Live Event: Grimmfest Online, October 7th- 11th, 2020
This is now the 5th year that it has been my absolute pleasure to cover Grimmfest, and while a certain worldwide pandemic made things a bit different this year, my annual review sticks to tradition by recommending that you go back and read my previous years reviews and make a note of any of the great films that may not have appeared on your movie watching radar so far: Grimmfest 2019, Grimmfest 2018, Grimmfest 2017, Grimmfest 2016
However, I am going to structure this years review differently to past years, due mostly to the pre-event online press week that Grimmfest organised with the filmmakers and led to some fantastic interview shows across various outlets. Something which I hope continues with future Grimmfest events going forward, though it will of course also be great for everyone to meet up once again in Manchester…I’m already looking forward to 2021 and having a chat with lots of people between the films.
The event as always covered a fantastic range of feature length films, short film showcases, Q&A sessions and more. All expertly organised by the Grimmfest team, who deserve extra kudos for not only keeping this years event running, but also running it so very smoothly and making it a stress free experience for everyone watching.
Rather than break down each of the films, I highly encourage you to watch as many as possible from this years selection, you won’t go too far wrong with any of them.
The best way to get a flavour of the films, and also a glimpse behind the camera at the wonderful people I got to chat with, is to watch/listen to our interview shows. Not only do these give you an idea of what each film is about, but you also get to hear some great on set stories.
I sing the praises of Grimmfest every year, and once again it proved to be my favourite annual event. Great films, fantastic organisation, and the friendliest people you could hope to encounter, both at the Grimmfest end and all across the filmmakers too.
Support indie filmmaking and share links to their work wherever you can.
Put your feet up and enjoy some lighthearted chat about the following films:
1970s USA, Three African American siblings on the run from the police take refuge at an abandoned Tennessee Ranch, unaware their hideout is on the hunting grounds of a cannibalistic Ku Klux Klan cult…Trapped and tortured, the three must fight tooth and nail to escape alive and take down the bloodthirsty Klan.
Grimmfest says: A full-blooded, take-no-prisoners homage to Seventies blaxploitation cinema from Maverick British exploitation maestro Charlie Steeds, this never once slips into pastiche or parody. Gleefully grimy and cartoonishly controntational in approach, it captures perfectly the often uneasy mix of social commentary and luridly cathartic violence which characterised the genre, and in particular the rawer, more regionally produced films that went straight to the drive-ins. And yet, for all of its retro-styled pulp sleaziness, it seems all-too-disturbingly topical right now. To suggest that it be considered as any kind of serious commentary on race relations in contemporary Amerikkka might seem somewhat disingenuous, but in the current climate of racial tension, it might provide some welcome catharsis to watch the racists get what they deserve, while the hero’s final, foul-mouthed assessment of the Klan is certainly one that it’s difficult to disagree with.
H.P. LOVECRAFT’S THE DEEP ONES.
A married couple rents a beach side Airbnb only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbours and occurrences. They soon discover to be in the grips of a mysterious cult and their ancient sea god.
Grimmfest says: Chad Ferrin’s taboo-breaking and good-taste-challenging blackly-comic shocker SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR caused both outrage and slack-jawed astonishment among the audience at the very first Grimmfest, so it’s a pleasure to be welcoming him back with his latest slice of cinematic mischief. A sly and genre-savvy splicing of H.P. Lovecraft and Ira Levin, with cinematic shout-outs to Corman, Stuart Gordon, Charles Band (whose brother Richard provides the score), and even Troma, this is an gleefully knowing slice of unabashed, unapologetic pulp horror, deftly juggling trash-exploitation tropes, camp black comedy, and an unexpectedly dark core, to delirious and disorientating effect; a riot of retro-styled schlock thrills, uncomfortable laughs, and wild-eyed weirdness, chock full of eccentric performances, odd, off-kilter sequences, and sudden shifts in tone, yet anchored by a grim narrative inevitability. It’s a whole lot of in-your-face fun. And Lovecraft purists will be pleased to know that effort has been made to ensure the various unspeakable beasties look right.
In 1979, a young girl stumbles upon a possessed tape player. She unknowingly unleashes a demonic entity that haunts her family while slowly dragging the small town of Clarkston to Hell.
Grimmfest says; A beautifully realised, pitch-perfect homage to the kinds of teen horror films we all grew up with, this forgoes the tone of post-modern nudge-wink knowingness common to so much retro-styled 80s cine-fetishism in favour of something more purely affectionate. Nostalgic but never sentimental, the film absolutely nails the era it wishes to evoke, and will bring back happy memories for even the most hard-hearted among you. The three young leads are all terrific, and the interplay between them sharp and funny, with any undue archness offset by the easy naturalism of their performances, and while there are plenty of in-jokes for the film buff (a pair of idiot cops called Jason and Kevin is a nice touch), these are never allowed to dominate or detract from the action. Period production design is unobtrusively effective (a lot of it is down to the film’s colour palette – it simply LOOKS like something shot in the period when it is set), the music cues are bang-on, and the filmmakers are not at all afraid to kill off likeable and sympathetic characters in quite shocking fashion. And the final, mischievous twist is delightful in its simple, no-nonsense logic. It seems strange to be saying this about a horror film, but prepare to be… charmed.
