Live Event: Grimmfest, Odeon Great Northern, October 4th – 7th, 2018

Before you get any further into this review, please take a few minutes to read my reviews of Grimmfest 2016 and Grimmfest 2017.

Why do that?” you may well be asking yourselves.

The reason is that Grimmfest always delivers a superb selection of films, and I’m sure that once you read about some of the ones shown in those reviews, you’ll be seeking them out immediately for some late night scary viewing…as you will be for this years set of films too.

As you have now read in the previous reviews, the last couple of years I only got to visit Grimmfest for just the one day. While not being able to make the full 4 days (that will happen eventually!), I got to visit on the Friday and the Saturday this year.

Thanks to roadworks on the way to Manchester from 60MW Towers here in North Wales, what is normally a 90 minute journey took me over 3 hours, so I missed the 1st film of the day Lifechanger. However, after grabbing a coffee in the foyer, I was able to settle back with some fantastic entertainment.

12:20pm: Shorts Programme 1

I have to admit that the annual shorts programmes that Grimmfest showcase are one of the highlights of my visit every year, and this years short films (both on the Friday and Saturday) once again didn’t disappoint.

They were:

MYSTERY BOX
Sweden / Swedish with English subtitles / 2018 / 11 mins
Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Moa is vacationing in an isolated cabin on a small island. One day an old metal box turns up in her fishing net. And whatever she does, she cannot seem to get rid of it…

A creepy story that used shadows and sound to great effect, and a good example of creating tension with minimal actors and sets.

RFLKTR
USA / English / 2017 / 7 mins
Director: Matt K. Turner
A pilot crash-lands on an alien planet where she faces an unexpected enemy – herself!

An interesting premise which was letdown by a disappointing ending.

THE DOLLMAKER
USA / English / 2017 / 10 mins
Director: Al Lougher
A grieving mother latches on to a magical surrogate for her lost child. But small miracles come with big consequences…

One of my favourite shorts and one which absolutely nailed a fantastic ending…usually the bane of short filmmaking!

INSTINCT
USA / English / 2017 / 18 mins
Director: Maria Alice Arida
Isabelle, a lonely gallery owner meets a dangerously seductive performance artist and discovers they have more in common than expected.

Stylish and seductive, ‘Instinct’ unravelled at a leisurely pace, and while being somewhat predictable in its ending, kept me enthralled throughout.

A DEATH STORY CALLED GIRL
USA / English / 2018 / 13 mins
Director: Nathalia Bas-Tzion Beahan
Enjoy a day in the life of death…

I have to admit that this one did nothing for me at all. Overlong (even at 13 minutes!) and never really going anywhere, I was ready for the next film way before the end credits rolled on this one.

WE SUMMONED A DEMON
USA / English / 2018 / 6 mins
Director: Chris McInroy
They just wanted to be cool. Instead, they got a demon.

Probably my favourite short of the festival. 80’s inspired with neon lighting, knowing winks to camera, tongue in cheek humour, and a generous amount of gore, this had me smiling and laughing all the way through it.

DEAD COOL
UK / English / 2017 / 19 mins
Director: Simon Ross
Maurice’s party is in full swing when a routine search brings the police to his front door. Unfazed by this interruption the party continues, but it isn’t long before Maurice is keen to say goodbye to all his guests except Sally. Romance is in the air… but all is not as it seems.

Although possessing a few laughs, this slowly descended down an ever darker narrative until a final shocking reveal. Felt like I needed a shower after watching it!

Afterparty
USA / English / 2018 / 9 mins
Director: Ruben Pallan
A girl wakes up in an empty pool at an abandoned house, unable to remember the night before. As her memories come back to her she realises a dark truth.

A slow burn that never quite set fire for me and had an ending which I saw coming a long time before its time expired.

Then I was onto the feature movies of the day for me.

FRAMED

UK Premiere
Spain / Spanish with English subtitles / 2017 / 80 mins

Director: Marc Martínez Jordán

Cast: Alex Maruny, Joe Manjón, Claudia Pons, Julia Molins, Enric Auquer

Alex has arranged a house party for his friends. Little does he know that they have all been selected to star in the latest episode of a shocking new web series..

Social media tends to bring out the worst in people, and Framed takes that narcissistic ‘look at me’ attitude and ramps it up exponentially.

