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.
The 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.
What 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.
After 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.
After 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.
MR 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.
So 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.
Before 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.
Following 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.
I 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.