GRIMMFEST- SATURDAY 8th OCTOBER – An overview by James Pemberton
OBSERVANCE (Dir- Joseph Sims-Dennett, AUSTRALIA, 2015)
Parker, a private investigator who is estranged from his ex-wife after the death of their son, accepts a job from a mysterious employer to watch a young women from an abandoned apartment that is opposite to hers and to photograph and record her movements. However the further he stays on the job he starts to see strange happenings around her and also in the abandoned apartment he is based in. While the employer keeps the purpose of his investigation away from him, things start to slowly fall apart for Parker. Is it the apartment and the job causing this or is he suffering from a break down.
An intriguing psychological horror that benefits from its REPULSION like setting of a derelict abandoned apartment OBSERVANCE will probably frustrate some with its loose connections between certain scenes and deliberate use of suggestion to what is going on in the mind of our protagonist or is it the apartment itself that’s causing the gradual breakdown. It kind of gives itself away with one plot point that is mentioned and you kind of expect how the story will conclude. Yet it still retains a strong interest throughout with its creeping sense of dread and some nice visual touches throughout especially in some strong dream like sequences. There was a mention of a comparison to THE CONVERSATION in the description of this film in the Grimmfest programme and that certainly sprung to mind as like Coppola’s masterful film it follows an individual following his own obsession of surveillance that leads him to being orchestrated by shadowy unknown groups using him for their own gain.
NSFW (Dir- Cosmo Wallace, UK, 2016)
Before the screening of THE BURNING we had a chance to see a locally made short film from Cosmo Wallace, which follows a self proclaimed paedophile hunter who is planning on meeting and trapping a predator in a meet up in the woods by posing as a child online. Smart, impressive and interesting short film that manages to be a relevant tale of deception, vigilantism and the obsession with internet stardom. The central protagonist is just as interested in trapping paedos as he is in getting to become famous for doing so and sending out his online tweets and blogs.
THE BURNING (Dir- Tony Maylam, USA, 1981)
Being presented in a new remastered version soon to be released by Arrow Video, THE BURNING is a classic slasher film one of those off shoots of the period craze for killers stalking and killing teens in the woods. Containing some fantastic brutal effects work from Tom Savini, the film is a simple set up or retelling of the Cropsey legend (if you want to know more about this then check out Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s fantastic documentary of the same name) in which a former summer camp caretaker who was badly burnt in a fire five years ago, returns back to the same camp to get his revenge on the young teens, who want to spend their summer having fun and pre-martial sex (bloody heathens!).
Like MADMAN there’s a great charm with this film that is hard not to enjoy and even after seeing it previously, a long time ago, there is a bit more grit and grime with THE BURNING on this viewing and some well staged shock moments. Yes it has aged and some of the dialogue is cheesy and some characters are irritating to the point of self parody, but there’s no denying that its a deservedly enjoyable and entertaining slasher flick and its good to see it getting the five star Arrow treatment.
THE CHAMBER (Dir- Ben Parker, UK, 2016)
A small submarine below the Yellow Sea off the coast of North Korea is being piloted by a civilian worker who is taking 3 person special ops team on a secret recover mission. When the mission goes awry the sub is turned upside down and the group are trapped in a leaking vessel that starts off a desperate fight for survival. A tense thriller that has an interesting story build up in its background the film does well and gladly and cleverly keeps things simple with its use of one location. Though it felt as if this seemed to be a bit of an unusual choice for Grimmfest as there wasn’t really anything here that felt it seemed genre based.
Even the sense of claustrophobia is not very apparent, as yes its a small submarine the characters are based in, but aside from one characters gradual aggressive and unhinged behaviour, the sense of being trapped isn’t fully utilised. Also as a thriller it starts to slip into a sense of predictability peppered with clichéd dialogue and overall it starts to drag even in its short running time and aside from a strong ending there isn’t much that impressed me with THE CHAMBER and it felt somehow out of place within today’s line up.
PET (Dir- Carles Torrens, USA, 2016)
Insecure loner Seth (Dominic Monaghan) bumps into Holly (Ksenia Solo) a girl he was at school with and whom he was obsessed with. After she rejects his attempts at romancing her with various visits to the diner she works at as a waitress and even offering to take her to gig, he does the only thing an insecure loner would do and kidnap her and place her in a cage underneath his place of work, an animal shelter. Yet Holly proves to be someone who has more to her than meets the eye. A neat and strong horror that starts out at first as possibly entering into a kind of torture porn territory with its story of a women capture by a desperate man yet thankfully takes a neat twist and starts to become a more darker tale of power, control, perceived perception and deception.
Both stars are brilliant in their roles and deliver strong performances that adds layers of sympathy and ugliness to their characters and on top of that the film contains some strong and gory effective moments. Torrens whose previous feature was the efficient if unremarkable APARTMENT 143 also shows confident depth in creating a fantastic two handed twisted relationship story of obsession.
TRASH FIRE (Dir- Richard Bates Jr, USA, 2016)
Owen (Adrian Grenier) finds out that his long suffering girlfriend Isabel (Angela Timbur) is pregnant. Reluctant to have a child at first due to his often bitter and cynical nature, he realises the only way he can try and mend his ways with Isabel is to change his attitude and on her demand go back and visit the remaining members of his family. However he is still effected by the events of his past where a fire he caused killed his parents and disfigured his sister Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord). He reluctantly goes back buts it not long before both him and Isabel find both a hostile and often unpleasant welcome from Owen’s horrible and religiously obsessed grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan) and its only through his own chance to try and mend his relations with Pearl that keep him there despite the increasing volatile and disturbing nature of Violet.
Starting off like a relationship comedy, a dark one at that with some disturbingly funny scenes and laugh out loud but completely inappropriate lines, TRASH FIRE soon ends up becoming a more twisted, warped and disturbing when Owen ends up visiting his home town. Bates again shows that he is an original director as he delivers believable characters and situations that start off normal but soon take a warped and twisted turn. TRASH FIRE does feel more similar to his début EXCISION especially in its conclusion which is both jarring, disturbing yet somehow relevant, but still retains the comedy of both his début and his previous film SUBURBAN GOTHIC. Superb performances from the cast especially Flanagan whose is especially nasty and hypocritical in the portrayal of Violet. Dark as hell it is but at its black heart there is a certain warmth and believability to these fractured characters.
THE TAG ALONG (Dir- Wei-hao Chang, TAIWAN, 2015)
A radio DJ, her real estate boyfriend and his grandmother are targeted by a “hungry ghost” that may have been brought down from the mountains in the form of little girl in a red dress and who preys on fear and guilt of its victims. Naturally its a race against time to seek out the reasons of the ghost and why its targeting them and how to get rid of it. Essentially a J-horror that is transposed to Taiwan, THE TAG ALONG did at first sound like it would be unremarkable as the Asian horror movement of so many ghosts with long black hair has been done to death.
Yet the film is surprisingly efficient and benefits from its use of a Taiwanese urban legend whilst at the same time having some interesting and effective scenes where the characters are placed in situations that start to bend the narrative viewpoint and deliver some creepy scares. It also benefits from an interesting dynamic in basing the hungry ghost targeting the 3 central related characters rather than a group of unrelated people adding an emotional depth to the film especially in terms of family relations and commitment. Though it is let down by a dip into overkill on unconvincing CGI effects in its finale, it still retains enough interest in its story and atmosphere that makes it if not really original but overall still entertaining watch.
One more day left. Who will survive and what will be left!!!