Grimmfest Review – Saturday 4th October 2014

GRIMMFEST-2014-FB-HEADERGrimmfest Review – Saturday 4th October 2014

After Goblin the night before I was still buzzing and Saturday was always going to be a big day. With a short film showcase starting us off early and then 6 features after , it was going to be a long one. So starting 30 minutes late didn’t help but screening shorts can always be problematic at the best of times, and at least the Grimmfest guys were screening each short in the correct ratio .

I won’t go into too much details for the shorts but please try and check them out as many of today’s up and coming talents start in short films.

The Dancehouse, Oxford Road , Manchester

The Visitant 2014 USA 7 Minutes – Director Nick Peterson 7/10
Split 2014 UK 18 Minutes – Director Andy Stewart 9/10
Vomica 2014 UK 15 Minutes – Director Andy Green 7.5/10
Don’t Play With The Food 2014 Spain 9 Minutes – Director Daniel Munoz Caniero 6/10
The Stomach 2014 UK 15 Minutes – Ben Steiner 7.5/10
All I Know Is Nothing 2014 UK 3 Minutes – Director Matthew Barker 4/10
Autumn Harvest 2014 Norway 17 Minutes – Director Fredrik Hana 9/10

theforgotten-clemThe Forgotten (2014) UK 90 Mins Dir – Oliver Frampton. Starring – Shaun Dingwall, Clem Tibber, Elarica Gallacher, Lyndsay Marshal.

Teenager Tommy (Tibber ) is sent to live with his father (Dingwall) after his mother has a nervous breakdown. His father squats in an empty flat is a derelict London estate and makes ends meet by ripping scrap metal from the boarded up flats. After Tommy settles in he starts to hear noises coming from the flat next door, and after becoming friends with the fiesty Carmen the pair decide to investigate further.

A great British ghost story for 2014. Clem Tibber is wonderful as Tommy, a young loner with dysfunctional parents and a love of drawing. Dingwall is an father, who really only puts up with Tommy because he must and he has many problems of his own. And finally Elarica Gallacher really impresses as Carmen who appears hard on the outside but has a real soft centre.

With the pacing of an MR James story and reminiscent of Ken Loach’s The Haunting , The Forgotten puts a modern twist on the ghost story and uses it’s locations and amazing cast to superb use. I won’t mention much more as I don’t want to spoil anything, but just to say if you enjoy slow burning ghost stories then this will be for you. 7.5/10

On a final note I interviewed director Oliver Frampton and stars Clem Tibber and Elarica Gallacher. The interview hopefully will be up soon and will post a link here as soon as it does.

HouseboundHousebound (2014) NZ 109 Mins Dir – Gerard Johnstone. Starring – Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru, Cameron Rhodes, Millen Baird.

Now for a complete change of pace with Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound.
Kylie Bucknell is caught trying to steal money from a cash machine and is placed under house arrest. Unfortunately she is placed in the custody of her mother who Kylie can’t stand. Her mother is a constant blabbermouth and is also convinced that her house is haunted. Kylie dismisses her mother’s rants yet she herself starts to hear whispers and experience bumps in the night . Is it just her over-active imagination brought on by being stuck in a place she hates or could there be someone or something trying to communicate?

Housebound is an absolute triumph . It is funny, scary, gory, and I suppose being from New Zealand will draw comparisions to Peter Jackson’s early work. But there is so much more to it that mere comparisons . O’Reilly is top notch as the ballsy in-your-face Kylie, who really doesn’t give a fuck and her mother played by Rima Te Wiata is just the polar opposite who always manages to rub Kylie up the wrong way. But if you scrape away the family dysfunction you then find a genuinely creepy haunted house horror film, but with so many facets that just all work.

Housebound is a real hidden gem and I encourage anyone who like a creepy horror mixed with great comic relief to check this out ASAP, it will not disappoint. 9/10

coherence-posterCoherence (2013) 89 Mins Dir – James Ward Byrkit. Starring – Emily Baldoni, Nicolas Brendon, Maury Sterling.

