Live Event: Grimmfest, Odeon Great Northern, October 3rd – 6th, 2019
It has become tradition that I begin my annual review of Grimmfest by imploring you to read my reviews of the previous times I have attended this fantastic event: Grimmfest 2018, Grimmfest 2017, Grimmfest 2016.
Having read those 3 reviews (you have, haven’t you?), I’m sure you’ve already made a note of all the great films that I mentioned in them, and you are now tracking them down to buy/rent.
Well prepare yourselves to start writing some more titles down, as once again Grimmfest proves itself to be one of the best curated genre film festivals out there, as well as being attended by some of the friendliest and most welcoming guests that you could hope to spend some time with.
This was also the first time that I managed to attend for 3 days! Yes, after bemoaning in previous years that I needed more time to take in as many films as I could, I finally managed to get 3 days to watch them. This came with a caveat however that I’d have to miss films at the beginning and end of the days due to travelling from North Wales…is there a hotel chain that would like to sponsor us so that I can stop over for all 4 days next year?
Anyway, onto the films that I watched (the full screening list is at the bottom of the page).
Once again I began my Grimmfest experience with the shorts programme. Always a highlight of the event for me, it is an absolute pleasure to see filmmakers getting the chance to get their work up on the big screen in front of an appreciative audience.
This years Grimmfest highlighted the work of female filmmakers and actors, none more so than in this 1st shorts programme, where all the films were rated F (for female) and were either directed, produced, and/or have female actors in the leading roles.
Shorts Programme 1
ROAD TRASH (Northern Premiere)
USA / English / 2018 / 6 mins
Director: Natasha Pascetta
Alice can’t help but bury every dead animal she comes across. One day, she buries something she never should have touched and pays for her kind act dearly. Narrated by actress Heather Langenkamp (Nancy from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET).
Following just the 1 character (who has no dialogue) as she goes about her day burying dead animals that she finds at the roadside, this 6 minute short is driven by narration by Heather Langenkamp, and concludes with an ending that left a smile on my face.
THE PARTY (UK Premiere)
USA / English / 2018 / 16 mins
Director: Mackenzie Bartlett
When Sarah forgets to invite Matt to the party, her friends just can’t let it go. They’ve been working so hard to plan the perfect night (everyday isn’t a full moon, you know…)
This had laughs and chills in equal measure, while also putting across an important message about sexual harassment. Always think about your actions, as there will surely be consequences!
PEPPER (World Premiere)
Canada / English / 2019 / 7 mins
Director: Kate Felix
Weylon is looking for a hired hand and Fidelma needs the job desperately, but her duties in the dark barn might prove beyond her tolerance.
Accepting a job to find out that it is far from what you were originally offered is a narrative in Pepper that especially hit home with me. Thankfully though, I’ve not had to deal with any ferocious dogs…yet.
THE LOST FILMS OF BLOODY NORA (Northern Premiere)
UK / No dialogue / 2019 / 9 mins
Director: Sophia Di Martino
Nora stumbles upon an old camera and starts to embody weird and wonderful characters who she captures on film. When her controlling father finds out about the camera and gets furious, Nora takes extreme measures to ensure that these magical, idealised versions of herself will live on for eternity.
Visually appealing with its use of 8mm-like footage, varying aspect ratios and vibrant colours, this takes a twisted look at why you shouldn’t constrain the imagination of your children.
THE EBBING (UK Premiere)
USA / English / 2019 / 13 mins
Director: Kevin Patrick Murphy
A desperate mother is haunted by nightmare visions and clues as to what happened to her missing daughter.
Dark and foreboding, you just know that this isn’t going to have a happy ending.
BOO (UK Premiere)
USA / English / 2019 / 15 mins
Director: Rakefet Abergel
A traumatic event forces a recovering addict, Devi, to face her demons, without her worried fiancé uncovering the truth. Over the course of a rough night, she must make a difficult choice between who she loves and what she loves.
