Not too long ago horror returned to Manchester’s Dancehouse theatre as Grimmfest took over between 2nd and 5th October for what was possibly the strongest line-up for the festival so far. Over the weekend there was in total of twenty-five features, eleven short films and thirteen countries were represented. There was one English Premiere fourteen Northern Premieres, and four UK premieres.
I managed to see eleven of the features and ten of the short films that were showing. These included Brian O’Malley‘s LET US PREY, Gerard Johnstone‘s HOUSEBOUND, James Ward Byrkit‘s COHERENCE, Fredrik Hana‘s AUTUMN HARVEST, Andy Stewart‘s SPLIT, Lowell Dean‘s WOLFCOP, and Ivan Kevanagh‘s THE CANAL.
It’s a shame that I didn’t get time to catch every film that was showing this year and I missed out again on catching Chelsey Burdon and Mark Vessey‘s short SHE and I missed out on the epic performance from the 70’s progressive rock legends CLAUDIO SIMONETTI’S GOBLIN peforming a live score to Dario Argento‘s masterpiece SUSPIRIA. However, this did not spoil my weekend as I had a blast.
Also during the weekend there was an appearance the Hollywood Prostetics and Make Up FX artist SHAUN HARRISON who talked to fesival goers about his career and watch the man in work as he did a live demonstration over the weekend of his skills. Also appearing at the festival was Pollyanna McIntosh (White Settlers), Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), Oliver Frampton (The Forgotten), Brian O’Malley (Let Us Prey) and Steve Oram (The Canal).
So it is certain that the weekend was a big success for Simeon Halligan, Rachel Richardson Jones, Greg Walker as well as the rest of Team Grimm. But looking back at the films these words bear repeating, Grimmfest 2014 had a cracking selection of films on offer for festival goers to feast on. So looking back at the line-up I have selected five features and five shorts that I am pleased to award Best of the Fest for this years festival. Enjoy.
Starting with the Shorts. I have already mentioned that there were eleven shorts played during the main run of the festival and here are four of the best shorts that were shown.
Daniel Muñoz Caniero‘s DON’T PLAY WITH THE FOOD comes to us from Spain. Set during a family dinner, the short tells the story about a rebelious daughter who is forced to reconsider her recent love for the sake of her family. Very dark, very funny and very much outthere, I enjoyed this one as it was certainly different from the rest of the shorts that were played during the weekend.
Offering a unique method of channeling the dead, DIrector Ben Steiner deilivers one of the strangest shorts I have seen in quite some time with THE STOMACH. In the film Frank is spirit medium who gets tangeled in an argument between a petty criminal and his dead partner. There’s not much to say about this one without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it yet so I will remain quiet and urge you to seek it out if you get the chance to do so.
During Saturday’s Short Film Showcase there was the UK Premiere of Andy Stewart‘s stunning short SPLIT. Starring Austin Hayden and Shian Denovan, Split short tells the story of a man who awakens one day to discover that his guilt over his infidelity begins to eat him away, literally. Not only did the film balances its drama and horror elements flawlessly but it features some truly disgusting special effects from Grant Mason that will leave you stunned.
A deeply shocking short that is not easily forgotten, Melanie Light‘s shocking ‘vegan feminist’ horror THE HERD sees a bunch of women imprisoned against their will who are enslaved, Inseminated and abused for one reason only – their milk. Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) and Charlotte Hunter (Emmerdale), the film is very powerful. It is gritty, harrowing and will certainly stay with you long after watching it and it is for that reason that it makes my list.
Moving on to the features, there were twenty-five of them shown over the course of the weekend and here are four of my favourites.
One part dirty harry one part wolfman, WOLFCOP is directed by Lowell Dean and stars Leo Fafard in the title role. The film follows an alcoholic cop who is called to investigate a disturbance in the nearby woods only to be caught up in a ritual sacrifice and is cursed to become a werewolf. A definite crowd pleaser, the film features some truly hilarious moments and one werewolf transformation that begins in a place you will never have imagined. It’s a Troma-esque film with a much bigger budget. It’s inventive but suffers from pacing issues. If you want to see it, it’s out now on DVD.
Gerard Johnstone‘s dark comedy HOUSEBOUND stars 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. When she bares witness to the unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, Kylie begins to think that the house might be possessed by a hostile spirit. Hilariously entertaining and packed with a surprising amount of tense moments, I really enjoyed this one. It made me laugh out loud, it made me jump out of my seat and it was superbly directed by Johnstone.
Perhaps one of the most hyped up films of the 2014 festival circuit is James Ward Byrkit‘s COHERENCE. One part sci-fi thriller and one part relationship drama, the film takes place on the night of an astronomical anomaly where at the same time eight friends are enjoying a dinner party. As a comet passes above the friends are thrust into a chain of events that will leave them (and the audience) stunned. I couldn’t help but become mesmerised by Coherence it was highly effective in drawing me in with its puzzles and paradoxes and I can firmly state that it’s hype is justified.
Jamaine Clement & Taika Waititi‘s epic mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADDOWS is fangtastic! Following the undead lives of Viago, Vladislav and Decon, What We Do In The Shaddows 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. This film was hilarious. By the time the end credits began to roll my eyes were watering and sides were killing me from laughing so much.
So which feature and which short is my personal favourite? Keep reading to find out.
Fredrik Hana caused quite the stir last year with his short Angst, Piss and Drid and with his latest effort AUTUMN HARVEST the director really doesn’t disappoint. The short provides a portrait of a grief-stricken sailor turned serial killer and is shot entirely in black and white. Very moody, superbly directed and perfectly scored, there was nothing I didn’t like about this short. I can’t recommend it enough it was beautifully dark and looked superb on the big screen.
Ivan Kavanagh’s THE CANAL stars Rupert Evans (Hellboy), Steve Oram (Sightseers) and Kelly Byrne. Tense and genuinely scary this film is the whole package. Nicely written, superbly acted and containing some of the most horrific imagery that you won’t have seen for a very long time I gaurantee you that it will send icy cold chills down your spine as a result. The Canal is highly engaging and incredibly tense and it is for this reason that it is one of the best horror films i’ve seen in a very long time.
Thanks for reading. If you would like to read my daily coverage of the festival you can do so by clicking on the relevant link.
OPENING GALA & FRIDAY, 3rd OCTOBER
Feat. Let Us Prey, The Herd, Suburban Gothic
SATURDAY, 4th OCTOBER
Feat. Short Film Showcase, Housebound, Coherence, What We Do In The Shadows, Starry Eyes, Zombeavers
SUNDAY 5th OCTOBER
Feat. Dead Snow 2, Life After Beth, Wolfcop, The Canal