As Celluloid Screams comes to an end for another year it’s time to take stock on what has been a great weekend of films. Yet again it seems to have been more popular than every before, and in terms of the fare on offer, another very strong year. Screening The Witch was undoubtedly a coup, as was the UK premier of Goodnight Mommy.
Most films on show impressed, and whilst a couple may have been of slightly acquired taste, here were my favourites:
He Never Died
Henry Rollins is brilliant as Jack, the self-titular man who never died. Rollins is pure stone-faced and dead pan hilarious throughout and some brilliant writing gives him all he needs to devour every scene. He Never Died is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a cinema all year and it’s a film which has much wider appeal than simply a genre audience.
They Look Like People
Low budget horrors can often be the most inventive. Stripped of a budget for dodgy CGI or spectacular sets, they rely on the central acting performances and an inventive script. They Look Like People has this in spades, and whilst (MacLeod Andrews) plays Wyatt’s growing psychosis perfectly, (Evan Dumouchel) anchors proceedings as the ‘good-guy’ Christian. It’s a clever take on psychological horror by Perry Blackshear and bodes well for the future.
The Witch is something slightly different for a Saturday night slot. Robert Eggers won The Sutherland Award for best first feature at London Film Festival earlier this month. When a family is driven out of a plantation in 17th century New England, they have to fend for themselves. The devout and superstitious William (Ralph Ineson) runs his farm with puritanism fervour but when a baby goes missing and the crops struggle odd things begin to happen to the family.
Takashi Miike returns to Dead or Alive territory for complete mayhem as he throws everything against the wall. The Boss (Lily Franky) controls his territory and is much loved. Kagayama (Hayato Ichihara) dreams of following in his footsteps despite being ridiculed by some of the other gang members. When the Boss is killed in an ambush, he bites Kagayama, turning him into a vampire yakuza. Then, all manner of mayhem breaks, includes a frog monster on a bike.
Broadie (Milo Cawthorne) is forced to live with his fundamental Christian uncle and his sadistic jock cousin David after his mother is institutionalised. The only religion Broadie follows is Metal. After forming a band with the delinquent Zakk and amiable losers Dion and Giles, Deathgasm, they dream of escaping suburban Hell. When they find some ancient sheet music they set about playing the Black Hymn only to summon a demon who takes over the town. Jason Lei Howden’s debut film riffs heavily on the early work or Peter Jackson and is great fun.
There was a high standard of shorts on show, but I was most impressed with Kevin Turk’s The Mill at Calder’s End. Reminiscent in part to the work of both Tim Burton and Guillermo del Toro, it’s great to see old school puppetry used in this Poe-like tale. Also, a shout out to the 60 Second Remake of The Blair Witch Project: Very clever.
It has been another great year for a festival that continues to get better, year in, year out.