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.
Before 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.
After 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).
Next 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.
Up 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.
The 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.
Following 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.
One of the highlights of the festival is the annual Celluloid Screams Secret Film. Last year it was Joe Begos‘ ALMOST 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.
I 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 Snow. DEAD 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.
After 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.
Based 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.
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.