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NEW ZEALAND’S TOP COMEDY TALENT

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Despite Flight of the Conchords’ Sinjay harbouring the belief that New Zealand is populated by “a bunch of cocky a-holes descended from criminals and retarded monkeys,” the islands have in fact proven to be the perfect breeding ground for some of the hottest comedy talent going.

The latest vehicle to flaunt said Kiwi humour is the vampire comedy mockumentary, What We Do In The Shadows based on an original short film written and directed by long-time cohorts, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. With vampires Viago (Waititi) and Vladislav (Clement) salivating at the thought of biting into UK cinemagoers’ necks this Friday we thought it was the perfect moment to rave about a few of our favourite Kiwi comedians.

Jarred Christmas

Jarred - Tour image 2014 resizedIn the comedy business since 1995, New Zealand comedian Jarred Christmas lives and works here in the UK. No stranger to screens – big and small – you’ve most likely seen him on TV shows ranging from Never Mind the Buzzcocks through 8 out of 10 Cats. He also appeared in the 2012 found-footage comedy feature, The Wedding Video alongside Rufus Hound and Lucy Punch.

He’s also this year’s Monumental series host and you can also find him on YouTube in the comedy web series Dwarves Assemble alongside Warwick Davies, a trailer of which you can enjoy below:

You can find out a plethora of details about Jarred over at his official website: http://www.jarredchristmas.com/

Bret Mckenzie and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords)

15415Next up is the mighty duo, Flight of the Conchords, the New Zealand-based musical comedy act made up of the now infamous Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. The duo first became acquainted when they shared a cleaning cupboard/compartment whilst studying film and theatre before going on to perform in the five-man comedy group, So You’re A Man with none other than Taiki Waititi.

Shortly after, in 1998, McKenzie and Clement formed Flight of the Conchords as a duo  and their comedy and music became a hit BBC radio series featuring the additional voices of fellow comedians Rhys Darby (see below), Jimmy Carr and Rob Brydon. Hot off their UK airwave success they struck gold in the form of their very own HBO show which premiered in 2007. The show was a massive success and since its unfortunate demise – after only 2 seasons – both Bret and Jemaine have gone from strength to strength making a number of appearances on the big screen. Most recently Jemaine played a rather malevolent martian in Men in Black 3 and now plays the 862-year-old Vladislav in What We Do In The Shadows, which he co-wrote and co-directed with Taika Waititi . Meanwhile, Bret supervised the musical score for the last two Muppet movies and also appeared as Lindir in the Lord of The Rings saga.

As you can see, they’ve been busy chaps so what better than one of their tracks going by the title of “Business Time”:

Sam Wills / The Boy With Tape On His Face

439999-217335-34Cutting his teeth as an apprentice clown at the tender age of 13, Sam Wills will be familiar to many as his alter-ego “The Boy With Tape On His Face.”

Particularly influenced by the likes of the Jim Rose Circus and the Tokyo Shock Boys, it was in 2008 that ‘The Boy’ starting making waves after an appearance at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Shortly after this success Sam upped and went to London where he gained even more of a following. Most notable performances to date include a spot on ITV’s Comedy Rocks, a spot at the first ever BBC Comedy Prom at London’s Royal Albert Hall and a coveted spot at the 83rd annual Royal Variety Performance which you can enjoy below.

Taika Waititi

What We Do in the Shadows, Sundance Film Festival 2014Apart from the aforementioned performances with So You’re a Man, Waititi also teamed up with Clement as the comedy duo The Humourbeasts which won New Zealand’s highest comedy accolade, the Billy T Award, in 1999.

After directing a number of successful shorts his first feature film, 2007’s Eagle vs Shark, gained him significant success and in that same year he penned and directed an episode of the Flight of the Conchords TV show, later directing a further three episodes.

Waititi’s biggest film role then came in 2011 playing Thomas Kalmaku in the live-action superhero film Green Lantern alongside Ryan Reynolds. Coming to the present and, as already mentioned, he’s joined forces with Jemaine Clement to write, direct and star in What We Do in the Shadows in which he plays the 379 year young Viago.

Rhys Darby

Rhys DarbyWe certainly can’t forget the aforementioned Rhys Montague Darby, best known for playing Murray Hewitt, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement’s lumbering manager in Flight of the Conchords. Formerly a soldier in the New Zealand Army, he went on to form his first comedy duo Rhysently Granted, with Grant Lobban in 1996.

Taking a solo stand-up show to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2002, right there and then he decided to move to the UK to find work. Given McKenzie and Clement’s penchant for performing at the Edinburgh Fringe it was only a matter of time before they were going to join forces.

Darby too has appeared on the big screen, most notably playing Jim Carrey‘s boss in Yes Man and also appearing in Richard CurtisThe Boat That Rocked. Right now you’ll find him in What We Do In The Shadows playing alpha male, Anton, leader of a troupe of werewolves – yes, you read that right first time.

What We Do In The Shadows is released in the UK this Friday, 21 November and we’ll leave you to sink your teeth into the latest trailer.

Don’t forget to read our review of the film right here where we describe it as having “all the makings of a cult classic” as the film “releases laughs like blood flowing from a freshly opened artery.”

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FeaturesShort Film

A Short Mission: “…less”

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Unemployment is a hefty and heavy word that is placed on an ever rising number of people yearly. That excruciating daily weight drags you further down into the pits of despair with no ground to hit. You are floating in this miserable atmosphere believing on a daily basis that you are worthless, because you are jobless. And because of it, you are penniless, nearly homeless and you are soon to be hopeless. Taking that affix and making it titular, Ashlee Coughlan (from the great horror short “shhh”) is a small look into the turmoil that many unemployed people feel “…less” is the day in the life of someone unemployed and how they are constantly belittled, dragged down and made to feel less than human.

As someone who has battled against notions that I am equally lazily or apathetic because I have been unemployed, the emotions here are important and vital. Doused in black and white, giving it an added layer of dread is effective. The brilliant aspects is threading the visceral backbone into the imagery; a blurred face, a smashed laptop and relentless bills all mark pivotal emotional moments within our heroes life. There is also the added strong acting from Jason Perryman who accurately conveys the frustration and anger from a world repeatedly saying “no”.