Lead by a thoroughly engaging lead actor, the events of one evening spiral out of control until a sudden and bloody conclusion.
STRAY (European Premiere)
Australia / English / 2018 / 14 mins
Director: Dean W Law
After three long years away, a crippled World War II soldier excitedly returns home to his wife, only to discover her life now revolves around a sinister stray cat.
We’re dog people here at 60MW Towers (see our Instagram for photos of podcast mascot Bodhi), and so a sinister cat immediately had the hairs rising on the back of my neck. By the time the end credits rolled, I shall be avoiding cats even more now!
HOW TO BE ALONE (UK Premiere)
USA / English / 2019 / 13 mins
Director: Kate Trefry
When her husband Jack leaves for the hospital graveyard shift, Lucy is left alone in the company of a particularly menacing kitchen cabinet, which she is convinced contains all her most secret fears. As the phobias begin to manifest and attack her, she must fight for control of her mind, and ultimately her life. Starring Joe Keery (STRANGER THINGS) and Maika Monroe (IT FOLLOWS & THE GUEST), and directed by Kate Trefry (staff writer on STRANGER THINGS).
When left alone at home, most peoples minds can wander and conjure up a multitude of images. Lucy however, ends up in a fight for her life when her visions become out of control.
EVERY TIME I DIE
After Sam is killed, his consciousness begins to travel through the bodies of his friends in an effort to protect them. This dark passage leads him on a greater journey – discovering his true identity.
Plagued by blackouts where he has no recollection of what has happened, Sam slowly realises the truth. A truth that at first seems implausible, but one which takes him down a road filled with betrayal and revenge.
Every Time I Die is a slow burner that draws you into its twisting narrative, until a final sequence that literally had me holding my breath.
The old saying of ‘everyone is not who they seem’ most definitely applies here.
THE CABINET (Greater Manchester Premiere)
UK / English / 2018 / 3 mins
Director: Thomas Nelstrop
What happens when the bathroom cabinet you just purchased reveals an unearthly fault.
My favourite short of the entire weekend. Short, snappy, funny, and absolutely nails the ending with an edit and a line of dialogue that is still making me chuckle as I type this.
A classic example of what can be done in only 3 minutes.
A SERIAL KILLER’S GUIDE TO LIFE
Self-help addict Lou wants nothing more than to escape the dead-end seaside town where she grew up, but when an opportunity to leave presents itself she finds herself on an unexpected killing spree with her strange and strikingly confident new life coach, Val.
With a narrative thread that highlights delicate mental health issues and the multitude of ways in which people use coping mechanisms, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life follows Lou and Val on a journey through rural England as they meet, and then dispatch, both mentors and students as they try to overcome their own personal demons.
Although I thought that I had figured out the ending, director Robb Michael threw a swerve ball at me right at the end, making me nod my head in appreciation while thinking “of course!“.
Emerging from the woods filthy and ferocious, a feral teenager is indoctrinated into strict religious care, unleashing hell from the wild woman who raised her.
Nature vs nurture? Genes or environment? Education or religion? All of those questions and more are poised in Darlin’, the directorial debut of Pollyanna McIntosh, who also plays the feral woman whose child (the titular ‘Darlin’) is taken from her and put into a religious care home, where a strict Bishop oversees his obedient nuns, and surely has secrets to hide.
A superb lead performance by Lauryn Canny as Darlin’, sees her transforming both from the outside and from within, creating a character that on first glance is virtually inhuman, but then begins to change, managing to read and to speak.
But is this enough to cage the inner animal once and for all? Not forgetting of course, the maternal instincts of a woman…especially one that thinks nothing of ripping someones throat out.
Kept me captivated throughout.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! (PAPA, SDOKHNI)
Andrei – a detective, and the world’s most horrible father – brings together a terrible group of people in his apartment: his resentful actress daughter, an angry thug, and a cheated cop. Each one of them has a reason to want revenge…
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino and Lucio Fulci had a twisted love child that was conceived while watching a Sergio Leone film. The outcome of that demented tryst could well be Why Don’t You Just Die!
