Wednesday, 30 November 2016


Starring: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale
Writers: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Lucio Fulci
Director: Lucio Fulci


Liza Merril (MacColl, billed as Katherine MacColl) inherits a Louisiana hotel which has a great look and plenty of character but is also built upon one of the seven doorways to Hell. Well, there's always something wrong with any property. "Yeah, all the original beams are still in place but there was that thing about some artist being nailed to the wall in Room 36..."

Initially, neither Liza nor local doc John McCabe (Warbeck, billed as, er, David Warbeck) aren't initially convinced of the supernatural goings-on. Still, a spate of gory killings and visions plus the appearance of Emily (Monreale, billed as Sarah Keller), a blind girl who knows WAY more about the hotel than she should, make them think again...

Okay, that's enough flippancy about this film because The Beyond is flipping brilliant. In my opinion it's Lucio Fulci's best movie, it's one of the best horror movies ever made and hey, it could be one of the best movies ever made. Certain viewers may have problems with the general coherence of the story and its absolute refusal to explain certain events at key points but I think it's helpful to view the whole film as a waking nightmare, full of strangeness, distorted reality and otherworldly goings-on.

It's also beautifully shot and it contains some of the most baroque set-pieces ever committed to celluloid including a spectacularly bonkers spider attack and a delirious climax set in a hospital full of zombies. Fulci's penchant for ocular trauma is also present in all of its wince-inducing glory here as his penchant for casting Catriona MacColl in this sort of thing. Ms MacColl is reliably great here and so is Warbeck, both of them playing the material admirably straight.

If you haven't seen this I urge you to track it down, it's the antithesis of all that cookie-cutter multiplex fare out there. The Beyond has stuck with me through the years and if anything the extra viewings cement its reputation of one of the landmarks of Italian horror. How could this possibly be improved upon?

Well, how about getting composer Fabio Frizzi and his band to perform the score live as the movie screened? Because that's what happened at Abertoir 2016 and for me this elevated an already fabulous movie to a stunning experience which will stay with me forever. Making judicious amendments to his classic compositions, Frizzi managed to somehow pull off the seemingly impossible of making the soundtrack to this movie even better than it was before.

An event living up to the all of the anticipation and then some, the only problem I have is that now I'll be needing Fabio Frizzi and the F2F Band to play at my house every time I watch The Beyond from now on.

Oh, and the band played the theme tune from "Blastfighter" after the movie finished. That was the most delicious icing on one of the best cakes ever made.

Thursday, 24 November 2016


Starring: George Patteron, Ronda Fultz, Riley Mills
Writer: David Durston
Director: David Durston

From the moment Horace Bones and his band of hippie Satanists (yes, you read that right) roll into the small town of Valley Hills it's obvious there's going to be trouble. Well, there wouldn't be much of a movie if they decided to grab something to eat then move on. First, they attack and rape local girl Sylvia, which causes her veterinarian grandfather Doc Banner to pick up his shotgun and head for the abandoned house where the gang has taken up residence.

One thoroughly botched attempt at revenge later, the Doc has 1) has been relieved of his shotgun and 2) has been made to take LSD, leaving his grandson Pete to help the tripping pensioner home. Andy then decides to take on the revenge mantle on behalf of both his sister and grandfather but instead of using the shotgun on the hippies he uses it to kill a rabid dog and then injects the rabid dog's blood into a batch of meat pies which are then sold to the hippies. I'm not making this up.

Anyway, the hippies eat the pies, get sick and then go completely batshit, either killing or infecting anyone that gets in their way. Will granite-jawed, ignorant, sexist dam worker Roger save the day? Does anyone care?

Clunkily scripted, dodgily acted and wildly inappropriate at almost every turn, this is one of the most entertaining exploitation films I've seen in a while. When this was originally submitted for a rating in the US it was given the dreaded "X" and was the first film to receive this due to the level of violence (up to that point, the "X" was awarded exclusively to pornographic material). Watching this nowadays it may be difficult to see exactly what the fuss was about because the gore is totally unconvincing but back in the day this would probably have upset quite a lot of people.