However, that being said, “…less” suffers from being somewhat over sentimental with its storytelling and is hampered by shaky camera work.  It’s a good effort from the upcoming filmmaker but it’s not an incredible one, showing Coughlan just needs to hone in his storytelling skill.

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A Short Mission: Bradford – Halifax – London

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There is always something so special about watching a couple arguing. Not in complete full blown anger, sure, but that special gritted teeth heated conversation as irritations come to a boil. You know they really love each other and you know they care. But they’ve been so flummoxed by the day’s events that they are overcome with annoyance and spews into this tiny little argument, frothing at the mouth to get every last bit of frustration out of their system. They are fun to watch, and if done well in cinema, make great viewing. Bradford-Halifax- London is an example of capturing a sort of human spirit on film in this delightful short by Francis Lee.

Filmed in a complete one shot – this continuous take allows our small trio of actors to amuse as a family of three heading to London for a wedding. However, a series of mishaps has caused a bout of tension and no sooner have they plonked themselves down then the parents are laying in to each other. Causing much embarrassment to their teenage daughter, can the pair reconcile for a pleasant train journey?

Bradford – Halifax – London is a train journey full of humanity and realism, as anyone who has had that kind of public “talk,” will contest. It is impressively done with a camera in one “locked off” position that remarkably enthuses this film with a grand sense of voyeurism and observation. With a witty dialogue that feels fresh and realistic, this incredible short is excellent and makes hilarious viewing. Shown at UnderWire Film Festival this week to celebrate Katy Cavanagh’s strong performance as the mother, it’s not hard to see why the Coronation Street star has been praised. Though the bulk of dialogue is taken by the wonderful Paul Barnhill’s father who excels in comedic timing and deliverance here, its Cavanagh’s true to life reaction that tickles the audience. Her contorted facial reactions, heavy sighs and clear pregnancy discomfort titillate. She enthuses the film with a sense of realism and it’s pure joy.

Francis Lee’s quaint and amazing little short is a tableau of human life played for the audience to see. Feeling much more as though you had stumbled awkwardly on a family’s domestic rather than watching a creative and inspiring film, Bradford – Halifax – London is an enjoyable and fun short, capturing a wonderful essence of life.

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A Short Mission: Happy Thoughts

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When you think about Peter Pan, the wildest dreams of childhood emerge. The immortalised youth, the adventures in Neverland and embarking on epic quests against adults and pirates alike. People are probably more akin to the Disney romp that made you believe you could fly, but the JM Barrie novella has inspired countless of productions, stories and creativity – artists who want to reimagine the intriguing, if albeit sinister (well, the original anyway) story. What Layke Anderson’ has done, with his thrilling and evocative short Happy Thoughts is give the Peter Pan cannon a visceral and powerful modern era tone that transcends eras.

As screened at last night’s Underwire Film Festival; the story follows three people, embroiled inside a bitter love story where the man at the centre is cursed by an urge to be free and fly away from his surroundings. A devastating event leaves two women embroiled in a heated moment, both having lost a key element to their love and emotion.

Told non-linear, through stirring imagery and flashbacks that entwine like Peter and Wendy upon the bedsit mattress, Happy Thoughts becomes this enthralling short that captures both the innocence and the maturity of growth. Splice with quotes and moments from the original story, this reimagining is strong and hits a vein of emotion that simmers with sheltered love and a mind encased in tragedy. Telling the tale through dreamlike memories as a bitter Wendy and Tinkerbell battle it out in words – enticing a troubled power play between the pair – you are embroiled in the emotive backbone of jealousy and pain. As an adult Wendy regrets, an ever angry Tink lashes out against her. With this verbose fight, combined with these moving montages of love with Peter and love without him, this is a striking capture of the Peter Pan tale. There are even little aesthetic details such as a thimble ring honouring the story.

Happy Thoughts has a gritty modern grip that is both intelligent and beautiful, soaring with this absorbing score by Tom Green and gorgeous cinematography. As quotes and nods to Peter Pan fill the atmosphere, we are left to wonder whether childhood is best left in the past or whether taking it through you to adulthood is vital. Nevertheless, Happy Thoughts is a stunning piece of short cinema with compelling centric performances to bring new life into classic characters.

Happy Thoughts is making its way around some festival circuits. UnderWire Festival continues all this week.

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A Short Mission: Aqua Profonda

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Fear and cinema go hand in hand. After all, there is an abundance of horror films that like to play on our subconscious and truly terrify us with blood, gore and bumps in the night. Yet, as much as our hearts races beneath us alongside the actress who is about to be slices and diced, it’s very rare to see a film that gets to the imagery bustling in our minds when we confront a phobia. For this delightful short, director Nathan Campbell greatly encompasses the sentiments of fear with a mere two minutes.

Aqua Profunda is a short animation that focuses on a man on the side of a pool. As he tentatively builds up courage for a swim, we are taken through a journey of memory and imagination that is pivotal for his fright.

Utilising a wide range of the spectrum the film dances wildly with vivid colours and characters that melt into one another impeccably. What this does is captivate you, pulling you on to a series of thought that must haunt our speechless character. Though the time to convey the wrought and worried mindset may seem like it could be rushed or stereotypical – director Nathan Campbell enthuses it with a sense of realism and it dances alongside the dreamlike aesthetics. If you’ve suffered an unnerving phobia against the norm then you’ll recognise the visceral backbone that weighs the movie with greatness. It’s wonderful, almost poetic and charged with that lonely sense if having your courage stripped away by your mind.

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A Short Mission: Death By Chocolate

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Imagine having 60 hours to create a brilliant film. 60 hours. As well as this, you have one simple instruction “Nothing is as what it seems” and a prop “something is being inspected with a magnified glass.”  It’s a small amount of time with not a lot to go upon. Heck, there are some film directors out there who can’t create a film in about three years with a 30 page script and 32942303 dollars behind them (cough, Michael Bay, cough). Anyway, for the Colchester 60 Hour film festival, the strenuous task is at hand to create something fresh and wonderful but sandwich the process into just under three days. Black Apron Entertainment have done just that with their greatly named film Death By Chocolate.