Set almost entirely in a Russian apartment, 5 characters stories come together in a bloody confrontation that raises hoots of laughter with sequels of pain in equal measure.
Dynamic camerawork by director Kirill Sokolov opens up the limited apartment space, giving plenty of room for the superb action sequences to play out.
People are hit, stabbed, shot, and tortured. All eliciting copious amounts of blood that threaten to turn the apartment into a swimming pool of red liquid, engulfing everyone within.
Why Don’t You Just Die! is not just about the action and the gore though. What initially seems to be a simple narrative, soon becomes a twisted tale whereby everyone involved becomes more than happy to start backstabbing (quite literally) their friends and family.
This is a film that I’ll happily pick up when it (hopefully) gets a Blu-ray release, as it certainly warrants multiple viewings.
Shorts Programme 2
STOP (International Premiere)
USA / English / 2019 / 12 mins
Director: Steven DeGennaro
A traffic stop turns sinister when two black men encounter a small-town cop on a power trip.
A tense 12 minutes inside a car when a traffic cop pulls over 2 black men and a white woman.
All too scary, because it is unfortunately all too real.
CHANGELING (Greater Manchester Premiere)
UK / English / 2019 / 10 mins
Director: Faye Jackson
A new mother becomes increasingly mesmerised and appalled by the strange transformations happening around her baby. She instinctively hides them, unaware they are building towards a final metamorphosis – hers.
A twisted 10 minutes where you fear what is going to happen next.
BEDTIME STORY (UK Premiere)
Spain / Spanish with English subtitles / 2019 / 9 mins
Director: Lucas Paulino, Ángel Torres
A witch that is observing from the apartment across the street and a story no child should ever hear…
This contained a genuinely creepy bedtime story that had me gripping my seat a little harder than I should have been. The tension builds, and then…
Watch it and you’ll find out.
THE THIRD HAND (Greater Manchester Premiere)
UK / No dialogue / 2018 / 10 mins
Director: Yoni Weisberg
Tonight feels like any other in the mundane life of this office worker. He watches the same show, eats the same food and just waits for it to end. But tonight is different. A blackout deep in the night awakens a mysterious room. Inside could be the secret to his wildest dreams, or worst nightmares.
No dialogue is needed in The Third Hand, as the narrative unfolds in such a way that it is irrelevant.
We can all relate to the events that happen…but would you take the opportunity presented by a strange photocopying machine this far?
THE GLOWING (UK Premiere)
Netherlands / Dutch with English subtitles / 2018 / 9 mins
Director: Justus van den Elsen
1850. A poor farmhand tries to smuggle his cattle over the Netherlands and Belgium border. But there are stories about an ancient evil that lives in these swamps, who was cursed for his lies. Could the farmhand suffer a similar fate?
When stuck in the swamps, a glowing humanoid form is one of the last things that you’d want to encounter.
Set in 1850, this of course means that any high-tech weapons and/or mobile phones can not come to your rescue, making the proceedings even more uncomfortable.
FEED ME DEATH (UK Premiere)
USA / English / 2019 / 7 mins
Director: Matt Devino
During a brutal home invasion, Casey is almost killed, until a mysterious entity appears and offers to keep her alive – but at what price?
Home invasions are never pleasant experiences, and Feed Me Death takes them another step down a dark and bloody path.
TURN (UK Premiere)
Iceland, Finland / Icelandic with English subtitles / 2018 / 18 mins
Directors: Sesselía Ólafsdóttir, Peter Callow
On the thirteenth day of Christmas, three girlfriends go on a holiday weekend trip to a cabin in the Icelandic wilderness. Faced with figures from Icelandic folklore, their holiday slowly turns into a waking nightmare.