A group of friends meet up for a dinner party, and while they are there a serious of strange events start to unfold . But could this be because of a comet that is passing overhead that evening in close proximity to the earth?

I must admit I was not looking forward to Coherence and after 20 minutes I was hating it. It was full of loud, brash obnoxious 30-somethings who were so far up their own arses it was painful. BUT stay with Coherence as after say 25 minutes things start to happen to the group and the story takes so many twists and turns that your mind starts to hurt. It really did deliver, and it has a really ambitious storyline . It is for the whole just shot in one room , and with a group of people it does give a feeling of intimacy and claustrophobia.

So give Coherence a chance, stick with it and you will find at the ending you may be scratching your head thinking what the fuck, but it is a really impressive , intelligent film. 8/10

What_We_Do_in_the_Shadows_posterWhat We Do In The Shadows (2014) 87 Mins Dir – Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement. Starring Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement, Jonathan Brugh, Ben Fransham, Rhys Darby.

WWDITS was the one film today that I was really looking forward to. I had seen the trailer and am a big fan of Conchords so with both anticipation and a little trepidation (well it might be shit) I sat in my usual spot , all alone which is how I usually watch films at festivals.

But I needn’t have worried as it is absolutely wonderful. From the very first moment the audience were in stitches as was I.

WWDITS is a faux documentary following 4 vampires who share a house in the New Zealand , it documents their daily struggles to cope with modern life as well having that need to feed on human blood.

If you are to watch one film this year then make sure it is What We Do In The Shadows, it is something very special and gets the very difficult art of comedic horror absolutely spot on. 9.5/10

starry-eyes-poster-jay_shawStarry Eyes (2014) USA 98 Mins Dir – Kevin Kolsch. Starring – Alex Essoe, Noah Segan, Pat Healy, Amanda Fuller, Shane Coffey.

Last of the night for me (I was too tired to wait for Zombeavers) was the much lauded Starry Eyes (see Oli Ryders review here ) .

Starry Eyes is the story young aspiring actress who works at a coffee shop to make ends meet. She gets an audition for the shadowy Astraeous Pictures and so begins a series of more bizarre meetings where Sarah (Essoe) eventually enters into a very unusual agreement .

I wanted to love Starry Eyes, yet I only liked it. For me it was far too much style over substance although the last 25 minutes were as brutal as I have seen on the big screen. Starry Eyes just didn’t know what it wanted to be. It was stylistically set in the 1970s although it is modern LA, there were hints of Suspiria, House of The Devil and even Kill List.

A beautifully shot film , that just seemed to me to lose something in getting the story across and I just can’t put my finger on what that was? A look at Hollywood from the inside that then tears it’s way out, Starry Eyes is a slow burner that goes ballistic towards the end and definitely won’t be everyone’s cuppa, but it is well worth a look. 7/10

Phew , so that was Saturday. An impressive mix of comedy and horror and not a dud anywhere to be seen. Well done team GRIMM!!

Now just one day left and WOLFCOP!!

Starry Eyes (2014) Review

S1Starry Eyes (2014)

Dir: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Written by: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe, Noah Segan, Pat Healy, Amanda Fuller, Shane Coffey, Louis Dezseran

Running Time – 96 mins.

UK Premiere: Frightfest 2014

When struggling actress, Sarah (Essoe), successfully auditioning for the mysterious Astraeus Pictures’ film ‘The Silver Scream’, it seems to be a dream come true. As her body starts to undergo strange changes and she witnesses disturbing visions, Sarah discovers that her fame must come at a terrible price.

The all true tale of the vicious Hollywood system chewing up and spitting out the unfortunate souls yearning for their big break is certainly nothing new. Through Kolsch and Widmyer’s collective twisted imagination, however, Starry Eyes is a terrifyingly grim depiction of the lengths to which people will go to achieve their dreams.

The entire film hinges on the stellar performance from Alex Essoe. Appearing at the centre of almost every scene, she is deftly able to convey an enormous spectrum of various states of emotion. Sarah initially appears to be a typical vulnerable and naive girl with sky high dreams but is constantly beaten down by her minimum wage job and her incredibly bitchy and equally desperate faceless LA friends.