I’d like to stress now that this is not a comedy, and the tagline “nothing is as it seems,” is more apt than ever with this film. The metaphorical magnified glass here (I’m not giving away the physical side) is a relationship where a couple are happily in love. From afar, they seem content. So much so, in fact, that seconds into the film you’ll feel enraged amounts of jealousy. But peering closer, the truth unravels and culminates in a shocking end.

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Written and directed by Daniel Bailey, Lynette Linton and Gino Ricardo Green, Death By Chocolate is an evocative look at the undercurrent of a relationship. Pinpointing rather under heard issues that rage beneath the sickly sweet surface, the strength here is how the narrative flits between different viewpoints of the same scene; extending it so the truth hits you in the pit of your stomach. Though the film is obviously hindered by a small budget, the project does well in conveying a story and excavating the bare bones of a seemingly perfect relationship by playing with its unreliable narrator. With effective and good performances by Francesca Bailey and Samson Kayo, (though, by no means, amazing) Death By Chocolate is truly helped along by its frankly stirring score by young performer Eden Roxx. Not only capturing the essence of the plot and the visceral coil that spirals out of control, the music is gorgeously imagined and hauntingly played.

Death by Chocolate is a project with a lot of attentiveness and emotion poured into it, certainly producing a great final product for the 60 Hour competition. But more so than this, Black Apron Entertainment is a future company to look out for.

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FeaturesKiller Chords

Best Of The Fest: Celluloid Screams 2014

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It has been almost been a week since CELLULOID SCREAMS took over Sheffield’s Showroom cinema between 24th and 26th October. Run by Festival Director Robert Nevitt and his co-programmers Polly Allen and Sarah Williamson, this year saw its sixth and arguably the festival’s most successful year to date.

After attending the festival for a number of years now it’s great to see how well-respected Celluloid Screams has become amongst other festivals co-ordinators up and down the UK and for good reason. Rob clearly takes pride in his line-up and he always delivers a fully diversified programme that never fails to surprise the festival goers.

Speaking of this years programme, opening the festival was Aston-6’s love letter to the Italian Giallo THE EDITOR. The line-up this year also included Gerard Johnsone‘s HOUSEBOUND, Patrick Brice‘s CREEP, Stuart Simpson‘s CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA and the highly anticipated sequel ABCS OF DEATH 2. Closing the festival was Tommy Wirkola’s DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD.

I was there to experience most of the festivities but I had to bow out early of the SCI-FI SHOCKS allnighter thanks to a late night in the bar after the first night. But those crazy enough to stay for the remainder of the allnighter watched special presentations of BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTTER SPACE.

During the weekend there was an appearance from filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Spring), Andy Stewart (INK), Fredrik S. Hana (Autumn Harvest), Robert Morgan (The ABCS of Death 2), Matt Palmer (The Gas Man) and Ben Steiner (The Stomach). Also appearing was ‘The Human Centipede 2‘ actor Laurence Harvey and legendary poster artist Graham Humphreys.

Rounding up the impressive list of festival guests were Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Conor Sweeney from the Canadian film collective Astron-6. They were joined by this years Guest of Honour who was none other than director/producer Brian Yuzna who was at the festival to host special screenings of SOCIETY, RE-ANIMATOR, and DAGON. Yuzna would also chair the panel of short film judges.

During the closing gala it was announce that Ben Steiner‘s THE STOMACH was awarded the gold VHS tape for best short of the festival but winning the audience favourite award was WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS from the team behind The Flight of the Conchords.

As for us it has been difficult to narrow down the films that we consider to be the best of the festival. So after taking time to think about the films and the shorts that played, we have put together this list of our favourite shorts and features from the Celluloid Screams 2014 line-up. Enjoy.

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#5: TIMOTHY (Dir. Marc Martínez Jordán)

TIMOTHY is an incredibly creepy film about a a boy called Simon who has to deal with his bully of a babysitter. When settling down to sleep Simon receives an unexpected visitor in the form of his favourite tv show character which will turn into a night he will never forget. Beautifully shot, sinisterly twisted and highly polished, Director Marc Martínez Jordán does a grand job in creating a short with a final shot that still remains with us today.

#4: THE GAS MAN (Dir. Matt Palmer)

THE GAS MAN was shown very late on the first night of the festival and was fourteen minutes of pure terror. The short follows a woman who is working from home in her remote cottage. On this particular morning she receives a visit from a man who has come to read her gas meter. She lets him in and immediately feels a sense of dread which is followed by a sinister chain of events.As a short, The Gas Man is very bleak, effectively scary and wonderfully directed by Palmer who had me on the edge of my seat right from the get-go.

#3: INK (Dir. Andy Stewart)

Toronto might have David Cronenberg but Glasgow has Andy Stewart. After making audiences feel queasy with his debut Dysmorphia and his follow up Split, Stewart was at the festival for the world premiere of his latest short INK. The film follows a creepy man who is determined to make his own body a work of art in the cheapest (and bloodiest) way possible. As you can imagine this is no easy affair, the effects are disgustingly enjoyable and on-screen the film looks immaculate. There are two shots in particular that are truly jaw-dropping. You heard it from us that Andy Stewart is a name to keep an eye out for in the coming years.

#2: THE STOMACH (Dir. Ben Steiner)

THE STOMACH is  one the most bizzarre short films that i’ve seen in quite some time. Take one part gritty British crime thriller and combine it with elements found in a Cronenberg film and you’ve got a short that shows a truly unique way to channel the dead. Featuring strong performances and a fresh concept, Steiner has shown a real flare for crafting something special that will not only gross you out but possible leave you stunned with how bonkers it really is.

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#5: CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA (Dir. Stuart Simpson)

Not exactly a horror film more of a drama piece about a social-awkward ice-cream man’s descent into madness after a prolonged period of abuse, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a film that is both intriguing and compelling viewing. Simpson’s direction is great but the real gem of the film is the performance given by Glenn Maynard in the lead role. As the films lead he is endearing and likable. You can catch this film for yourself when it is released on DVD on November 10th.