In this digital age dominated by social media and people pretending to be someone else for the sake of a few ‘likes’, Turn shows in the clearest possible way that not everyone is who they seem to be.
LIMBO (UK Premiere)
Spain / Galician with English subtitles / 2018 / 15 mins
Director: Dani Viqueira
When Xose can’t manage to adapt to his new life, he gets pulled into a self destructive spiral.
Another slow burner that ramps up the tension.
A comic book obsessed serial killer teaches his son how to get away with murder, until the boy befriends a mysterious man, Holton, who threatens to expose their horrifying family secret. As Holton gets closer to the truth, he must not only fight for the young boy’s life, but for his own.
Lording it over a group of almost feral children, Artik is a man obsessed with creating his own life story, which unfortunately involves the death of a lot of other people.
When one of the young boys paths crosses with a man who sees that he is in need of help, Artik is forced to show the boy that death is the ultimate goal.
Brutal and uncompromising, the only thing that irked me while watching was the way in which the actor playing Artik slowly delivered every line of dialogue as though it was the most profound line of dialogue in the whole film. More than likely a character interpretation, but irritating nonetheless.
Dialogue delivery aside, this delivers the goods with the tension ramping up until a finale where you genuinely care about the outcome of the main characters.
Lonely driving instructor Rose is gifted with supernatural abilities, but doesn’t regard them as much of a gift due to constant spirit-related requests from neighbours, to exorcise their possessed rubbish bins or haunted gravel. But when Christian Winter, a washed up, one-hit-wonder rock star, makes a pact with the devil for a return to greatness, Rose has to find the heroine within.
Every year at Grimmfest there has always been one big standout film for me (2016: PET, 2017: Double Date, 2018: The Witch in the Window), and this year was no different.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…Extra Ordinary.
Rose is gifted with supernatural abilities. Abilities which she tries not to use due to being overwhelmed with requests from neighbours to help them contact dead relatives, or move the spirit of someone away from a certain place.
However, she can not ignore her supernatural talents completely, especially when a discarded toaster waves its plug at her, or a tree branch acknowledges her as she drives past.
When a bereaved local man with a teenage daughter and a dead wife whose spirit refuses to leave the family home comes into Rose’s life, her gifts are called upon.
This is only the beginning though, as a one hit wonder musician has made a supernatural pact with dark forces so that he can have a hit album.
Everybody’s paths cross (under hilarious circumstances), leading to a finale where a demon rises from the earth wanting the virgin soul it has been promised.
Extra Ordinary is consistently entertaining throughout its entire 94 minute running time, and there was barely a few minutes between where I was either chuckling to myself or downright belly laughing.
With characters that you instantly care about, scenarios that you can identify with, and a rich vein of dark humour running throughout its entirety, this is a film that will be a regular visitor in my Blu-ray player once it gets a physical release.
Also, in the Q&A afterwards, it was hinted that the stories of the characters could well be continued in a television series. Please make this happen!
We’ve had some great interview shows with filmmakers from previous Grimmfest events, and I have my fingers well and truly crossed that I can arrange a show with writer/director Mike Ahern.
After Becca receives a distressing call from her suicidal brother Richie, she rushes over to his apartment and finds him alive and well – surrounded by copies of his own dead body.
Want to know a great way to start your Sunday? Begin it with some Dead Dicks.
When Richie (Dick) awakens to find his own dead body in his apartment, he calls his sister Becca in a panic ridden state.
She arrives to witness that this is only the beginning of a dark journey were the bodies begin to pile up…and not all of them are Richie.
Thoroughly engrossing with dark humour scattered throughout, Dead Dicks is an emotional, and at times heartbreaking journey, which explores clinical depression and the affect it has not only on the person going through it, but also on the people around them.
I had no idea how the film was going to end, but when it did, it was perfect.
Another great example of how films can be entertaining and emotional, yet also contain a deeper message that can (and should) be discussed at length long after the final credits have rolled.