Durston may not be the most skilled of writers or directors but he certainly makes a play of going straight for the jugular once the basic set-up has been established. What prevents it from being a landmark in queasy, grimy terror is the ramshackle nature of the enterprise, whether it's the hilariously awful dialogue, acting styles ranging from outright hysterical to total non-emoting (Roger, I'm looking at you) or plot points which will simply leave you scratching your head in disbelief. Trying to escape a rabid, psychotic maniac? Just stand in a couple of inches of water and flick some of the liquid at them.

And yet, in the midst of all the ludicrous story developments and laughably fake severed body parts there are some genuinely horrible sequences involving dead animals which sap a fair bit of fun from the proceedings. This is a bit of a shame because the rest of I Drink Your Blood is an absolute riot, chock full of unintentionally laugh out loud moments and culminating in a massacre which, bizarrely, happens off-screen. In any other movie I would have felt short changed at such an anticlimax but even this odd (possibly budget-related) decision seems to fit particularly well with the film's generally haphazard action and plotting.

Certainly the best movie ever made about a gang of rabid hippies terrorising a small American town, this has to be seen to be disbelieved. Memorable for almost all the wrong reasons (save for Lynn Lowry, who's effective in a supporting role as a mute member of the gang), this is so bad that it's very good indeed and definitely worth seeing if you can view the same cleaned-up, uncut print which was screened at Abertoir 2016.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


Day Two of Celluloid Screams 2016 had given us Danish zombies, a guitar playing Satanic child killer, strange neighbours, Nazi bratwursts, Christopher Lloyd and a dead body with a terrifying secret. It's all gravy to the Celluloid Screamers. So what would there be to feast on during the final day? See below...


Day Three opened with my favourite movie (by the tiniest smidge) of the whole weekend, a superbly written and executed tale of Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman), a guy who is so scared of death that he offers $30,000 for proof the afterlife exists. From all of the replies he receives he narrows his search down to three people, all of which have different methods to prove that, indeed, we go on. What Miles could never predict is where this is about to take him...

I loved this movie. The story is cleverly constructed, the horrific, comedic and emotional beats are all timed to perfection and at the heart of it all is the great on-screen chemistry between Freeman and Annette O'Toole, who plays Miles' mother Charlotte. This also makes for an interesting conflict within the main story because although Charlotte doesn't believe there's anything after death, she's more than willing to help her son who is totally driven by his faith that there must be.

Freeman and O'Toole are outstanding in the central roles but there are also noteworthy turns from Giovanna Zacarías as a medium and Jon Glover as an academic who attempts to bring a more scientific approach to ghost hunting. Also, without wanting to turn this into a spoiler-fest, I should mention Jay Dunn's performance as Nelson. He's just great in the role. I'll say no more other than SEE THIS MOVIE, RIGHT NOW.


And now to my second favourite movie (just the tiniest smidge behind We Go On) of the whole weekend, Richard Bates Jr.'s blacker than black horror comedy featuring some of the most hilariously brutal dialogue you're likely to hear in a long while.

Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur) are somehow a couple despite Owen's issues with commitment and his generally vitriolic view of, well, everything and everybody. When Isabel announces she's pregnant, Owen decides to turn over a new leaf, which involves making peace with the remaining family members he hasn't seen since a tragedy many years previously.

I loved Excision, I loved Suburban Gothic and Trash Fire makes it three out of three in terms of Richard Bates Jr. hitting it out of the park. Deftly mixing laugh-out loud one-liners with unexpected jolts, this is a brilliant, unpredictable and vastly entertaining hour and a half which I really didn't want to end. Grenier and Trimbur are both terrific, as is a particular Excision alumnus (not saying who that is here) who makes a telling contribution to the plot.

The characters are well-drawn, the humour is excoriating, there's a vast supply of quotable dialogue, the tilts into horror territory are unsettling and brilliantly effective and I really wasn't expecting it to end the way it did. SEE THIS MOVIE TOO!


Village girl Nok (Amphaiphun Phommapunya) travels to Vientiane in order to help her much richer cousin Ana (Vilouna Phetmany) who has lost her sight. Although Nok is shunned by Ana's servants she is attracted to the material delights of the capital which complicates the relationship with her cousin. And although Ana may have lost her sight, she has gained the ability to communicate with the dead, resulting in a series of otherworldly encounters which have far reaching consequences...