#4: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Dir. Taika Waititi/Jemaine Clement)

This was a real treat for those lucky enough to attend the festival and proved to be a real crowd pleaser. Perfectly paced without ever become stale, What We Do In the Shadows is thoroughly entertaining. Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s script is just as razor-sharp as the fangs of their characters and their performances pack just as much bite. Filled to the brim with plenty of jokes that will make and keep you laughing during its 86-minute run-time this is a film that makes eating a sandwich a completely different experience.

#3: THE EDITOR (Dir. Adam Brooks/Matthew Kennedy)

Whilst serving as both a homage to and a satire of the Italian Giallo, The Editor is faithful and respectful to the genre but still remains a fun film at its core. With intentional use of dubbing and over the top gore effects the film perfectly captures the spirit of the genre and is packed with references that will keep Giallo fans happy. However, for those of you who aren’t into Giallo I can guarantee that you will still enjoy watching this movie as Brooks and Kennedy have crafted a slasher film that may appear light on the surface but is jam-packed with content that will keep your attention firmly planted on the screen.

#2: CREEP (Dir. Patrick Brice)

Creep was one of our most anticipated films of the festival and there was no disappointment. Just like it’s name the film that is incredibly creepy and unbearably tense. As well as directing Brice also stars alongside Mark Duplass who both deliver solid performances giving the film feel a sense of realism in turn making the film incredibly scary as a result. I won’t say much more as the less you know about this film is really the better but I will say that it permeates a sense of dread that will have you gripped throughout.

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cs_3_autumnBEST SHORT
AUTUMN HARVEST
 (Dir. Fredrick S. Hana)

Fredrick S. Hana was the winner of last year’s best short film award with his short Angst, Piss & Drid. This year he returns to the festival circuit with his latest effort AUTUMN HARVEST. Shot entirely in black and white, the film follows a grief-stricken sailor turned serial killer. Dark and moody, stylish and perfectly scored, we simply fell in love with this short and it is for this reason that we feel Autumn Harvest was the best short of the weekend.

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SPRING (Dir. Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead)

Known for taking a more diverse approach to horror, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead wowed festival audiences with their genre-bending thriller Resolution. With their latest offering, the boys have delivered a well-written love story that is plagued by a careful injection and just the right amount of horror, SPRING is a film that is intelligently written, superbly directed and has plenty of artistic flare that is difficult to resist as a genre fan.

So there you have it. Our top picks for the 2014 festival. Thinking about the entire festival weekend, there is no denying that Rob, Polly and Sarah put on an incredible festival packed with plenty of surprises along the way. So here’s to the 2015 festival and we hope to see you there.

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A Short Mission: Sausage

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There is something so admirable about the lazy days of market holders, enticing their customers with the delicious smells of home-baked foods at affordable prizes in the squares of beautiful vintage downs. The hard working slog of open air selling where money goes straight into the pocket of the creators is dwindling to the over corporate cities and “Starbucking” mentality where companies have infiltrated every village, town and ruined their rustic aesthetic. This latest whimsical short Sausage (and yes, a French accent and inflictions are being said with that,) is a delightful little film about two stall holders whose patch is infiltrated by a gigantic metallic Supermarket chain visual metaphor creating their products, cakes and sausages, cheaper and quicker.

Director Robert Grieves has brought a quaint and impressive little short that utilises a lot of retro animated techniques. With an abundance of colour, splashed against the backdrop of a hilariously fun story – one that many people can recognise and sympathise with (though that is largely the drone like consumers whose attention is being vied for and flock to whatever offer seems best). IT was a spirit, jovial and earnest that strikes a note of companion ship for the little guys, working together to make their businesses win.

There is also an underlying theme that in the frantic rush for business and success, chain stores forget their aim and within the franticness to end up on burning up (cough, Woolworths, cough). But there is also a little sliver of possibility that there is enough room in the square for all characters if they were nice enough.

Entwined with this fantastic animation, with quirky characters that you immediately battle for throughout the film is a bustling story that is highly pleasing. Grieves’ Sausage is a brilliant film to devour, munch and feel utterly satisfied afterwards.

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EXPERIENCE THE INTERSTELLAR EUROPEAN PREMIERE LIVE IN 360 DEGREES

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The European Premiere of Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR takes place tonight at 6pm (Wednesday 29th October) in London’s Leicester Square. You can join the live stream showing all the action from the red carpet including the world-first fully interactive 360 degree camera.

Those expected to attend include cast members Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and film-makers Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, amongst others.

The 360 degree camera will give you a rotating screen so you can control the angle you watch, whilst the player will also give you the option to pose questions to the cast before and during the event via social media.

The live steam should commence from 18:00 GMT so keep your eyes peeled on the player below to watch the premiere as it happens.

Interstellar is released everywhere November 7

Keep up to date with the latest #INTERSTELLAR news and information at https://twitter.com/InterstellarUK
or https://www.facebook.com/InterstellarUK

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FeaturesKiller Chords

Celluloid Screams 2014: Part Three

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It’s always sad when it comes down to the last day of any festival but considering how incredibly strong the lineup has been this year I woke up not wanting the weekend to end. But there was no time to mope around as I still had one more day of films to watch so it was a case of getting ready and making my way back to another full day at The Showroom for what was to be the final day of Celluloid Screams.

cs_3_canisBefore the first feature of the day two more shorts were shown. The first short CANIS was a moody stop-animation short from co-directors Marc Riba and Anna Solanas. Shown entirely in black and white the short tells the story of Teo who is forced into isolation in his house that is constantly besiged by a horde of stray dogs. The film is nicely animated and you can tell quite a bit of due care and attention was paid during filming as the project. The film looks fantastic on screen and the animators effectively convey Teo’s emotions perfectly via storytelling and creative sound design.

