attempting to create a film, focusing on a teddy bear. Very unnerving with an even gorier twist. Invocation offers something a little different.

3. The Root of the Problem

  • Directed By Ryan Spindell
  • USA

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The Root of The Problem plays upon a very common fear for some, a visit to the Dentist. The short builds up tension very well and puts the viewer into the feeling of unease just like the female patient. There is a sense of apprehension throughout. A young housewife living in 1950’s Suburbia suspects there is something wrong with the local dentist, but is she simply paranoid? The Root of the Problem explores the tooth fairy mythology which hasn’t really had a decent on screen portrayal. With the makings of a supernatural thriller, The Root of the Problem has the potential to be developed into a feature.

2. The Body

  • Directed by Paul Davis
  • UK

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Paul Davis new short The Body was eagerly-anticipated following the success of last year’s Him Indoors, surrounding the shenanigans of an agoraphobic serial killer. The Body is equally as twisted and well-crafted. It’s Halloween night and a Patrick Bateman-esque serial killer known as “The Man” uses Halloween Night to dispose of a body. Sounds straightforward enough? However on his way he meets a group of party-goers who delay his plans by admiring this “well made prop” he’s carrying around. Alfie Allen plays his murderer character straight while the other characters provide the comedy. Filled with irony, The Body is a high contender for the best horror short of 2013 with its comedic, yet dark humour and detailed set design and costumes.

1. Butterflies

  • Directed by Isabel Peppard
  • Australia

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If you’ve seen mine and Caitlyn’s video coverage of the festival, you will know that we cannot emphasize enough on how much we adored Isabel Peppard’s Butterflies. Filled with artistic and beautiful stop-motion animation, Butterflies tells a poignant tale about how true talent and art can be under-appreciated in favour of a more commercial and repetitive world that we live in. A young artist struggles to make money selling her drawings to passers-by, she encounters a businessman who offers her a paying job, designing greeting cards. Soon, her and those around her’s talents become suppressed and the new role threatens to destroy all her imagination, will she escape before its too late? With a stunning, gothic setting and animation so detailed and expressive, Butterflies tells a relatable story that effects many in society. Butterflies is a film I cannot recommend enough.

**Special Mention**

Claymania: The Films of Lee Hardcastle.

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Another feature of Celluloid Screams 2013 was the showcase of talented claymator Lee Hardcastle’s work. Without the restriction of live action filmic techniques Lee Hardcastle’s stop-motion claymation goes all out with plenty of quirky story-telling and imagery, gore and typical British humour that appeals to a wide audience. Visit his Youtube Channel:  to watch his latest short Ghost Burger, a sequel to T is for Toilet from the ABC’s of Death.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Celluloid Screams 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Yesterday I purchased my festival pass for another horror festival I regularly attend, Celluloid Screams in Sheffield. 2013 will be my third visit to this fantastic festival which provides a hardcore weekend of ghouls and gore and shocks and scares! In a compact festival programme, Celluloid Screams brings the latest gory offerings of features and short films to the silver screen. With a great atmosphere courtesy of dedicated horror fans and some brilliant special guests, Celluloid proves to be one of the best UK genre festivals out there.

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Entering its fifth year, Celluloid will return to the Showroom Cinema from the 25th to the 27th October. This year I’ve opted for the full pass, excluding the all-nighter (a new edition) costing a reasonable £55 (There is a slight increase for the full pass if including ‘Night of the (Un)Dead’). This year, attached to the main programme is a late night of some obscure, old skool movies including ‘Frankenhooker’ (1990) and ‘Return of the Living Dead’ (1985) screened alongside some short films such as ‘Ghoul School’ and ‘Hambre’; beginning at 12am and finishing up at 6am.

There appears to be a running theme for this year’s festival of body horror and splatter with the special guest of Frank Henenlotter attending. Henenlotter’s well-known, cult films ‘Basket Case’ 1 & 2 will be screened following the opening gala of Don Thacker’s ‘Motivational Growth’, a UK premiere which seems to have taken influence from Henenlotter’s style of filmmaking.

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After excitedly reading up on the feature films for 2013, a few really stood out for me. I can’t wait to see what they have to offer. Ever since viewing the trailer, ‘Jug Face’ has been on my must-watch list. A film set in the backwoods, ‘Jug Face’ focuses on a pregnant teenage girl who discovers she’s the community’s next sacrifice, determined by her resemblance to a clay jug face. The film has an interesting premise and seems to have incorporated its own mythology and take on cults. The film stars Lauren Ashley Carter from ‘The Woman’. I have already planned a review for this film after speaking with director Chad Crawford Kinkle via Twitter and have since contacted his publicist. I certainly won’t have too long to wait to see this potential genre favorite.

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‘Der Fan (AKA Trance)’, appears to be a chilling psychological thriller that takes obsession to a whole different level. This German offering centers on an obsessive teenage fan, infatuated with her pop star idol. This is certainly going to be one to watch and see unfold and will hopefully enter the disturbing heights it promises.

Since, ‘Fright Fest’, one of the most talked-about films is ‘Big Bad Wolves’, naturally I am interested in seeing it. Being a revenge thriller, it clearly has the making’s of a compelling and possibly harrowing story. Its been described as ‘intense’ and focused on male tensions which will surely be edge-of-the seat stuff. ‘Big Bad Wolves’ tells the story of three men all interlinked, a renegade police officer, a mild-mannered bible teacher and a grieving father, tensions are sure to run high as well as a complex sense of morality.

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‘Delivery’ may echo films such as ‘Paranormal Activity’ in essence, however the premise still intrigues me. An expectant couple agree to document a reality show on their pregnancy.  However events soon spiral out of control when a series of strange, unexplained events occur and throw the production into chaos. The film is allegedly told through unaired footage,  and interviews with family members of the main characters. If its anything like ‘The Bay’, a surprisingly effective film that used the found footage concept well, leading to terrifying notions then ‘Delivery’ will be another example of a good ‘found footage’ film. ‘Delivery’ has been described as ‘an incredibly effective film that stands on the head and shoulders of many of its contemporaries’, definitely sounds very promising.

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Finally, ‘Discopath’ sounds like a fun entry and the perfect way of closing the festival on a high. A throwback to the 1970’s, ‘Discopath’ tells the tale of a homicidal maniac awakened following the introduction to the new trend of disco music! With the making’s of a cult hit, ‘Discopath’ seems to incorporate the essence of old skool movies made around that era, I’m just anticipating the possible sound track and I’m already loving the quirky title!

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Finally, ‘Claymania: The films of Lee Hardcastle’ looks to be a fascinating thrill ride into a unique and innovative approach to horror. Since his entry of ‘T- is for Toilet’ in the ‘ABC’s of Death’ anthology, I’ve been anticipating to see more of Lee Hardcastle’s interesting work. Bring on the gore!

This year, I plan to provide similar coverages of written reviews and videos documenting the festivals highlights (as seen below) and will hopefully be bringing a special guest with me, but more on that soon!

Celluloid Screams 2011.

Celluloid Screams 2012.

For more information please visit the festival website:

http://http://celluloidscreams.co.uk

Tweet @sheffhorrorfest

Hayley Alice Roberts.