Dearest Sister is only the 13th film ever to have been made in Laos and director Mattie Do is the country's only horror filmmaker. It would be a shame if this assured and measured piece of cinema is dismissed just because it's labelled a horror movie. Personally, I think it works just as well if viewed as a relationship drama with a supernatural element.

It also works as a fascinating insight into Laos itself and what makes its society tick so I felt transported into a world of which I knew little beforehand. It's some achievement that this movie was even made in the first place, I'm even happier to report that it's well worth your time and it's genuinely different from most genre flicks out there. It was also a pleasure to listen to the incredibly enthusiastic Mattie Do talking about the film afterwards - she's a force to be reckoned with and I'm looking forward to see what she does next.


Seth (Dominic Monaghan) is a security guard at an animal shelter whose lonely existence receives a boost when he meets old high school acquaintance Holly (Ksenia Solo) on a bus. Finding out as much information as he can on Holly, Seth attempts to use his newly-found knowledge to begin a romantic relationship with her but things go very wrong, one thing leads to another and, wouldn't you know it, Seth's imprisoned Holly in a cage located in a disused room in the shelter's basement. Ah, you kids!

At this point, you're probably thinking it's another torture porn movie and, to be fair, that's where most movies would go. However, Pet immediately throws in a twist which changes the dynamic and the expectations completely, then continues to wrong foot the viewer as the battle of wills between captor and captive goes into overdrive.

Featuring two pleasing central performances from Monaghan and Solo - as people who are definitely not what they initially seem to be - plus a generous amount of gore, this should leave you with a smile, albeit a nervous one, on your face.


Closing the festival was Julia Ducournau's tale of Justine (Garance Marillier), a confirmed vegetarian who follows her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) into vet school. Made to eat rabbit kidneys as part of the many rituals the new intake of students are put through during their first week, Justine suddenly finds she craves meat. And we're not just talking burgers here...

This movie appears to be marketed as an unrelenting feast of gore and although there are a few pretty disgusting moments in Raw they're nothing that most horror fans won't have experienced before. Stories of audience members passing out at TIFF just goes to show a) the Celluloid Screams crowd is made of sterner stuff and b) how wussy are the audiences at TIFF?

To be honest, the splashes of the splattery stuff actually serve the plot, which is a sharply observed, blackly comic portrayal of a young woman coming to terms with how her life - and how she herself - is transforming.

Marillier and Rumpf convince totally as sisters, bickering one moment, comforting each other the next and the movie never tips over into the festival of blood and guts it possibly could have been. As a matter of fact, it's the restraint shown over most of the running time which gives so much more impact and emotional clout to the gruesome moments. It's a mightily impressive full-length feature film debut for writer/director Ducournau.

And that was it for another Celluloid Screams. The 2016 edition brought us moments of outright weirdness, a smattering of controversy and a consistently absorbing and entertaining line-up of films. Personally, I'd venture that this was the strongest line-up yet and I have no idea how the bar is going to be raised even higher next year but if there's one festival that delivers again and again, this is the one.

It would be remiss of me not to thank the festival's Programme Director Rob Nevitt along with Polly, Sarah and the rest of the Celluloid Screams festival staff who do such a sterling job and put in ridiculous hours year after year. It's massively appreciated by the growing numbers of us who have no qualms about sitting in a darkened room for three days watching horror film upon horror film. To the outside it might sound like an endurance test but it's far from that. It's a joyous place where you'll meet some of the genuinely nicest people around and when you've been here once I guarantee you'll want to come back.

Here's to Celluloid Screams 2017!


So, after the heady mix of all-out strangeness, controversy and walkouts that was Day One of Celluloid Screams 2016 what would Day Two hold in store for its festivalgoers? Read on...


An ultra-virulent flu-like infection takes hold of a quiet Danish suburb and before long there are armed military units sealing off the roads and forcing people to stay in their homes. Of course, that does the trick and everything's just tickety boo.

Oh, of course that doesn't happen, it all goes properly tits up and the residents of the neighbourhood are plunged into an increasingly desperate fight for survival. Will anyone make it out? Do you think I'm going to give that away here?

Despite the fact that there's nothing much in here you won't have seen before this is still an effective take on all of those familiar zombie/infected tropes. It's well-written, it builds nicely and features a bunch of characters it's easy to care about.

There's also a pleasingly grounded sense of realism here to anchor the fantastical turns the story takes, no one suddenly becomes an expert zombie killer and the people here make the same mistakes most of us would when faced with such an extreme situation.