The second short EMPTIED comes from director David Ferino. Allegedly based on real events, the short is a dark comedy about a female dentist who decides to take revenge on her former lover. It’s a simple idea which is executed well. Overall I wasn’t thrilled by this short but that doesn’t mean it was entirely bad as there were a few laughs thrown in for good measure.

cs_3_subAfter the shorts played it was time to begin the first film of the day SUBURBAN GOTHIC. Directed by Richard Bates Jr (Excision) the film tells the story of Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubbler) who is kicked out of his big city apartment to return home. But when a vengeful ghost terrorizes the small own, Raymond teams up with a local bartender called Becca (Kat Dennings) to solve the mystery and stop the spirit intent on destruction. The film also stars Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) and John Waters.

Definitely more upbeat and powered by a subversive layer of dry comedy this film works well to inspire more than a few laughs from its audience. Where Suburban Gothic does not rely on horror tropes to entertain the film excels by running a very kooky sense of humour backed up by solid performances from Matthew Gray Gubbler and Kat Dennings who make a great team together on-screen. This said, I was left expecting more from this one as there is only so many times you can find Gubbler’s high-pitched screams funny (and he does this a lot).

cs_3_autumnNext there was an appearance from Fredrik S. Hana the award-winning director of last year’s ANGST, PISS & DRID. He was welcomed to the stage by Rob to introduce his latest project and my personal favourite from this years festival circuit AUTUMN HARVEST.

The short provides a portrait of a grief-stricken sailor turned serial killer and is shot entirely in black and white. Just like his previous film, Hana has delivered a very moody short which is superbly directed and perfectly scored. It was beautifully dark and looked flawless on the big screen. I simply can’t recommend this short enough.

cs_3_dagonUp next was a screening of Stuart Gordon‘s DAGON. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft‘s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth‘ the film is the story of Paul (Ezra Godden) and Barbara (Raquel Rabal). After being marooned off the coast of Spain the couple seek assistance from a nearby village only to become the target of occult worshippers of an antient god of the sea.

DAGON is one of the projects produced by Brian Yuzna in collaboration with his production company Filmax. The film itself felt very 80s in style and came complete with an intriguing story at its core that holds you in a vice-tight grip with its its horror and fantasy elements that will satisfy the majority of horror fans. Following the film Brian Yuzna returned to the stage to field another Q&A.

Up next was the annual Celluloid Screams short film retrospective which this year focused on the work of Astron-6. So as a bit of background for those who are not aware of who Astron-6 are, they are a Canadian film collective who originally met at the Winnipeg Short Film Massacre where they competed against each other for a number of years before coming up with the idea of joining forces.

cs_3_coolguysThe five members of the collective are Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney, Matthew Kennedy, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski posses amazing skills in filmmaking that include visual arts, special effects and acting. The five filmmakers are equal partners and work together to produce low-budget, 80’s-centric, genre-bending, independent movies that often combines horror, sci-fi and comedy.

In the retrospective we were treated to a screenings of COOL GUYS, GOREBLADE, FAT ADAM, KRIS MISS, BREAKING SANTA, LAZER GHOSTS 2 and BIO-COP. The festival also held the World Premiere of their latest project DIVORCED DAD which was insanely funny. Out of all the shorts show I have to admit that my personal favourites were without a doubt COOL GUYS and BIO-COP. If you fancy checking out some earlier Astron-6 gems you can by visiting their website here.

Following the retrospective Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney and Matthew Kennedy took to the stage to take part in a Q&A where questions were asked surrounding how they got together, their experience of working with Troma and what inspires them as filmmakers.

cs_3_abcsFollowing that was an exclusive screening of the highly anticipated sequel ABCS OF DEATH 2 which features twenty-six new shorts, twenty-six new directors and twenty-six new ways to die. The original had festival audiences divided into two camps, those who loved it and those that hated it. Does the sequel bridge the gap between both parties? The answer is… kind of.

With segments from people like E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills), Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh), Dennison Ramalho, Larry Fassenden, Steven Kostanski (Manborg) and Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary), it came as no surprise that this is more technically consistent in tone when compared to the original. However, it does also come with many faults which was a shame. It was also confirmed in the end credits that there will be ABCS OF DEATH 3: TEACH HARDER.

After the film Robert Morgan, the director of D is for Deloused, took to the stage alongside T is for Torture Porn actors Conor Sweeney and Laurence R. Harvey for the Q&A. However, Rob had a surprise in store for the audience as joining the Q&A via skype was none other than the Twisted Twins themselves, Jen and Sylvia Soska.

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Jen & Sylvia Soska taking part in the ABCS OF DEATH 2 Q&A alongside (left to right) Laurence R Harvey, Conor Sweeney and Robert Morgan.

One of the highlights of the festival is the annual Celluloid Screams Secret Film. Last year it was Joe BegosALMOST HUMAN, the year before it was CIaran Foy‘s CITADEL and the year before that was Justin Kurzel‘s SNOWTOWN. This year there was plenty of suggestions thrown in to the mix as to what it would be as titles such as Wyrmwood, It Follows, Tusk and The Canal all got a mention.

cs_3_asmodexiaI had no idea what it would be until Rob announced on stage literally seconds before the film began that this years Secret Film would be Marc Carreté‘s ambitious excorsicsm film ASMODEXIA. Admittedly my heart sank when I heard this as I was hoping to see Wyrmwood (a film that is essentially Mad Max meets Day of the Dead). However, with an open mind, I remained in my seat ready to experience what the film had to offer.

ASMODEXIA is the Stake Land of Exorcism movies. Combining exorcism rites with a road movie, this film follows Elroy (Lluís Marco), a former leader of a cult, as he travels around Barcelona with his fifteen year-old granddaughter Alba (Clàudia Pons). Set around the time of the infamous myan-predicted apocalypse, people are overcome with demonic possession like it is some kind of virus. Whilst attempting to help as many people as possible Elroy is pursued by members of his old sect who are interested in his granddaughter’s soul.

As director Marc Carreté did a decent job with this one. It was shot well, it was dark and created a grim sense of dread along with a few shocks along the way. Sadly, the performances were only so-so and the ending was very predictable. But overall, this film wasn’t that awful as a whole and provided a needed break from the strong focus on comedy which seemed to rule over the festival weekend.

