Wednesday 2nd October – Preview Night at The Stockport Plaza
So the start of Grimmfest and the preview night was set in my home town of Stockport. Now Stockport doesn’t really have much going for it. The football is crap, the centre is a 1960’s monstrosity of a shopping centre and the chav ratio is very high. However it does have lots of hidden gems one of which is not so much hidden but more only used in panto season and that is The Plaza Super Cinema (or just the Plaza to locals) . The Plaza is a beautiful 1930’s art deco building that in it’s later years was being used as a bingo hall and closed in 1998. In 2000 the building was taken over by the Stockport Plaza Trust after a £500,000 grant from the local council. Restoration was a huge project but with help from lots of local businesses (like all 600 seats were donated from the Palace Theatre in Manchester), an army of volunteers and funding from the lottery, North West Regional Development , Stockport Council and public generosity, then in 2009 The Stockport Plaza re-opened it’s doors and is an absolute joy to visit and enjoy cinema and live theatre in such atmospheric surroundings. Please take a moment to visit their website and if you get a chance to visit then do so – www.stockportplaza.co.uk .
So back to preview night and after a wonderful interview I had with Robin Hardy (director of The Wicker Man) in the local Hat Museum, I headed over the road to The Plaza.
Hansel and Gretel Get Baked (2013)
Director – Duane Journey 87 Minutes
Starring – Molly C. Quinn, Michael Welch, Lara Flynn Boyle, Yancy Butler.
“A brother and sister battle a witch who lures teenagers into her suburban home with her special blend of marijuana where she then proceeds to kill and eat them to maintain her youth and beauty”.
Hansel and Gretel Get Baked is a modern twist on the old Grimm tale. A sweet little old lady named Agnes (Flynn Boyle) is growing a unique and seemingly unbeatable type of Marijuana (named Black Forest) in the basement of her house. After Gretel’s boyfriend Ashton runs out of weed he gets the address of Agnes and visits her to score some more dope, unfortunately for him it turns out Agnes is in fact a witch that is feeding on the souls of the young to make herself young once again. And so begins a boring , monotonous and scare free 90 minutes that I will not get back. HAGGB is trying to be a horror comedy and fails in both departments. The highlight of the film was seeing Lara Flynn Boyle’s face after years of seemingly dodgy surgery, she is just 43 yet looks well over 60. She was gorgeous back in Twin Peaks and I still fail to understand the lure of surgery.
Anyway Get Baked was just an almost unbearable piece of crap. Hated it But it must have a market as some people leaving seemed to have enjoyed it?? 3/10 .
The Wicker Man (The Final Cut) (1973)
Director – Robin Hardy 90 Minutes
Starring – Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt.
“A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there”.
Well this is what I was here for! The Wicker Man is one of my favourite films , it is just an almost perfect story with stellar performances and a sublime soundtrack. Now over the years there was the shorter version then there was the directors cut and now we have The Final Cut. This is the version that director Robin Hardy considers to be the closest to his original vision with writer Paul Shaffer.
I won’t go into details about The Wicker Man as you should have seen it , and if not then you must buy it ! The most obvious change is that the entire scene from the start of the film that is set in the mainland Police Station has been cut . This does lose the initial scene where Sgt. Howie receives the anonymous letter saying the young girl is missing on the island of Summerisle. So after the initial church scene we then go straight to Sgt. Howie flying over and landing at the harbour in Summerisle.
Just sitting watching Christopher Lee leading Edward Woodward a very merry dance around his pagan island and giving him all the clues he needs to solve the puzzle of the missing girl was just mesmeric.
The Plaza was the perfect setting for this screening and with Robin Hardy doing a Q&A session it was just a fantastic couple of hours and probably one of the best times I have had in a cinema ! 10/10 .
Radio Silence (2013)
Director – Mat Johns 25 Minutes
Starring – Tracy Sheals, Alan Peter Finch, Francesca Turton, Neil Ball.
Mat Johns has been making short films in and around Manchester for the last few years and I came across a couple of his films last year. Run is a 7 minute short that is in the top 5 shorts I have ever seen. It is a beautiful, haunting and ultimately incredible piece of cinema that has stayed with me ever since and I still find it incredibly hard to watch now. So when I found out that the World Premier of Mat’s new film was on the preview night I was made up.
So Radio Silence is the story of a woman named Elaine Barrett (Tracy Sheals) who is alone and barricaded in her house seemingly after a zombie apocalypse. Her days are ticked off on a calendar and each day she has the same routine – she rises at 6 then brushes her teeth, later she exercises and eats some canned food from a kitchen cupboard and at midday Elaine fires up an old CB Radio and broadcasts for an hour , in which she asks if there is anyone listening and gives her address and details. Then for the following 5 hours Elaine sits listening to the static of the CB receiver awaiting a reply! This is a routine that is repeated daily and as the days continue to be ticked off important dates like birthdays and anniversaries come and go and Elaine finds that her mental and physical strength is in decline. But one day she hears a voice ! Could this be salvation after months of Radio Silence?
Again Mat just hits the spot with another perfectly paced piece of cinema. Radio Silence is slow, unnerving and raw, an initial feeling of hope is slowly replaced by anxiety and claustrophobia.
Tracy Sheals is just wonderful , such a raw and powerful performance . The setting is a small, stark and bare house yet Tracy brings it all to life in a way very rarely witnessed.
I implore anyone and everyone to check out Mat Johns work as he is just an immense talent and someone that demands to be noticed.
Radio Silence is again up there with Mat’s best work and brings more to it’s 23 minutes than some directors bring to careers. 9/10 .
And watch Run by Mat Johns here – https://vimeo.com/52426876
So that is my take on a quite wonderful evening at The Stockport Plaza and a great opening night for Grimmfest 2013. I couldn’t stay to see Curse of Chucky (2013) but I will catch it very soon.
So I left completely elated and looking forward to the next 4 days of cinematic up & downs !!
More to come soon …..