Caveat emptor is the message of Sean Byrne's follow-up to The Loved Ones. Or, to put it another way, don't buy properties that seem a bargain because weird and potentially lethal stuff will follow. In this case, struggling artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kara Glasco) have to contend with demonic forces and a former resident whose hobbies are power chords and murdering children.

Apart from the odd moment in which the plot requires certain characters to act like a bit of a dumbass and therefore place either themselves or others in peril, this is a stylish flick with a genuine sense of menace and a fine performance from Pruitt Taylor Vince as the aforementioned former resident.

Naturally, the heavy rock soundtrack is excellent, Embry is as reliably accomplished as ever in the lead and Kara Glasco is the sort of teenager that doesn't make you want to run screaming from the cinema whenever she's around. It's a brash, bold shocker with more than enough diversions from the usual well-trodden ground on which your average possessed property piece is built.


After being seriously injured by a psychopath, experience detective Takakura quits the police force, takes a job lecturing at a University and moves away from the city with his wife, intent on making a fresh start. It's not long, however, before Takakura suspects that one of his neighbours is a killer responsible for a string of unsolved murders.

If you're looking for gallons of gore and multiple murders delivered at a breakneck pace, Creepy is going to frustrate the hell out of you. This is a film which takes its time to unfold (it's 130 minutes long) and its shocks are more or the subtle and unsettling variety. Possibly the pace is too glacial at times and there are some lapses in logic (the main one being of the "I'll go confront this nutter alone" variety) but overall it's quality entertainment for anyone looking for a change of pace.

You'll never look at something vacuum-packed in quite the same way again...


Eh-2-Zed store clerks - and yoga fanatics - Colleen and Colleen (Lily Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith - or Harley Quinn Smith and Lily Rose Depp, depending on which Colleen you referenced first) are set to go to the coolest party in town but instead find themselves minding the shop and having to battle against genetically engineered Nazi bratwursts. As you do on a Friday night.

The second movie of Kevin Smith's True North trilogy has been described as "Clueless meets Critters" and that's not a bad approximation even though it's not as consistent as either of those films. This really does throw all sorts of things into the mix - musical numbers, social media, teen chatter, Nazis, Satanists, constant use of the word "aboot" - and the scattergun approach doesn't always hit the mark.

Having said that, it would be churlish for me to say that it isn't fun, because it is. The story may be all over the place but there are enough laughs to carry it through, Lily Rose Depp is definitely one to watch and Stan Lee gets both a cameo and, for me, the funniest line in the film. Oh, and Natasha Lyonne made her second appearance of the weekend, getting infinitely less down and dirty here than she does in Antibirth.


John Cleaver (Max Records) is a sixteen-year-old sociopath who is obsessed with serial killers but keeps his murderous urges at bay with regular therapy sessions and a strict set of rules to which he carefully adheres. When his sleepy town is shaken by a series of grisly killings, John turns amateur sleuth whilst striking up a friendship with elderly neighbour Mr Crowley (Christopher Lloyd)...

Billy O'Brien's film perfectly captures life in a small town and cleverly makes John someone to both suspect and root for. The murders are startlingly bloody, the tone expertly shifts between black comedy and genuine horror and Christopher Lloyd's performance is close to, if not actually being, a career best. He's absolutely astonishing here and the last thing you'll be thinking of is Doc Brown.

It's to Max Records' credit that he makes his character just as interesting as Lloyd's and even if the final twist isn't to everyone taste (the reveal perhaps shows a little too much) the journey to that point is consistently excellent. Hopefully this will get the wider release it deserves because it's a little gem.


Coroner Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox) and his medical technician son Austin (Emile Hirsch) are delivered the body of an unidentified woman and a deadline for discovering exactly how she met her fate. For starters, there isn't a mark on her and as they progress with the autopsy it suddenly becomes clear that something very strange is going on.

André Øvredal's classy exercise in suspense certainly delighted the Celluloid Screams crowd who only discovered its identity as 2016's Secret Film just before it screened.
Discovering the identity of Jane Doe in the movie turns out to be a much bigger challenge and the story grips from the moment the poor girl is wheeled in, carefully and slowly revealing a fascinating "howdunit" via some accurate procedural techniques (I've been reliably informed).