Prior to the last film, it was time for Brian Yuzna to announce which short film had won the brize for best short. To begin with he announced that Marc Martínez Jordán‘s TIMOTHY won third place, Marc Riba & Anna Solanas’ CANIS won second place and in first place came Ben Steiner‘s THE STOMACH. Winning a gold VHS tape, Director Ben Steiner and producer Dan Dixon took to the stage to accept their award. After that it was time for Robert Nevitt to introduce our last film.

The last feature and ending the day in style was Tommy Wirkola’s sequel to Dead SnowDEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD which picks up right where the first one ended and sees the return of Vegar Hoel Stig and Frode Heriksenin this laugh-a-minute tour de force that will have you laughing all the way through.

cs_3_dodsnowAfter having losing his arm in a vicious fight with the evil Zombie leader Herzog, Martin (Stig) is found unconscious and taken to hospital where he is accused of the murder of his friends. Unlucky (or lucky depending on how you see it) for him, Martin has had an arm stitched onto his body only this arm isn’t his but belongs to Herzog. After breaking out of Hospital Martin learns that Herzog is still alive and is intent on wiping out everyone in his way. But with a little help from a long-dead army of fallen Russian soldiers, Martin is determined to put a stop to Herzog and his zombie army once and for all.

Bigger, Better, Bolder and Bloodier than the first, Wirkola exceeded all expectations and keeps up the ante on this excellent comedy horror that will have you in pain from the number of laugh-out-moments in this film. There is no denying just how fun this film is. You will gasps, snigger and lose yourself in its uncontrollable laugh-out-loud moments. Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead made for a perfect film to end a wonderful weekend on and it seemed that everyone in the crowd agreed with me as folks couldn’t resist applauding loudly when Bonnie Tyler was belting out her classic ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’.

Following the film Robert along with his co-programmers Polly Allen and Sarah Williamson, took to the stage to begin the festival closing ceremony. We had already been told the winning short film, the winners of the bumper competition but it was time to find out which film had won crowd favourite over the course of the weekend.

SAT_06Based on these votes recorded after each screening it was announced that the third most popular film over the course of the weekend was Gerard Johnstone‘s HOUSEBOUND. In second place came Tommy Wirkola‘s DEAD SNOW 2 but the most popular film as voted by festival goers for 2014 was none other than Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement‘s outstanding vampire mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS.

After that it was time to give thanks to the many people involved with the festival. Thanks were given to the celluloid screams team, the weekend volunteers, the guests, the distributors, the sponsors and finally to the festival attendees. However, Celluloid Screams could not exist without the hard work put in by Festival Director Rob Nevitt who received a billiant surprise from his team after being presented with an exclusive Astron-6 signed FATHER’S DAY poster.

Final thoughts…

Overall, the festival was a fantastic experience which was well-organised. Throughout the weekend there was a strong family environment which was evident in how folks would openly talk to each other and discuss the films they had seen. It goes to show that Celluloid Screams is a thoroughly enjoyable festival and deserves all the praise it has received in the past. I urge anyone considering attending next years festival to do so, you won’t be disappointed.

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FeaturesKiller Chords

Celluloid Screams 2014: Part Two

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It would appear that I stayed for longer in the cinema bar than I had originally intended. So with very little sleep I still somehow managed to begin my morning routine and was ready to begin day two of Celluloid Screams. Armed with a grin that would shame a Cheshire Cat I arrived at The Showroom in plenty of time to take my seat ready for the first film.

SAT_03The first movie of the day was Stuart Simpson‘s psycho thriller CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA but before that was shown the audience was treated to screening of the short film SPLIT. Directed by Glaswegian filmmaker Andy Stewart, SPLIT stars Austin Hayden as a man who is forced to come to terms with his own culpability about his infidelity only to have his sense of guilt begin to eat away at him.

In a long tradition of melt-man movies, Stewart thoroughly impressed me with this one. Taking a step forward in his career he balances the drama and horror elements of the short flawlessly combining them with some truly disgusting special effects from Grant Mason. Split is a powerful film, it will make you gasp and it will gross you out. The crowd loved it, I loved it and as such, I thoroughly recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to see it does so.

cs_01What do you get when you cross Bronson and an Ice-Cream truck? The answer is Stuart Simpson‘s CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA, a film about a socially awkward ice-cream man called Warren Tompson (played by ex-Neighbours star Glenn Maynard).  After suffering over a long period of time at the hands of bullies, Warren’s psyche begins to crack sending his sense of reality into a dangerous tailspin.

More of a drama piece and a character study than a horror film, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla was a very different film to what I was expecting but it didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Simpson’s direction is great but the real gem of the film is the performance given by Glenn Maynard. As the films lead he is endearing and likeable to the point where I found myself caring about his character and what happened to him.

The ending is very bittersweet and stands as a true testament that even the nicest person on the planet can turn into a monster with enough pressure. If you would like to check out the film you can when it is released on DVD on 10th November.

SAT_02After a short break it was time for the second film of the day STARRY EYES which would be played after two shorts. The first was Ben Steiner‘s bizarre short THE STOMACH. Offering a truly unique method of channeling the dead, Ben Steiner deilivers one of the strangest shorts I have seen in quite some time. The film follows Frank,  a spirit medium who gets tangeled in an argument between a petty criminal and his dead partner-in-crime.

There’s not much to say about this one without spoiling it but I will say that it was masterfully directed by Steiner who clearly has a real flare for crafting a gritty thriller and combining its supernatural twist which by the end of the short will leave you stunned.

Next up was Ignacio F. Rodó‘s short TUCK ME IN. Inspired by a two-sentance horror story, the story is simple and follows a father who goes to say good night to his son. It’s hard to provide a critique for a short that has a 60 second run time but I can assure you that the end result is effective and deeply unsettling.

SAT_07After the shorts it was time to embrace Kevin Kolsch‘s STARRY EYES which follows a waitress working at a dingy diner desperate to book her first real acting gig. So when Sarah (Alex Essoe) gets a callback after a very strange audition she is thrilled but her excitement soon fades when she realises the true cost of fame and fortune.

