Festival season is upon us once more, and one by one, the best horror and genre film festivals of the UK are revealing what they have lined up. Myself and co-editor Ben often take ourselves down to Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema for Celluloid Screams: now in its ninth year, it has introduced us to a range of excellent films during the years we’ve been attending, and films we see there have often wound up on our ‘Best Of’ lists at the end of the year – proving that festivals are where it’s at for film fans. This year looks to be no different, with an absolutely stellar line-up coming our way. Whilst there’s often a bit of overlap between festivals of this nature (no bad thing, in my opinion, meaning that most people will be able to get to at least one of the screenings they’re after) Celluloid Screams has also got the steal on some intriguing and exciting new films.
Here’s some of the highlights for me:
The Endless (Friday 20th October)
We’ve been big advocates of filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead here at Warped Perspective (or rather, back in the Brutal as Hell days) and there’s a good reason for that. Benson/Moorhead blend clarity of vision with sharp characterisation and masses of imagination; they never feel they need to give the audience a safe journey, and both of their films so far (Resolution and Spring) rank amongst some of the most memorable films I’ve personally seen in recent years. I cannot wait for The Endless. Engage copy and past mode:
A decade after leaving their home at Camp Arcadia, an isolated new age cult, brothers Justin and Aaron (directors Benson and Moorhead stepping in front of the camera this time) struggle to make ends meet in their normal lives. When a videotape arrives containing an invitation to revisit the camp, the two brothers are drawn back towards their previous life, initially enamoured once more with the seemingly idyllic existence that they used to share. The longer they stay however, the more it becomes apparent that the retreat and its surroundings are governed by strange and indescribable forces that threaten the very existence of those who dwell within it.
Borley Rectory (Friday 20th October)
…And breathe. Anyone who is interested in ghostly phenomena will likely have heard of Borley Rectory, once vaunted as “the most haunted house in England”. As a child, poring over investigator Harry Price’s accounts of this place terrified me so much that I had to sleep with the lights on for weeks. I’m beyond excited, therefore, to see this story – over six years in the making – making it to the screen. Director Ashley Thorpe calls his film an ‘ultrasound of a haunting’ and I anticipate great things. The involvement of League of Gentlemen/Psychoville actor and writer Reece Shearsmith is another element in its favour; alongside the other Gents, two of whom are going to be present at the festival (see below), Shearsmith has been integral in scooping up all manner of horror tropes and presenting them to us in bleakly comic form. It takes know-how to blend terror and comedy, but of course Shearsmith has carved a career as a horror and genre actor of some calibre, so appearing in a piece of work which picks at the seams of the ghastly British consciousness is exactly the kind of progression I’d both hope for and expect from him.
68 Kill (midnight showing, Friday 20th October)
Much has already been said of 68 Kill, the vast majority of which has been glowingly positive, and this sounds like a great film to pick for the late night slot. Trent Haaga is a safe pair of hands when it comes to what the blurb describes as ‘outrageous’ cinema:
Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a sucker for a pretty face. Dominated by his dangerously beautiful girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord), he duly accedes to her every whim. However, poor Chip lands himself in a whole heap of trouble when he reluctantly agrees to assist Liza with the robbery of $68,000 from her sugar daddy. This theft leads to a blood-splattered and increasingly outrageous sequence of events, as Chip tries desperately to find a way out of his chaotic situation and return to the simple life he once knew.
I Remember You (Saturday 21st October)
An Icelandic supernatural noir/horror? Sign me up; this tiny nation is (accordingly) something of a rarity on the genre and horror circuits, but has a culture, folklore and outlook all its own which is ripe for on-screen exploration:
Based on Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s best-selling novel, this supernatural scandi-noir is certain to send a shiver down your spine. An elderly woman hangs herself inside a church in the remote Westfjords of Iceland, which leads to an investigation into a number of strange deaths of elderly people in the region. Freyr, the new psychiatrist in town discovers that the deceased woman was obsessed with the disappearance of his 7-year-old son, who vanished without a trace three years prior. Across the bay in an abandoned village, three city dwellers are restoring a house when a series of supernatural occurrences begin to unfold. These two stories gradually intertwine and it turns out that the disappearance of a young boy decades earlier may hold the key to uncovering the truth.
Tragedy Girls (Saturday 21st October)
Been hearing good things about this one, and any skits on the pervasiveness of the ‘likes’ culture of social media (by the way, please ‘like’ and share this post for our edification) and our mordant preoccupation with celebrity deserve to be seen and enjoyed. This one will no doubt make us laugh at it all, too, which is exactly the reaction we need in greater abundance:
Meet Sadie and McKayla, aka the ‘Tragedy Girls’. Together, they run a website devoted to true crime. Their fascination with the subject is boundless, and the girls soon find they’re no longer satisfied with merely writing about violence, and decide to embark on a more ‘hands-on’ approach. Comedy ensues as the delightfully gruesome killings end up looking like accidents, much to the girls’ frustration, as they crave recognition for their murderous prowess. As their exploits attract attention to their small town, the Tragedy Girls quickly become engulfed in the social media fame they always dreamed of – but will their relationship survive it?
Special Event: Inside Number 9 (Special Anthology Screening – Saturday 21st October)
Remember how I said The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville wrought horror into uncomfortable laughter? Add Inside Number 9 to that list: it’s another piece of genius writing and storytelling for television which calls to the late, great horror telly of years gone by. With this special anthology screening of a selection of episodes, writers Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith will be in attendance both to introduce their work, and answer questions afterwards.
M. F. A (Sunday 22nd October)
I’d expect this to be the most harrowing piece of work on the bill. However, these are often the films we need the most; weave a story out of something disturbing and possibly relatable, and you can explore the feelings it engenders in a way which often just fails to materialise when you simply look at news or statistics:
Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is a shy and withdrawn art student. She has a hard time fitting in with her peers, so she’s thrilled when she receives an invitation to a party from handsome classmate Luke. However, the evening takes a devastating turn when Noelle is brutally raped.
After seeking help from various sources, Noelle encounters hypocrisy, injustice, and a total unwillingness to address the situation. Her frustration soon turns to anger, and Noelle decides to take matters into her own hands. She sets out to avenge rape survivors whilst channelling her rage into her artwork, creating dark and affecting pieces for her thesis. With a mesmerising performance by Eastwood, this captivating revenge thriller tackles rape culture in modern society head-on with a fierce and unflinching intensity. Though it does contain scenes that some viewers may find upsetting, it deftly tackles the tough subject matter to shine a spotlight on a very real issue.
This is just a snapshot of the weekend to come: there’s plenty more at the website, including a staggering array of short films, which are always given their fair dues at Celluloid Screams (and often make for the most unusual and innovative pieces of film you’ll see during the year). Also, look out for some classic screenings of Suspiria (which is turning 40) and Hellraiser (which is turning 30!)
Passes for the whole festival are priced at £85 (or a tenner less for concessions) or, if you’re a young whippersnapper between the ages of 18-26, you could get a £60 pass as part of Showroom Cinema’s Cine26 membership scheme. Individual tickets go on sale on the 22nd September. We’ll see you there!