By the directors own admission during the post-screening Q&A session, he had seen Martyrs, Inside, A Serbian Film, et al, and wanted to see how far he could go to shock an audience. From the reaction of the people sitting around me (including some who walked out), I think he succeeded in making people feel uncomfortable.

Shocking, gory and unsettling, Framed is definitely not a film to put on for a family gathering.

OFFICE UPRISING

UK Premiere
USA / English / 2018 / 92 mins

Director: Lin Oeding

Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Jane Levy, Karan Soni, Zachary Levi

At the world’s leading arms manufacturer, Ammotech, the board of directors decides to test a new energy drink on their staff to see if it boosts efficiency. But the drink has a few unforeseen side effects – such as turning everyone who drinks it into a hyper-aggressive homicidal maniac…

Office Uprising is a whole lot of fun, which starts off at a quick pace and never relents from throwing gags and gore at you. Definitely under the category of ‘beers and mates’…just make sure you check your can before drinking!

I unfortunately missed the end of Office Uprising, but that was fine as I was booked in for a chat with Barbara Crampton who was in attendence at Grimmfest this year. You can hear my chat with her in our October ‘Decade of Decadence’ show, which will be online later this month.

DEAD NIGHT

Greater Manchester Premiere
USA / English / 2017 / 82 mins

Director: Bradford Baruh

Cast: Brea Grant, AJ Bowen, Sophie Dalah, Elise Luthman, Joshua Hoffman, Daniel Roebuck, Barbara Crampton

A caring mother loses her grip on sanity during one terrifying night in the woods.

While chatting with Barbara Crampton, she told me that Dead Night definitely wasn’t a film for ‘2nd screening with’, and boy was she right!

With a twisting narrative that jumps around in time, it is a film that will give away more of its secrets with each successive viewing.

Barbara was, as always, superb in it, and it is great to see her in so many modern day horror films.

With thoughts of the inevitable long drive back due to the roadworks, I unfortunately had to pass on the final two films of the day; Tigers Are Not Afraid and Summer of ’84 (though Summer of ’84 is also going to appear in October’s ‘Decade of Decadence’ show…have we sold you on listening to it yet?).

Traffic once again had me missing the 1st film of Saturday (I really should stay over next year!) which was Brother’s Nest, but then the day began once again for me with:

PIERCING

Greater Manchester  Premiere
USA / English / 2018 / 81 mins

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Wendell Pierce, Laia Costa, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Bond

A man kisses his wife and baby goodbye and seemingly heads away on business, with a plan to check into a hotel, call an escort service, and kill an unsuspecting prostitute.

Possessing a soundtrack which is ripe with giallo classics of the past, while also visually reflecting the lighting, camerawork and underlying seductiveness of those films, Piercing is a visual and aural treat, which unfortunately, for me at least, was more style of substance.

While I was never bored during its lean 82 minute running time, I did feel a sense of disappointment at a narrative that seemed stretched even for this short time, and an ending which left me deflated.

One I should watch again to see if my opinion changes.

Then it was another screening of short films.

NECKFACE
UK / English / 2018 / 11 mins
Director: Llanbobl Vision Ltd
Having dreamed of the perfect wedding, Laney wakes up with the world’s most unwelcome wedding guest in her bed – NeckFace. Will she still go through with it? After all, they have spent £950 on taffeta chair ties and £200 on her mother’s hat alone…

An absolute riot which is silly as hell and had the whole cinema laughing.

You think that you’ve had problems on your wedding day!? Just watch what happens when the bride to be wakes up on the morning of her wedding with a face on the side of her neck.

The use of botox is inspired!

MARTA
Spain / Spanish with English subtitles / 2017 / 15 mins
Director: Lucía Forner
Marta’s dream profession is to be a serial killer, and she wants Carlos to be her first victim.

Essentially a 2 character film shot within a single location, it is credit to both the director and the actors that this gripped me through its entire running time.

Splashes of humour complement a dark story where you’re never really sure who is going to come out on top.

THE DARK ROOM
France / French with English subtitles / 2017 / 20 mins
Director: Morgane Segaert
France, 1910. As her mother suffers with a mysterious illness, young Cassandre feels a growing presence in her home … What shadow hides in the silence of the dark room?

Sumptuous period costumes and sets couldn’t prevent me from becoming rather bored. I’d also have preferred the ‘monster’ to have stayed in the shadows.