Smartly written, superbly acted and nicely directed, Starry Eyes is a film that draws your attention from the get go and takes you on a journey filled with horrific imagery and shocking scenes of gore underlined by a commentary about the grittier side behind casting in LA. The effects reminded me of Eric England‘s film from last year CONTRACTED about a young girl who contracts a deadly STI from a one night stand so if you have seen that you have a basic idea of just how disturbing this gets.

At this point we were already halfway through the day but with no sign of slowing down it was time for two more shorts MR DENTONN and GHOST TRAIN.

cs_02MR DENTONN is a fantasy horror short directed by Ivan Villamel who tells a story set on a cold winter’s night. Laura (Irene Aguilar) reads a fairytale to her brother David (Kaiet Rodriguez) about a strange creature that hunts children. On finishing the story they begin to feel the presence of something in the darkness and find out that Mr Dentonn is no fictional character. Described by a fellow festival goer as what THE BABADOOK should have been, Villamel has delivered a short that is packed with  the stuff nightmares are made from. It is dark, chilling and extremely effective at creating a sense of dread.

The second short GHOST TRAIN was directed by Lee Cronin and follows two estranged brothers who return to a long-abandoned theme park to visit a broken down ghost train where their friend disappeared over three decades ago. Beautifully shot and featuring some very creative effects that will make your skin crawl, Ghost Train for me looked immaculate on screen but failed to impress anywhere else which was a real shame.

SAT_06So the third feature of the day was the excellent vampiric mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. Following the undead lives of Viago, Vladislav and Decon, the film documents the adventures of the three flatmates whilst they try their best to balance life’s obstacles with being an immortal vampires. Imagine THIS IS SPINAL TAP with Vampires and you’re almost there… almost. Once thing’s for certain and that is you will not be able to face a sandwich in the same way again!

I already had the pleasure of watching this gem prior to the festival so I knew immediately that it would be a real hit amongst festival goers. This fact was proven by the round of applause the film received by the time the end credits began to roll. This film is perfectly paced, nicely acted and comes with a very sharp-witted script, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS was just as much fun to watch the second time around and I can’t wait for it to be released here on 21st November so I can see it again for a third time.

cs_03Before the next film Rob welcomed returning Celluloid Screams alumni and co-directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson to the stage to introduce their latest movie SPRING. Their follow-up to the 2012 genre-bending indie hit RESOLUTION, Benson and Moorhead are is  a unique film that echoes such films as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and Richard Linklater‘s BEFORE SUNRISE only SPRING offers a story that is more intriguing and satisfyingly unique.

SPRING is the story of a backpacker called Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) who after taking a trip to Italy, sparks a romance with a young woman whilst unaware that she harbors a dark secret. I will not go into anymore detail than that as this is a film where the less you know about it the more you will get out. A well-written love story with an injection of horror, SPRING is a film that is intelligently written, superbly directed and has plenty of artistic flare that is difficult to resist as a genre fan.

After the film Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson returned to the stage to host a Q&A with the audience where questions about how they came up with the idea, what it was like to shoot in Italy and what they have planned next. It was during this that the co-directors announced that their next project would focus on Aleister Crowley, an English occultist, poet, painter, novelist and mountaineer who was responsible for founding the religion of Thelma.

Prior to SPRING there was another short film shown called THE JIGSAW. Directed by Basil Al-Safar and Rashad Al-Safar, the film follows the purchase of a mystery jigsaw puzzle from a strange vendor. What follows is an evening of terror and consequences. The film was another example of a short that looks amazing on screen but lacks any substance for my tastes. I do respect what the filmmakers were going for but I just couldn’t get on board with it.

cs_04Following SPRING was the World Premiere of Andy Stewart‘s third short INK. Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good… that’s the message behind this short which follows a man (played by Sam Hayman) on a mission to turn his body into a work of art in the cheapest way possible.

He made audiences faint with DYSMORPHIA, He made festival goers gasp with the greusome effects of SPLIT, but with his latest project, Glaswegian filmmaker Andy Stewart knocks it out of the park with INK. On screen it looks immaculate, it remains polished and his attention to detail is incredible as there are two shots in particular which were simply outstanding. I am a believe that Stewart will continue to expand his filmmaking skills as he continues his career. It is for this reason that I tell you all that this man is one to look out for in the coming years.

Bringing the day to a close ahead of the sci-fi allnighter was a special screening of the absolutely bizarre movie SOCIETY which is directed by the festival’s Guest of Honour Brian Yuzna. After a brief introduction from the man himself it was time for the audience to experience an actual print of the film which had been kept in pristine condition since it was shown in cinemas on its general release.

cs_05I had not seen this film in over a decade so my memory of it was very broken so it felt like I was watching it again for the first time (well except for the Shunting that is). But for those of you who are unaware of the film, SOCIETY is a film that provides a commentary about social status. It follows a high school student called Bill who is worried that he is ‘different’ to his sister and parents. As his suspicions turn out to be true Billy is forced to stand up for what is right and survive the ordeal without becoming shunted by Society.

You would be a fool to not expect something crazy from the producer of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND as with SOCIETY Yuzna has delivered a surreal film. Sure it contains terrible acting and a somewhat questionable script but overall the film still entertains if not suckerpunch its audience into silence during the films final act. I personally liked Society despite the obvious flaws and I think it’s important to remember that without Brian Yuzna we would not have some of the genre films that we do today.

Once the film had finished Yuzna returned to the stage to discuss in length his career, his involvement with the Fantastic Factory, what it was like on set of Society and what it was like to work with Screaming Mad George.

As midnight approached it was time for the second annual Celluloid Screams allnighter which this year was given a Sci-Fi theme and given the name SCI-FI SHOCKS. The lineup for the allnighter included four classic 80s sci-fi inspired horrors which were BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTTER SPACE. However, as I was feeling the lack of sleep from the previous night I had no option but to miss the event in favour of a few hours sleep.

Read our coverage of day three here.

