Day Six soon arrived which meant we had one more day of spine-chilling scares to go! The first film of the day was a neo-giallo titled Francesca. Remarkably it was an Argentinian film through the medium of Italian that was shot as if it had been made during the 1970’s. Francesca certainly did not disappoint, director Licoano Onetti created an authentic looking film that you’d be forgiven for assuming it had been made decades before 2015 as every single piece of genuine giallo iconography was in place from red leather gloves to creepy dolls to elaborate death scenes to a synth-infused soundtrack. At its heart is a classic murder mystery. A serial killer is on the loose and its up to two detectives to catch the culprit before more blood is shed. In order to discover the mass murderer’s identity they must identify the connection between the recent murders and the disappearance of a young girl fifteen years earlier. The twists and turns are compelling with a satisfying conclusion that you won’t see coming! It’s worth waiting for the post-credit scene that brings with it a nasty little knife tease! While certain neo-giallos rely on style rather than substance much like Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears from 2013, Francesca has it all; it features stylish cinematography with an authentic 1970’s look while incorporating an accessible plot that doesn’t become confusing or alienate non art house fans. The giallo film lives on in Francesca, commemorating a grizzly and inventive film that blows mainstream horror out of the water.
Usually on the last day of the festival we are treated to a unique experience, the silent short films with live piano accompaniment. Always a festival highlight we go back to the origins of horror from the silent film era, viewing shorts from the likes of 1920’s Buster Keaton and even earlier films. Unfortunately this year Pianist Paul Shallcross was taken ill therefore this part of the festival was then altered. Mr Shallcross in previous years has put on a wonderful performance full of insightful and detailed facts about the films he plays the accompaniment to.
In place of the event was the Arrow restoration of the Vincent Price horror satire, A Comedy of Terrors. The reason for this choice was to keep up the fun, slapstick style of comedy that’s encompassed within the silent shorts. Vincent Price is just naturally brilliant in this 1963 horror parody that lovingly pokes fun at the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations he was famous for starring in. Centering on two hapless undertakers, Waldo Trumbull (played by Price) and Felix Gillie (played by Peter Lorre) take matters into their own hands when they struggle to find “customers” of their own. The two embark on a comedic killing spree that doesn’t go quite to plan. At the beginning they hilariously re-use coffins of the deceased that they have already buried, offering up plenty of black humor from the get go. Its side-splitting slapstick at its best with an ingenious conclusion. The film reunited Price and Lorre with Boris Karloff following their collaboration in The Raven also released in 1963. Joyce Jameson gives a comically brilliant performance as Amaryllis Trumbull, the neglected wife of Price’s character; her organ playing alongside her shrieking singing voice during the funeral scenes while Price and Lorre act extremely agitated are some of the film’s most priceless moments. But the star of the show is of course Orangey playing Rhubarb the cat who was a movie star in his own right back in the 1960’s! He previously starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! A Comedy of Terrors was the perfect choice for a replacement film, celebrating everything we love about Vincent Price and also featured a cat, doesn’t get any better than that!
Returning back to the modern films and keeping in with the psychological horror theme offered up previously by Sensoria, Fatal Frame and The Witch was Karyn Kusama’s disturbing thriller, The Invitation. One of 2015’s most sensational genre movies, it was actually my second viewing of the film having already viewed it at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield. Despite knowing what’s coming, watching the film again didn’t detract from the intensity making it just as much as gripping as the first time around. The Invitation is a film that most definitely requires going into not knowing much about it. Dealing with loss, grief and friendship, The Invitation is a stomach churning roller-coaster ride, with superb performances from its entire cast. For my full review of the film, check out this link: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/the-best-feature-films-of-celluloid-screams-2015/.
Unfortunately I missed the theatre performance and post show talk of Casting the Runes and the closing film Bone Tomahawk. Normally Abertoir go for a comedic crowd pleaser to close the festival having Sightseers in 2012 and last year Dead Snow 2. Bone Tomahawk is set to be one of the biggest films of 2016 and plays as a brutal Western rather than straight up horror. It stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and David Arquette to name a few. It went down brilliantly with the Abertoir audience and made it into the top three best modern feature films.
To round things off was the closing ceremony. Festival directors Gaz Bailey and Nia Edwards-Behi were presented with a sketch (soon to be painting) by Graham Humphreys depicting the two of them on a ghost train with the Welsh dragon in the background. Loyal festival attendee Dan Griffiths organized the special gesture for the two fantastic people who make this festival a success every single year bringing Abertoir 2015 to a poignant close. Of course there was the annual DVD and poster giveaways and the group photograph taken by Matt Hardwick (which I cannot wait to see!).
With Six Days of a wide variety of films and events, Abertoir 2015 was absolutely phenomenal and as a dedicated horror fan I am so proud to have this festival in my home town. Long may it continue.