Mayhem Film Festival: Days 3 and 4 Review
Written by Hamzah Sarwar
Dead Snow 2: Read vs Dead
Tommy Wirkola's Nazi zombie gorefest kicked off the day in comic fashion. Martin is the only survivor from the first film and is a wanted man. He is the prime suspect after his friends are found mutilated. Having escaped from the clutches of the police, the Nazi zombie battalion is intent on fulfilling its mission while the wounded Martin seeks to end their reign of destruction.
Utterly absurd and drenched in a splattering of bad taste, Wirkola's Dead Snow 2 is bolder and bigger than the original. It's sickening yet thoroughly entertaining with a wicked blend of black comedy and inventive riffs on the tired zombie sub-genre.
Los Angeles hopeful Sarah (Alex Essoe) is one of many aspiring actresses desperate to get a shot at the big time. When she attends a shadowy audition for an upcoming role, lines are crossed and realities are blurred. Just how far is the young hopeful willing to go to realise her dream?
Starry Eyes feels like it was born in darkness. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's perilous tale of obsession is vividly told in a savage mishmash of body horror interlaced with cult theatricality. Alex Essoe's breakthrough performance as Sarah is staggering in its depiction of the creeping phases of madness. From the bright-eyed student through to the Faustian egotist, Sarah succumbs to an ugly brand of tragic delusion. The final third sacrifices the creepiness of the sensational first hour for unrelenting brutality; it is not for the faint of heart. The false friendships and forced bonds are shattered in a blazing gorefest that leaves its mark. Starry Eyes pays testament to the brilliance to the thriving independent horror scene at the moment.
Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is sentenced to nine months of house arrest after being caught attempting to rob a bank. Her punishment means spending time with mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) who suspects their house is haunted. Firstly disbelieving of her mother's claims, Kylie reconsiders her stance when paranormal occurrences begin around the house with no rational explanation.
Gerard Johnstone's feature debut is a stupendously witty kiwi horror comedy that integrates classic ghostly happenings with dysfunctional familial ties to great effect. Although the revelatory final third feels clunky and drags on, the brooding sense of intrigue generated throughout ensures that the farfetched finale enthrals with delight.
Ivan Kavanagh's chilling ghostly tale is one of the undisputed highlights of 2014 and in my top five horror films of the year. I sat down with the talented Irishman to delve deeper into the haunting impact of The Canal, the full interview will follow in the coming days.
Film archivist David (Rupert Evans) and career minded Alice (Hannah Hoekstra) are happily married with a young son, Billy (Callum Heath). When they move into a seemingly idyllic new home things take a startling turn for the worse. When Alice mysteriously disappears, David is deemed to be the prime suspect. Having discovered a film detailing the gruesome murders that occurred in their house in the 1900s, David is convinced there are dark forces at work.
The Canal begins in the vein of an archetypal haunted house affair but soon transcends into a nightmarish deluge of spiralling terror and psychological torment. It is a bruising vision viewed through the eyes of a sincere family man (brilliantly played by Evans) who iteratively loses his mind to madness. Kavanagh pays tribute to the power of the cinema by elevating the role played by the film archive. The grainy imagery portrayed in the crime footage is unnervingly authentic and haunts the very moral fabric of the present day. A tremendous performance from child actor, Billy, offers a welcome contrast to the darkness that is cast over the harrowing final third. Do we rely on the imagery being shown to us or are we lost in David's nightmare?
The picturesque canal serves up one apparition after another; likenesses can be drawn to Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961). The finale delivers a sucker punch that lingers on the mind for weeks on end. Bold, adventurous and downright terrifying, The Canal is a rare breed of horror that genuinely unsettles
We were lucky enough to be joined by Ivan Kavanagh and producer Anne Marie for a Q+A session. It was fascinating to hear the discussions on the impactful ending and the importance of the film archive in building a ghostly story.
The ABCs of Death 2
26 ways to die. 26 different directors conjuring up the most imaginative death scenes according to the letter of the alphabet they are prescribed. At heart, this is a fantastically twisted concept that allows creative freedom and encourages experimentation. It gives the genre fan an anthology of horror from across the globe. However, as with the first instalment, The ABCs of Death 2 is thoroughly disappointing and leaves you feeling indifferent.
A wild combination of styles, a gigantic gulf in class between the entries and a general sense of bad taste encapsulate my feelings towards this sequel. It suffers painfully from too many directors bordering on the bizarre, kitsch and downright weird. There is little fear factor besides the brilliant K for Knell and V for Vacation. The stop motion pieces are inventive and entertaining but aside from that it's all a bit B for Boring.
What We Do in the Shadows
Jermaine Clement's vampire mockumentary is the best genre comedy since Shaun of the Dead. It is beautifully self-aware and laugh out loud hilarious. It works just as well as a documentary on a group of friends living together, it just happens that they are bound to live forever and suck blood for sustenance. From the reluctant purger through to the nosferatu-like sensationalist, we are instantly connected to characters we care about. The introduction and interaction with the werewolves is sublime and baked in comic genius. The film is currently on general release in cinemas across the UK and deservedly so. A comic gem.
On the whole, it was a magnificent festival organised by a group of genuine genre fans. A big thank you to Chris, Meli, Steve and the Mayhem team for a great experience. See you next year
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