THE WHISTLER
Canada / English / 2018 / 11 mins
Director: Jennifer Nicole Stang
Lindsey is forced to babysit her sister Becky one night. But she falls asleep, and wakes up to find her sister gone. Someone has taken Becky and could be after her as well…

Some decent tension in this, and while not showing anything particularly original, was one that I enjoyed.

THE OLD WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS
UK / English / 2017 / 16 mins
Director: Faye Jackson
An old woman finds a way to remove her fear and she stashes it in a tin under the stairs. But when she notices a stranger watching her house, the fear under the stairs becomes harder to ignore.

Well shot with an air of brooding menace that was palpable, an an elderly woman literally sheds her fears and faces the world with a brave new face. Unfortunately, the world has complete disregard for anyones fears…or lack of them.

ROUND TRIP
Australia / English / 2018 / 6 mins
Director: Ren Thackham
On a mysterious dirt road in the harsh yet beautiful Australian outback, Ned Williams, a beast with a dark side, is trying to escape authority and Constable Rose, a true blue honest bloke, is trying to get out of the desert without being shot, run over… or eaten.

With a similar idea to yesterdays RFLKTR, this was far superior and fleshed out the idea of circular time more satisfactorily.

Well filmed, well acted, and fits a lot into its lean 6 minute running time.

SYBIL
UK / English / 2018 / 13 mins
Director: Joanne Mitchell
Sybil works at an undertakers. It’s a lonely job, with few perks. So she takes solace where she can…

Gory and with a dark heart, Sybil was both unsettling and entertaining.

It was then back to the feature films.

NIGHTMARE CINEMA

UK Premiere
USA / English / 2018 / 119 mins

Director: Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, David Slade

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Elizabeth Reaser, Richard Chamberlain, Annabeth Gish

In this twisted horror anthology, five strangers are drawn to an abandoned theatre and forced to watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them.

Although I found it to be a little overlong, Nightmare Cinema is a relentless rush of action packed short stories which has some fantastic talent on both sides of the camera.

Sex with nuns, invading aliens, a rampaging maniac, and much more, Nightmare Cinema reminded me of the likes of Creepshow and all the other horror anthologies that I love to watch.

THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW

Northern Premiere
USA / English / 2018 / 77 mins

Director: Andy Mitton

Cast: Alex Draper, Charlie Tacker, Greg Naughton, Arija Bareikis, Carol Stanzione

When Simon brings his twelve year-old son, Finn, to rural Vermont to help flip an old farmhouse, they encounter the malicious spirit of Lydia, a previous owner. And now with every repair they make – she’s getting stronger.

Without a doubt, The Witch In The Window was my favourite film of the festival.

Essentially a family drama, it slowly unravels into a haunting and emotional journey that has you empathetic for all of the characters.

Incredibly shot in just 12 days, director Andy Mitton has crafted a film which affected me on many levels.

Superb performances by Alex Drapr and Charlie Tacker as a father and son trying to make their relationship work while renovating an old dilapidated house, they draw you deep into their plight as events begin to get out of their control.

I patiently await its arrival on Blu-ray or DVD so that I can watch it again.

Fingers crossed for an interview show with Andy too!

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH

Northern Premiere
USA / English / 2018 / 90 mins

Directors: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund

Cast: Tom Lennon, Jenny Pellicer, Barbara Crampton, Udo Kier, Nelson Franklin, Charlyne Yi, Michael Paré, Alex Beh, Skeeta Jenkins, Matthias Hues

With fond memories of watching the Puppet Master films on VHS  ‘back in the day’, it was with some trepidation that I sat down for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. ‘Please don’t let it be bad‘ I thought to myself.

I needn’t have worried.

This is a Puppet Master film that is crazier, funnier, and definitely gorier than any of its predecessors. Laughs and gasps are elicited in equal measure as the puppets go on a killing spree at a hotel convention where they are due to be sold.

To give any more away would be to spoil the fun, suffice it to say that, if this is anything to go by, the Puppet Master films are far from dead!

With that drive ahead of me, I sadly had to miss the final film of the day Satan’s Slaves.

With the usual showing of merchandise stalls (one being where I bought some fantastic horror stickers), superb films, guest appearances by directors, producers, actors, and an audience that appreciates the cinema experience and doesn’t spend the running time either checking their social media or having a chat with the person next to them, Grimmfest once again solidifies itself as THE film festival to attend in the UK.

Next October can’t come quick enough for me!