S2The real hook to her brilliant character development, is the fact that whilst she is able to win over the audience’s sympathy, there are moments where her selfish desire for fame flares up violently, counterbalancing her weak demeanour. Intriguingly, the film sets up the idea that despite all the madness she undergoes, she has always been disturbed and the ‘audition process’ is the final thing to push her over the edge.

This is represented through some intensely physical scenes, in one she re-enacts a horrifyingly convincing fit and is seen throughout the film to be constantly pulling out large chunks of her hair. The film’s immaculate sound design makes every wince-inducing rip become deafening and stomach-bothering. The very literal change the audience see her go through is a fantastic example of a truly twisted fairytale character, as she blossoms from being meek and shy to something entrancing and deadly.

The fact that the film is able to conjure up so much dread and tension with mere suggestion and dark shadows is hugely commendable. Whilst the film transforms to be more physical, it is predominantly a mental horror that insidiously gets inside of the heads of the audience so frighteningly discreetly. There is such a painstaking effort made to create a gradual terrifying escalation of raw horror, so that the ultimate payoff of the gloriously grand finale hits home with a far greater impact. The recurring use of incredibly contained and drawn out corridor shots are fantastically evocative of early Roman Polanski. The sense of impending doom with every echoing step taken adds further to the constant underlying, armrest-ripping tension that grabs the entire film in a suffocating stranglehold.

S3It is rare when the influence of two directors mixes so well but the very distinct Cronenberg body horror adds another disgustingly delicious element to the film. Having literally sold her soul, Sarah disintegrates onscreen, coughing up maggots as her teeth and nails fall out. It is easy to see that the film’s message concerns the price of fame and the metamorphosis so many actors must endure to be appealing and relevant. In Starry Eyes, it is at the actual cost of Sarah’s humanity as her desire for fame has utterly consumed her.

The film holds absolutely nothing back when it comes to a blunt and horrifying exploration of the exploitation that particularly budding actresses endure in the Hollywood system. Capturing the truly terrifying spirit of auditions, Sarah is forced to strip and abuse herself before a panel of two monstrously cold and unfeeling judges. The sickening process is exasperated by a profoundly skin-crawling performance from Louis Dezseran as the Producer. With a hauntingly false smile, the aging Producer’s sexual advances belie the terrifying plan he has for Sarah, where the film spectacularly descends into madness.

Towards the end of the film, the subtler approach is brutally offset by an incredibly violent scene that features, amongst other items, the novel use of a dumbbell. It would be fair to say that for some, this ruins the film’s more psychological set-up. Conversely, however, this scene, when combined with the body horror can be seen as being so much more effective and shocking because the majority of the film takes the more mental approach.

One of the most important elements of the film is how the city of Los Angeles almost becomes a character itself. Bathed in a constant fuzzy haze, the dense mist that lies heavily over the city permeates into the story itself as everything is superbly shrouded in mystery. The grey and almost apocalyptic aesthetic perfectly depicts the dirty and unpalatable LA that is so often covered up. The film’s dark focus on the notion that beneath the glamour, lays the monster, serves as a perfect allegory for the plot.

S4Frightfest 2014 was a year notable for its soundtracks and Jonathan Snipes’ eerie composition fits Starry Eyes like a glove. The combination of synthesisers with nursery school chimes produces a truly haunting and chilling effect, like icy nails down the spine. Matching the film’s disquieting ability to get under the audience’s skin, the soundtrack is also a vital part of Starry Eye’s wonderful constant blurring between reality and fiction. Jumping from a calm false sense of security to knife’s edge tension in a heartbeat, it is a piece of genius and its importance to the film’s ability to disturb cannot be understated.

A truly spectacular performance from Essoe, combined with a killer soundtrack and a constant underlying terror made Starry Eyes one of the highlights of the festival. Such a masterful grasp of tension and the creation of genuine fear of the unexpected also sees directors Kolsch and Widmyer as very exciting prospects for the future. Intense, uncomfortable and bloody brilliant.

Rating: 10/10