And if that wasn't enough, there are more than enough expertly-crafted thrills and shocks to leave the arms of your chair in need of repair as the suspense ratchets up with every twist and turn. And if that wasn't enough, the double act of Cox and Hirsch is great and newcomer Olwen Kelly leaves a lasting impression as Jane Doe. But doesn't she spend the film dead? Well, yes, but even so...

A smart, tense, intriguing crowd-pleaser which wrings the maximum suspense from its premise without dumbing down in the slightest, this was the perfect way to end the second day. It also went on to win the audience vote for the best film of the festival so congratulations go to Andre Øvredal, his cast and crew for leaving a lasting impression on such a discerning set of viewers.


If it's October, it must be Celluloid Screams and Sheffield's horror festival began its eighth run with an evening of almost indescribable weirdness...


When a cop (Aaron Poole) brings in an injured man to a local hospital things rapidly take a turn for the worse as 40% of Astron-6 (Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie) serve up something rather different in tone to what we're used to seeing from this film making collective.
A rather long way from the zany antics of previous Astron-6 features such as Manborg, The Void is a much more serious and atmospheric piece altogether, instantly recalling early John Carpenter movies - specifically, for me, Assault On Precinct 13 - as a small group of people is trapped inside the hospital by an ever-growing menace outside.
My main issue with The Void isn't actually with the movie itself but with the amount of chatter I'd heard about it in the lead-up to the screening. There was so much buzz about it that no film could possibly live up to the hype and the movie I'd expected wasn't quite there. Even so, the performances are good, the plentiful practical special effects are truly excellent, it's resolutely downbeat and any movie that references The Beyond scores points in my book.
Now I need to watch it again with a clearer head - I think I'll enjoy it much more without that weight of expectation hanging over it.

It would be fair to say that Lou (Natasha Lyonne) parties hard. Most of the time she's either smoking pot or drinking booze or combining the two. However, after a particularly epic night on the drugs and sauce she awakes feeling very odd and with the feeling that something very odd happened to her. She could be pregnant, only there's no way that could be possible...could it?

Lyonne is on top form here, throwing herself with gusto into a role that many others wouldn't dare to take on. Whether or not you enjoy the majority of this film probably depends on your ability to tap into its merry-go-round of stoners, alcoholics, drug dealers and general misfits and at times the plot does seem as aimless and shambling as many of its characters.

However, the final ten minutes throws in a left turn so bizarre that the ensuing pay-off is head-scratching, horrible and hilarious. If you predicted where this was going, your mind works on a totally different level to mine. If you were fidgeting for the first eighty minutes, does the demented denouement make it worth sticking around for? Personally, I would say yes but I was already taken by its innate strangeness and experimental qualities to begin with.


After his cat dies, Ted (Matthew C. Vaughan) suffers a mental breakdown which leads to him dressing as...well, see the picture above...and stalking the streets, convinced that he can bring his beloved feline back from the other side if he takes nine lives. Meanwhile, Claire (Shian Denovan) is wondering how to revitalise the popularity of her own moggy whose popularity on the Internet is starting to wane...

I've tried to be very careful about how much detail I give away because I feel you should go into this one knowing as little as possible about how the plot develops. I also feel I should warn you that this fully lives up to its "horror" tag and then some. Even as someone who's seen more than his fair share of the more extreme genre titles out there, Cat Sick Blues contains sequences which, to my mind, are jaw-droppingly disturbing and upsetting. There were walkouts at the screening and I don't blame those people one bit for getting out of there.

Make no mistake, this is a challenging movie which you're unlikely to forget in a hurry. It's been a while since I watched a film in a state of such constant unease and its a credit to everyone involved for producing such an uncompromising piece of work. Lead actress Shian Denovan was in attendance and although I could have wandered over to chat to her afterwards I was shocked at what I'd just viewed and genuinely didn't know what to say.

I'll say it now instead. You were great, Ms Denovan, and I spent most of the film feeling sick and anxious for your character. I still feel slightly queasy now thinking back to the movie. Will I ever watch it again? I'm not sure I want to put myself through it a second time. Perhaps Cat Sick Blues is a film to be experienced rather than enjoyed but for anyone who's ready for something that has no intention of letting its audience off the hook, prepare yourself...