Abertoir would not feel right without a Vincent Price film amongst the line-up! He is of course the festival’s official patron saint, as appointed by his daughter Victoria who attended the festival in 2011 and 2015, respectively. Team Abertoir selected a film that proved vital to 2017’s giallo theme, Roger Corman’s Tales of Terror.
Based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, the anthology starred Price alongside Peter Lorre, making a dynamic duo with their contrasting performances. Lavishly gothic from the set design to the costumes, Tales of Terror depicted three scaretastic stories surrounding darkness and death with a tint of jocular comedy that both Price and Lorre relish in.
The first story featured an unforgiving spirit that puts a spanner in the works during a father/daughter reunion. The second (and arguably favourite) is a take on ‘The Black Cat’ as Price and Lorre amusingly go head to head for the affections of the same lady. Price is suave and charming while Lorre plays a reputable alcoholic who openly detests his wife’s cat! The wine tasting scene is a real treat in itself. The final instalment centred on a hypnotist who manages to prolong the life of his terminally ill client aeons after his death, however as expected events go awry. Vincent Price movies bring in a fun edge to the festival and he will always remain a beloved and much missed horror icon. Abertoir has successfully celebrated his legacy and opened his filmography up to new generations during its twelve-year run
Welsh horror/sci-fi/comedy hybrid Canaries premiered on the fourth night in association with BAFTA Cymru. Written and directed by Peter Stray, Canaries is a down to earth, genuinely funny flick as it centres on a New Year’s Eve Party in the Welsh Valleys (Cwmtwrch to be exact) that turns deadly when a supernatural threat descends on the normally uneventful Welsh village. Immediately the sharp script is what stands out about Canaries. Stray has expertly written authentic characters who just become embroiled in extraordinary circumstances. There is a realness to them, which allows
the audience to root for them once the alien invasion impacts their lives
The dialogue is highly witty allowing for a ton of comedic moments to play out. Stray captures the essence of black comedy and an even tone in-between the moments of laughter and sheer fear and panic faced by the main players. Canaries is evocative of the sci-fi horror of the 70’s and 80’s and even pays homage to Jaws (1975) itself with its use of the Martha’s Vineyard location at the beginning of the film. Stray also depicts a strong female heroine with Sheena Bhattessa in the role of Sunita who goes against type proving both refreshing and progressive. In the Q&A that followed the screening Stray spoke about he was inspired by Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer when writing the role and how a strong female role was imperative to the script.
Craig Russell is scene stealing as hapless DJ Steve, who has returned from London especially for the party. The whole cast play their roles fantastically and the film features the best of Welsh talent starring Steven Meo, Hannah Daniel, Aled Pugh and Richard Mylan. Kevin McCurdy does an exceptional job as one of the infected creatures putting his background in stunt co-ordination into practice. Stray portrays characters of gender and race respectfully and doesn’t draw a whole lot of attention to it which is brilliant to see. The characters are just regular people interacting.
Canaries is a strong ensemble piece with the most remarkable aspect being what a high standard of filmmaking they achieved on a shoestring budget. The film was made with £29,000 and with that amount, they shot at different locations outside of the UK, including the US. Being Welsh, for me, the main grab of Canaries was the relatable humour and overall crowd-pleasing nature it displayed. Along with Better Watch Out and The Endless, Canaries was without a doubt one of my favourite flicks of Abertoir 2017.
Abertoir’s off-site screenings are notorious for not going quite to plan. Over the past few years, taking Abertoir out of the cinema and into a different yet innovative location has been forestalled by typical Welsh weather conditions. For 2017, the festival directors managed to organize a location that was indoors, therefore events surely would go without a hitch! With careful and intricate planning, Abertoir took pass holders to the historical Ceredigion Museum for a screening of Dario Argento’s Opera (1987).
The museum once homed the Coliseum cinema which aptly replicated the style of theatre featured in the eye-poppingly brutal Italian shocker. As always Abertoir went the extra mile to bring in the thrills and chills making the screening experience as interactive as possible. During the pivotal scene in which a flurry of crows descend on the packed opera house, audience members in the museum were attacked by plush birds which ended up being taken home as souvenirs for many!
However, that wasn’t the only surprise that was in store! Following Opera, the audience were asked to vacate the building with all their belongings intact. Leading us to thinking something had yet again gone amiss, we were then guided to the Commodore Cinema (our very own Metropol!) by the festival directors in full Demons cosplay prior to enjoying the Lamberto Bava classic on the big screen. The whole event was a work of genius and completely unexpected. The amount of time, creativity, collaboration and effort the festival put in to create a one of a kind experience is astounding, making the off-site screening an unforgettable night for all.