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Features

Celluloid Screams 2014: Part One

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Call me biased but Celluloid Screams is and will remain a highlight of the festival year for me. Not only am I lucky enough to have it on my doorstep but it is an incredible festival that is consistent in delivering a line-up that never fails to impress. This year was no exception. So welcome to our coverage of the 2014 festival.

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After morning broke on Friday 24th October my excitement levels were immediately at their peak as tonight would be the Opening Gala evening of Celluloid Screams. Arriving at The Showroom cinema around 5pm it was great to see the bar was already buzzing with people who were clearly excited for the weekend ahead. But soon enough it was time to collect our festival passes and then head into the auditorium to take our seats ready for the first film to begin.

Left to Right: Connor Sweeney, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Robert Nevitt.
Left to Right: Conor Sweeney, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Festival Director Robert Nevitt.

Rob Nevitt the Festival Director took to the stage around 7pm to welcome everyone to the festival and a jet-lagged Adam Brooks, Conor Sweeney and Matthew Kennedy, three members of the Canadian film collective Astron 6 to the stage to open the festival and introduce their latest film THE EDITOR. However, before The Editor a short film directed by Marc Martínez Jordán called TIMOTHY was shown.

cs_timothyAs a short, Timothy is an incredibly creepy film about a a boy called Simon who has to deal with his bully of a babysitter. On the same night, Simon recieves an unexpected visitor in the form of his favourite tv show character and it soon becomes a visit he will never forget. Beautifully shot and sinisterly twisted, Marc Martínez Jordán does a grand job with this short which received a well earned round of applause from the crowd by the time the credits begun to roll.

But finally, it was time for us to experience Astron-6‘s highly anticipated follow-up to their earlier cult hits Manborg and Father’s Day. THE EDITOR is directed by Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy who also star in the film alongside Conor Sweeney (who co-wrote the film), Paz de la Huerta, Udo Kier, Laurence R. Harvey and American Mary‘s Tristan Risk.

cs_theeditorThe Editor is both a homage to and satire of the Italian Giallo and tells the story of a longtime film editor Ciso (Brooks). When someone starts killing the cast and crew of the film he is editing, Ciso becomes the prime suspect in the crimes and is forced to prove his innocence whilst trying to evade the accusations of police detective Peter Porfiry (Kennedy) who is hot on his trail.

With its intentional use of dubbing and over the top gore effects, The Editor certainly captures the spirit of Giallo and features plenty of references that will raise a few smiles amongst hardcore fans. It also marks a real stop forward for Astron-6 as this film is incredibly polished and is so bad it’s absolutely fantastic to watch. However, for those of you (like me) that don’t know much about Giallo can sit back and still enjoy the film because it remains incredibly entertaining which is why we give the film two massive thumbs up.

Following the film Rob returned to the stage to host a Q&A with Adam Brooks, Connor Sweeney and Matthew Kennedy. The crowd clearly enjoyed the film as the guys were met with an almost deafening applause when they climbed to the stage. Questions about how the film came to light, their inspirations and their venture into crowd funding to raise money for the film. Overall, The Editor was fantastic and made for a perfect opening to the festival.

cs_houseboundThe second feature of the evening was Gerard Johnstone‘s Kiwi horror comedy HOUSEBOUND. Starring Morgana O’Reilly and Rima Te Wiata, Housebound is the story of Kylie Bucknell who is force to return to her parents house when she is put on home detention. Fed up by her situation Kylie is quick to act out against her well-intentioned mother Miriam who is convinced their home is haunted. However, when she bares witness to the unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, Kylie begins to think that the house might just be possessed by a hostile spirit.

Combining the dark comedy elements of The Loved Ones and the shocking freaky moments of The People Under the Stairs, Johnstone has crafted an immensely entertaining horror film that balances its comedy and horror elements superbly. The crowd reacted positively, there were plenty of laughs and even a few screams which is not suprrising as Housebound is a film that knows how to engage its audience. However, the success of the film would be nothing without the solid performances from Morgana O’Reilly and Rima Te Wiata who play their parts brilliantly.

cs_muckShown before Housebound was THE MUCK, a short directed by Tony Wash. Originally entered into the ABCs of Death 2‘s 26th Director competition, the short follows a woman as she returns home from a strenuous workout with the intention of enjoying a relaxing bath. However things don’t go quite to plan as things get… well mucky! In its six minutes running time Wash has created a short that looks fantastic on screen and is complimented by an enjoyable 80s synth soundtrack.

The third and final film of the night was CREEP which is a superb thriller from director Patrick Brice. However, before that was shown it was time for the audience to experience two more shorts. The first short was THE GAS MAN which is directed by Matt Palmer and is fourteen minutes of pure terror as a woman is left to defend herself when she is terrorised by a man who shows up at her property to read her gas meter. It’s very bleak, very scary and superbly directed by Palmer who had me on the edge of my seat by the time the end credits of the short played.

cs_deadheartsThe second short was called DEAD HEARTS and is directed by Stephen W. Martin which serves as a whimsical bedtime story delivered in the style of Wes Anderson. Telling the story of a young mortician who falls in love with a girl from his class in school and soon finds out that not even death can stand in the way of true love. This was very kooky and sweet short that was funny that helped to lighten the mood.

After the shorts it was time to experience CREEP, a film that I have been wanting to watch since this Summer so I was delighted that it had been selected as part of this years Celluloid Screams line-up. In the film a videographer (played by Brice) agrees to travel to a cabin in a remote mountain town to meet Josef (played by Mark Duplass) in order to film what he does in a typical day. At first things seem heartfelt and inoocent until it comes clear that Josef is not the man he claims to be.

CS_CREEPJust like it’s name Creep is a film that is incredibly creepy and unbearably tense. Both Brice and Duplass deliver outstanding performances and both men make the film feel real and actually scary. Without giving too much away this film serves as a warning and permeates a sense of overpowering dread that will make you think twice about answering public ads. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and found it an incredibly tense experience which makes me excited for the next instalment of the planned Creep trilogy.

So with the day come to a close it was time to nip into the bar to enjoy a drink or two with the last few remaining festival guests before heading home to get some rest before starting day two of Celluloid Screams.

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