GrimmFest Day Four
Written by Daniel Benson
The final day is upon us and I’m running almost entirely on coffee and energy drinks at the moment. Skipping out on the opening film of the morning allowed me to write up yesterday’s events, but never fear, as the film in question was The Cleaning Lady and you can read Joel Harley’s full review here.
Lunchtime would see the fraternity hazing horror Pledge along with its short film companion Conductor. The latter is a standout short that doesn’t give any clues as to its ending until it gets there in spectacularly bloody fashion. A seemingly innocent DJ contest in a shopping mall ends up in an orgy of violence.
Pledge was preceded by a specially recorded intro by its baby-faced director and writer/star Daniel Robbins and Zach Wiener respectively. That these young guys have put together such an accomplished movie makes them future names to watch in horror for sure. The film begins as a typical frat house comedy as three outcasts are struggling to even be considered for membership of their university’s fraternities. When they are invited to attend an extremely opulent house and pledge for membership, they think all their birthdays have come at once. However, they soon find out that the ordeal they’ll need to go through to join this exclusive club is perhaps more than they’re willing to endure. It moves quickly from a light-hearted comedy to a savage game of cat and mouse.
Captivity chiller Alive came next. A man and a woman wake up in an abandoned medical facility with no idea who they are and how they got there. Their only companion is their caretaker, a twisted character who performs surgery on them and administers natural remedies in the name of rehabilitating the pair. Too weak to resist, they have no option other than to allow him his actions although every day they’re getting stronger and closer to making their escape. What is, for the most part, a fairly generic escape from captivity horror is elevated by a reveal in the final act that few will see coming.
Aislinn Clarke’s The Devil’s Doorway followed, telling the story of a pair of priests investigating the alleged miracle of a statue of The Virgin Mary bleeding from its eyes. The statue is located in a Magdalene Laundry, an institution taken from the history of the Catholic church where women were held if they were seen as a problem to the church (mentally ill, unmarried mothers, orphaned children). The women were subjected to horrendous cruelty by the staff of sadistic nuns and, more shockingly, these facilities were still in existence as recently as 1996. Shot in found-footage style, the shooting choice is incredibly bold. Set in the 1960s, the entire film is square aspect ratio, 16mm film shot, accompanied by authentic hallow-sounding audio. The choice of format will probably stand against the film being seen by a wider audience, but as it stands it is an extremely effective and creepy piece, with the narrow field of view focusing the viewer’s attention on everything that happens within the walls of the creepy old building. You can read Rachel Knightley's full review here.
Chad Archibald’s I’ll Take Your Dead ushered in the early evening, unfortunately it also coincided with my body’s need for dinner, so it had to be skipped. Its programme description tells me it’s about a man who makes bodies disappear for the local gangs, except one ‘deposit’ he receives seems to be still alive… The Antisocial director has put out some interesting and different horror in recent years so this is definitely one worth having on the radar.
Finally, the end of the festival and the last film to screen would be Anna and the Apocalypse. It has had much festival applause for its mixture of musical numbers and zombie comedy, but for me it was lacking something. Take away its song and dance routines and you’re left with a fairly standard zombie comedy that brings nothing new to the table; take away the zombie movie and the songs are not much to write home about, being more like High School Musical numbers (I have a daughter who’s into that kind of stuff, shut up), which is definitely not my kind of thing. For it to truly succeed I’d like to have seen the songs riff on zombie movies and the tropes we know as a horror audience, in the same way that Stage Fright (2014) camped up its musical numbers and made them about the conventions of the slasher movie. If you’re a fan of musicals then the arrangements in Anna and the Apocalypse will impress you, but for me that’s just not my jam.
So that was Grimmfest. Their 10th year, my first year at the festival and I had an excellent time. There’s a lot to be said for having just one screen at a festival as you can literally see everything if you can keep up with the long days and short nights of sleep. No worrying about researching films that may be showing in other screens, and no fear of missing out on what might be the next big thing – it’s all here, in front of you and ready for your consumption. Hats off too, to the audience, a respectful bunch that gave their 100% attention to the films on the screen and not to the screens in their pockets. Farewell Manchester, I’m heading home replete with horror entertainment and back to the mundanities of the day job. Same time next year?