USA / English / 2019 / 90 mins / Certificate 18
Director: David Marmor
Cast: Nicole Brydon Bloom, Giles Matthey, Taylor Nichols, Alan Blumenfeld, Celeste Sully, Susan Davis, Clayton Hoff, Earnestine Phillips, Naomi Grossman
After leaving behind a painful past to follow her dreams, Sarah scores the perfect Hollywood apartment. But something is not right. Unable to sleep, tormented by strange noises and threatening notes, her new life quickly starts to unravel. Caught in a waking nightmare, Sarah must find the strength to hold onto her crumbling sanity…or be trapped forever in an existential hell.
Given the choice of continuing your life as it is, or living within a constrained community where you will want for nothing, but have no contact with anyone on the outside world. What would you choose?
This feature directorial debut from David Marmour places lots of questions in front of you, all while you watch the life of Sarah slowly begin to spiral out of her control. But is life easier once control has been handed over to other people?
The tension is cut by moments where Sarah has to make immediate decisions about her life…decisions where pain, mental and/or physical, are often the outcome.
Thought provoking and intelligent, 1BR makes you take a step back and re-evaluate what you want/have from life.
I SEE YOU
Infidelity has put great strain on the Harper household as Greg, the lead investigator in a child abduction case, struggles to find a way to forgive his wife, Jackie. As Jackie’s guilt slowly gnaws away at her sanity, a malicious presence begins manifesting itself in the household, putting their young son in mortal danger as a cold, hard truth is finally uncovered.
Probably the film with the biggest budget that was shown at this years Grimmfest, but most definitely the one which I enjoyed the least.
When an estranged families home gets invaded by two ‘phroggers’ (I had to look it up to see if it really was a thing), infidelities, mistrust, and guilt all come to boiling point, ultimately not making a very good time for all involved.
Slow paced and with characters that I felt zero empathy for, I See You was the only film that I had trouble staying awake for.
The scariest thing about it…Helen Hunt’s cosmetic surgery. Oh Helen, why!?
When Richard’s girlfriend Sasha and best friend Jonah give him a spear gun for his birthday, he wants to try it out straight away. The three of them set out for a day trip on a boat, but suspicion and jealousy soon start to get the upper hand. When the boat’s engine fails with no supplies on board, a nerve-wracking struggle for survival ensues that spares nobody’s secrets – or blood.
It was great to see Rob Grant back at Grimmfest (check below for a link to our show with him and other Grimmfest filmmakers too) with his latest film Harpoon.
Containing Rob’s usual splash of pitch black humour, along with a twisting tale involving characters that you’re never really 100% sure about whether you should be rooting for them or not, Harpoon is an absolute riot from beginning to its fantastic ending.
Mostly shot in the interior of a boat, it is testament to both Rob as a filmmaker and the acting of his cast, that at no point did I ever get bored of the surroundings, or the wild onboard antics as the stakes to stay alive got ever higher.
Yet another of Rob’s films that I shall be buying as soon as it is available.
I’d have loved to have stayed for the next film: Rabid. Especially as I was witness to the lovely Soska sisters outside the screening room and the enthusiastic and warm friendly way in which they greeted everyone that wanted a chat/photo/autograph, but a long journey home (especially as I started the day earlier today) meant that I needed to leave.
I’ve said it before, and after being here for the 4th year, I shall say it again: Grimmfest is THE premiere film festival that it is my pleasure to attend. Superbly curated, expertly run, and frequented by festival goers and guests that are always ready for a chat, it is the perfect start to the Halloween month every year.
Make sure to listen to our previous shows with Grimmfest filmmakers Rob Grant, Andy Mitton, Alex Draper, Charlie Tacker, Richard W. King, and Danny Morgan.
I look forward to Grimmfest 2020, and hopefully sometime soon, interview shows with some of the great people whose work I saw at this years event.