TEN MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT.
On the eve of her forced retirement, veteran late night radio host Amy Marlowe and her uneasy staff are trapped inside WLST Radio station by a violent hurricane, while a mysterious new replacement shadows her every move.
Grimmfest says: Imagine if Stretch had never run into that pesky family of cannibals, but had just kept on working at that tiny radio station; thirty-four years on, and she’s an increasingly embittered, aging rock chick, struggling to hold on to her youth, while facing the prospect of replacement by an ambitious younger woman. Such is the starting point for Erik Bloomquist’s mischievous and thought-provoking movie, which sees Caroline Williams returning to the late night DJ slot to confront a whole new set of monsters. Combining a loving, genre-savvy homage to classic 80s horror cinema with a surprisingly powerful and sympathetic meditation on age, particularly as it affects women, and the metaphorical “death” of losing the job and the life you feel valued in, the film is as effective in its quieter, more contemplative, character based moments, as in its more gaudy genre flourishes. Anchored by a beautifully judged performance from Williams, and with a fine sense of retro-styling in its choice of title sequence, music cues, and colour palette, this is a film with real heart. Even if it does feel the need to put a stake through it.
A botched faith healing bestows supernatural Shaman powers on a bullied teenager. When his lifelong tormentors pull a prank that kills someone he loves, he uses his powers for revenge and goes on a bloody rampage to settle the score..
Grimmfest says: It’s a popular scenario for a horror movie, of course, one which has turned up in many different forms over the years, from Stephen King’s CHRISTINE, to last year’s Grimmfest hit, THE SHED: the put-upon outsider teen suddenly granted the power to take vengeance on his bullies, and corrupted in the process. But as the title suggests, THE UNHEALER offers an intriguingly fresh new spin: the power here is that of reflecting violence back on the perpetrator, so the fates of the various bullies are determined in part by the extent of their own cruelty, lending the proceedings, at least at first, an uncomfortably poetic sense of justice. Boasting some sharp and sly social observation, plenty of intriguing and offbeat character detail, a fine eye and ear for run-down small-town locations, attitudes and values, and an unexpectedly vicious streak, and featuring a sympathetic and winning lead in Elijah Nelson, and fine supporting turns from Natasha Henstridge as his defiant and supportive single mother and the inimitable Lance Henrikson as a sleazy, drink-and-drug-addled bogus faith healer straight out of the pages of a Joe R. Lansdale novel, this is a satisfyingly smart and surprisingly sour take on a perennially popular horror trope.
A recently widowed woman is abducted by a cold blooded killer, only to escape into the wilderness where she is forced to battle against the elements as her pursuer closes in.
Grimmfest says: The worst horrors are often random, unexpected, straight out of nowhere. Thus it is that an encounter between drivers on an open road, which initially seems like a simple incidence of bruised male ego road-rage against a female driver, quickly escalates into something far more disturbing and deadly; a brutal game of cat and mouse between a remorseless, misogynous psychopath and his latest chosen victim – who proves to be far smarter and more determined than he is expecting. There might be wry nods to both Spielbergs classic DUEL and George Sluizers bone-chilling THE VANISHING, but ALONE is very much its own movie, offering a sour and cynical fresh spin on the classic hunter vs hunted scenario, constantly shifting gears and changing situations, as the heroine finds the will, and the ferocity, to fight back. Beautifully played by Jules Willcox as the resourceful heroine and Marc Menchada (star of last year’s Grimmfest favourite EVERY TIME I DIE) as her hateful tormentor, this is a breakneck and surprisingly brutal white-knuckle ride into the heart of human darkness. Fasten your seatbelts, folks. The road ahead could get… bloody.
While out on yet another bender, drug-addled abusive bastard Barry is abducted by aliens, who assume control of his body and take it for a joyride through the seedier parts of Cape Town. What follows is an onslaught of drugs, sex and violence as our extraterrestrial tourist enters the weird and wonderful world of humankind.
Grimmfest says: If one of the key roles of cinema is to take the viewer on a journey, then writer-director Ryan Kruger has taken that notion and run wild with it. Expanded from his own acclaimed cult short film of the same name, this is a feckless, reckless, riotous roller-coaster ride throught the sleazy backstreets, bars, and brothels of Cape Town, which plays like the missing link between Kubricks’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, John Sayles’ THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET and the video for Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up”. Psychedelic and phantasmagorical, delirious, disorientating, and truly immersive, it’s a trip you won’t forget in a hurry.
Hopefully this has given you a little taste of Grimmfest 2020 and I have my fingers crossed that I get to meet many of you at Grimmfest 2021.
Review by Dave.