Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s, third feature film, The Endless kickstarted the weekend portion of Abertoir for me. The screening marked my second viewing of the film having previously seen it at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield.
The Endless is based around two brothers (played by Moorhead and Benson) who controversially escaped a UFO death cult. After receiving a cryptic video tape, the pair are reluctantly propelled to return to the lives they left behind. Both struggle to adjust in contrasting ways with Aaron becoming increasingly drawn to his old way of life while Justin remains guarded. Fans who are familiar with the duo’s previous work will be aware that nothing is as it seems with a unique concept and layers of strangeness in place.
The Endless is an intricate, moving and mind-bending piece with Moorhead and Benson displaying their acting chops for the first time. Both are a revelation, extending their talents from behind the camera to appearing at the forefront. The two portray a solid bond and their brotherly relationship comes across as wholly authentic.
Visually, The Endless is breath-taking with wide, desolate shots that accentuates the stunning locations featured. The Endless is a film that should be viewed more than once as it goes beyond expectation with a great deal to take in. A complete masterclass in filmmaking, Moorhead and Benson are two of the most exciting indie filmmakers out there.
Nicko and Joe’s Bad Film Club is without a doubt a high point of the festival. Each year the audience anticipates the dodgy delights the comic duo gleefully subject us to. With this year’s theme being giallo and a celebration of Italian cinema, Nicko and Joe handpicked a diabolical dance movie/slasher from the vaults in the form of Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock. This faux Flashdance was certainly something to behold. Granted, Fulci movies were heavy on the splatter and featured blatantly unserious moments, Zombie Vs Shark anyone?!
However, Murder Rock (1984) ultimately diminished the spirit of what a Fulci movie should feel like, coming across as outright awful rather than displaying a tongue in cheek awareness. Allegedly, Fulci was taken ill during the production, or so it is rumoured, therefore that aids some explanation as to why the film felt rather fragmented and disparate to his usual style. Sure, he has made some grimy and somewhat nasty films but this did not even capture a speck of that.
There were unpleasant close-ups, harsh lighting, laughably bad acting, and most importantly, shoehorned in, sloppy dance sequences! Best of all, the murders were carried out with a safety pin with female victims impaled in the breast area! This was highly amusing for the audience as it came as an unintentional throwback to Aerobicide in which Nicko and Joe screened for us back in 2012! Bad movie, side-splittingly hilarious commentary, Nicko and Joe’s Bad Film Club is a popular feature at the festival which promises raucous laughter and a sensation of disbelief, leaving viewers questioning, “how on earth did this movie get greenly?”
With Sergio Martino in attendance on the opening night, Abertoir carefully spread out the appearance of their special guests, allowing for audiences to have something to look forward to by the weekend. By Saturday it was finally time for the eagerly awaited Q&A with the legendary Lamberto Bava. Bava of course has experienced a varied career having worked alongside his famous father Mario as well as genre maestro Dario Argento before taking the directorial reigns for himself in the 1980’s.
Bava took his own stab at giallo with his debut Macabre (1980) and A Blade in the Dark (1983) which I have written about in more depth here. Bava’s contribution to giallo is an intriguing one with his films engulfing a slow burning, melancholic tone with highly grizzly murder set pieces. Following his Q&A Bava met fans for photos and signings, once again producing a unique Abertoir experience.
Abertoir is very much a community driven festival with the organizers going all out to create an atmosphere of enjoyment for its patrons. This year the Theatr-Y-Werin bar was transformed into the giallo lounge recreating the essence of the 1960’s Mario Bava movies, Blood and Black Lace and Five Dolls for an August Moon. There was lurid décor, fantastic cosplay and an exquisite DJ set courtesy of DJ Dellamorte. Footage of the party will be featured in my upcoming Abertoir vlog which will be on my YouTube channel in 2018.
One of my favourite aspects of film festivals is the opportunity to view several innovative short films from all around the globe. Abertoir’s Short Film Competition 2017 provided a solid line-up of impressive shorts created on a small budget.
Nick Barrett’s ‘Devil Town’ was intense and confrontational as it depicted a smarmy letting agent who is forewarned about the end of the world by a homeless man. Dismaying him completely through his snobbish demeanour, has he bitten off more than he can chew or can he call his opponents bluff? Devil Town develops an intricately-woven narrative in a collision of conflicting beliefs while making an interesting commentary on the treatment of the poor.
One of the major highlights was an Italian short entitled L’ora Del Buio. Featuring inventive camera work heightening the tension, the short centred on a captured and terrified young girl who bravely contacts emergency services while at the hands of her abductor. The piece is deeply unnerving, sinister and heart-racing as her ultimate survival remains in question. L’ora Del Buio generated plenty of skin-crawling scares from the beginning and never lets up until the shocking end.
The winner of the short film competition and the Méliès d’Argent award was Katie Bonham’s Mab. Bonham delivers a film that blends the everyday with the mystical exceedingly well. The narrative thread is strong and compelling throughout with a phenomenal lead performance from young actress Maria-Teresa Daher-Cusack, in her first on screen role, impressive! Mab includes a beautifully haunting score, stunning camera work and oodles of intrigue that leaves the viewer wanting more. Mab is a triumph for Bonham and is so far, her most polished film to date. She has a promising future ahead of her and it would be fascinating to see her approach a feature film.
Abertoir 2017 was the festival’s strongest year yet. The organisation and programming was flawless and this year demonstrated how far the festival has come since its beginnings back in 2006. Abertoir is well established and continues to welcome long standing attendees as well as new faces. Since the first year it has grown and developed an incredible loyal following. It is more than a horror festival, it is a community and a family. 2018 will see Abertoir celebrate its 13th year… Any guesses on the theme?
Thank you so much for reading my look back at the festival and look out for my vlog in the new year!
Merry Christmas and a bloodily brilliant new year to my horror hounds, from Welsh Demoness on Love Horror.