On the 5th-10th November 2015, located deep in the dark heart of Wales (or home as I like to call it!) The Abertoir Horror Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary in style, bringing loyal attendees and new faces a wonderful selection of events, UK premieres and beloved, classic features.
In its biggest and best year yet, Abertoir (which takes place in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre) pulled out all the stops to make its 10th anniversary one memorable festival!
The foyer was decorated with a party theme, there were red and black balloons galore and an ominous clown that got a bit worse for wear as the festival went on! There was also a wonderful display cabinet featuring a selection of Vincent Price memorabilia (including dolls, film novels, board games, a cook book and much more) courtesy of Peter Fuller.
Day One started with a bang! To kick things off, festival attendees were treated to drinks in Art Gallery 2 as the incredible work of Graham Humphreys and Gilles Vranx was unveiled. Both artists are immensely talented and incorporate different styles that recapture the classic VHS covers of the 1980’s which lives on through the Arrow Video label today, but more on that later.
The Opening film was the exquisite The Abominable Dr. Phibes, starring Abertoir’s patron saint Vincent Price. Price has had a prominent presence at Abertoir since its beginnings in 2006 and the festival to this day have now screened 16 of his iconic films. What better choice than Dr. Phibes, it’s one of my personal favourites for its lavish sets, stunning cinematography and its essence of strangeness. Price is ultimately brilliant in the role of the tortured doctor seeking revenge for the death of his beloved wife.
Following on was a special screening of Steve Oram’s unique ape comedy Aaaaaaah! The film is Oram’s directorial debut and not only did we get the opportunity to view the film on the big screen, it was accompanied by a hilarious live commentary from Oram himself. Aaaaaah! is the weirdest film you’ll see all year! Starring many comedy favourites including Toyah Wilcox, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding (of Mighty Boosh fame), Aaaaaaah literally puts forward the idea of what if humans behaved like apes. The film features the kind of every day characters from everyday life doing everyday things but without societal restrictions, questioning is it really that different from the world we live in? It’s side-splittingly funny and completely bonkers but remains the kind of film that will split the audience. It could be described as an observational comedy but without a doubt Oram and his cast certainly had a great time making this. It’s a film where anything can happen, there are no boundaries! Aaaaah! marks Oram’s second visit to Abertoir, last year he took part in a Q&A discussing his small role in Ivan Kavanagh’s chiller The Canal. Ben Wheatley’s unforgettable black comedy Sightseers was the closing film at Abertoir’s 2012 festival in which Oram starred as the ginger faced man!
The main and eagerly anticipated event of the first evening followed with the phenomenal From Frizzi 2 Fulci concert. Fabio Frizzi returned to Abertoir after attending in 2013. His return is rather poignant following the recent death of Richard Johnson. Frizzi and Johnson were both special guests in 2013 and despite them both working on notorious video nasty Zombie Flesh Eaters they only met for the first time on stage in Aberystwyth. As imagined the concert was incredible. Located in the Art Centre’s great hall and set up with cabaret style seating, Frizzi and his band belted out the iconic film scores from Zombie Flesh Eaters to The Beyond to City of the Living Dead. It was an atmospheric event, the crowd cheered when Frizzi announced we’d be “taking a trip to the Caribbean”. The Zombie/Shark fight is always a real treat to revisit as the band had a screen up behind them featuring clips from Fulci’s greatest films. Hearing the music live showcased how dramatic it sounds, with chilling vocals accompanying the film footage. The concert was the icing on the cake that made the opening night spectacular, bringing together fans who have an appreciation for the era of 80s Italian splatter.
It wasn’t over yet, closing off day one brought a UK premiere in association with Fantasia International Film Festival, Robbery. Directed by Fire Lee, this Hong Kong film acted as a homage to Tarantino, in a crazy, tense, black comedy thriller about a group of people in a 24 hour convenience store that have a terrible day and an even worse night. Robbery was a surprise film, it’s completely relatable for anyone who has ever worked in retail though of course exaggerated! It’s certainly a case of your first day in a new job going horribly wrong! Ping (Derek Tsang) is quickly employed at the neon-lit store, his boss is not pleasant to work for and even worse he has to constantly sell the dreaded product focus! His co-worker Mabel (J. Arie) makes the situation more bearable but as the night goes on and a slew of colourful characters enter the store events take a turn for the crazy. Robbery was a hit with the Abertoir audience, twisted, tongue-in-cheek and exceedingly clever, it proved to be the perfect midnight film keeping audiences on the edge of their seats. Awesomely shot with endearing if not stereotypical characters, Robbery is a violent yet funny thrill ride.
Next Up: Day Two.