With Saturday a bloody success, the final day of Manchester’s Grimmfest served up some excellent independent horror films both from the UK and stateside.
First up was Sheffield based Safehouse Pictures with their second micro budget feature, The Eschatrilogy; an anthology of stories from the zombie apocalypse tied together by a mysterious traveller played by the writer and director of the movie Damian Morter. Made over the space of a year for less than £15,000 from producer and director couple Nicola and Damian Morter, The Eschatrilogy is a huge credit to UK indie film-making, proving just how much can be achieved with so little. The concept was visually ambitious and the cinematography throughout the feature is far above and beyond what you would expect for a film of this nature.
The anthology format works excellently, even if the wraparound sequences showcase finer acting, atmosphere and aesthetics than the interweaving shorts. Damian Morter takes top honors for the acting here with his suitably mysterious and inherently creepy ‘stranger’, chronicling the carnage of the apocalypse. Here the tales of a zombie outbreak are pre-fixed with an introduction to a nameless demon that has arisen from the shadows, spreading a plague across the land which exposes men, women and children to their ‘inner monster’. A surprisingly refreshing take on the zombie mythology that gives the film a much darker tone. As much as Morter wears his love for the likes of Romero and Fulci proudly on his sleeve, The Eschatrilogy is also undoubtedly influenced by the darker, grittier post apocalyptic movies; convincingly creating a bleak dystopia to frame the gore and carnage.
Keep an eye on Safehouse Pictures, they have set themselves up as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Hate Crime; a controversial film from James Cullen Bressack played in the studio to a small but utterly riveted audience. Hate Crimepresents a perfect example of a type of modern horror film often frowned upon and shunned by fans and critics alike. The acutely contentious experience that is uncomfortable to watch and impossible to forget, that deals with sensitive and controversial ideas and presents them to us in a bold and unforgiving way.
The celebrations of a Jewish family are cut short when their home is invaded by 3 beefy, drug crazed neo-nazis. What began as birthday home video turns into an unflinchingly brutal account of the atrocities these men unleash on the family. It’s surprising that the merits of the home invasion movie have never been combined with that of found footage. Of course the difficulty here is that we are given this story from the point of view of the villains; these hideously vicious and reprehensible men who take turns to wield the camera, using it almost as an extra weapon as they humiliate, torture and eventually kill this innocent family.
It is sure to have it’s detractors and those questionable guardians of moral decency- the BBFC- wanted to have the film banned here in the UK. It’s likely that Grimmfest hosted the only theatrical screening of HateCrime that the British are likely to get.
Rites of Spring from Padraig Reynolds , for all its efforts to think outside the box proves to be a pretty run of the mill horror movie. Strange religions and rituals, vulnerable young girls and a faceless killer with a big weapon. Nothing too original here. By interweaving two narrative strands that come together on a rural farm uniting one survivor with another, Craig in facts over complicates the film, dwelling on a second group of characters while other interesting ideas were left unexplored. The final girl here was a strong one, played well by Anessa Ramsey and Rites of Spring throws in lots of great imagery that harkens back to slashers of old, particularly Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not a bad film; it had a few good moments and a handful of interesting ideas, but unfortunately it’s entirely forgettable.
What do you get when you unite an icon of British comedy with an icon of modern horror? Him Indoors; A genius blackly comic short film about an agoraphobic serial killer that is forced to improvise when his new neighbour pops round for a cup of tea. Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Burke and Hare) and Reece Shearsmith (League of Gentlemen) have great on screen chemistry and the audience were lapping up all the genre in-jokes and the dead pan humour they deliver like pros. Again this is another short that fans would no doubt love to see developed into a feature but it works brilliantly as a 12 minute piece of horror comedy gold. Look out for whatever comes next from writer/director Paul Davis.
The festival went out with a bang with Ross Noble’s acting debut Stitches, that sees him dressed up as a vulgar alcoholic clown that comes back with a vengeance when a group of rude children mock his efforts to entertain them. With lots of laughs and some of the most outrageously gory death scenes, Stitches is no doubt destined for iconic status- it’s been too long since we’ve had a good killer clown movie!