On Saturday, July 11th 2015, Sheffield was taken over by all things gore-ious as the first ever UK horror convention took place at Magna Science Park nearby in Rotherham. Our contributor Hayley Alice Roberts aka. Welsh Demoness tells our readers all about the spine chillingly awesome event that is a bit like Disneyland for those who admire the darker side of film!
Horror Con 2015
In collaboration with Horror Con was Sheffield’s annual horror festival Celluloid Screams who continued the frights over at the Showroom Cinema with a triple bill of horror goodness, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and finally the controversial Human Centipede III (Final Sequence).
Horror Con UK was such a diverse event, there was plenty going on from exhibitors to Q&A’s to satisfy all those gory needs. The UK welcomed some incredible special guests who have made a timeless contribution to our favorite genre. The original Leatherface himself Gunner Hansen was in attendance as was legendary make-up effects artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Burning), cult star Bill Moseley of Devil’s Rejects and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and fellow cult icon Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, Devil’s Rejects). Other guests included Hammer actresses Martine Beswick (Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde) and Caroline Munro (Dracula A.D); bleeding horror’s most iconic eras all together for two spooktacular days.
Being a huge slasher fan, meeting Savini and Hansen was a must! I had Savini sign a black and white photograph of him working on the original mutant Jason from Friday the 13th (1980).
I had photo shoots with both Savini and Hansen, with Hansen placing his hands around my neck asking if that was cool; being ‘strangled’ by THE Leatherface, of course that is damn cool!
I attended Q&A’s with both horror icons. Savini discussed his role in Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and even ‘cracked the whip’ for us. He honestly gave his views on the Friday franchise following his involvement, he passed up on the sequel film due to believing Jason is truly dead in the water and discussed debates he had with Betsy Palmer about the entire franchise being Mrs Voorhees’s dream! What an intriguing fan theory.
Hansen spoke about how he bagged himself the iconic role at the last minute. He divulged into the secrets of what made the infamous hook scene so grizzly and credited it to the power of editing, making Texas Chainsaw Massacre an effective and unforgettable film that left a disturbing impact on its viewers. Hansen believes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre is still an incredibly powerful film to this day, still keeping audiences on the edge of their seats, which is certainly valid statement. Like Savini, Hansen wasn’t taken with any of the sequels in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise and pointed out the major flaws from the most recent addition to the series with its dodgy timeline!
Next on the agenda was the screening of Scottish Director Andy Stewart’s Body Horror Trilogy, Dysmorphia, Split and Ink. Two of Stewart’s films screened at Celluloid Screams Horror Festival in 2014 while his first short preceded the Showroom Cinema’ s screening of Brandon Cronenberg’s Anti-Viral a couple of years back. The short films have garnered somewhat of a notorious reputation as audience members have been known to faint at the sight of the squirm-worth blood and gore on offer.
Stewart’s Body Horror Trilogy is visually disturbing as well as imaginative showcasing creative special effects that are used metaphorically to represent human inner turmoil. Dysmorphia relates to being unhappy with ones appearance which is identifiable on a universal level. Spilt (in my opinion the strongest candidate) looks at the emotional effects of going through a break up with added grisliness, Austin Hayden gives a devastating and powerful performance.
Finally, Ink is an interesting take on body modification as a disturbed individual played brilliantly by Sam Hayman goes to extreme lengths in order to get a tattoo. Ink is incredibly tense and strangely absorbing. Following the films was a Q&A with Stewart who discussed his influences being Jen and Sylvia Soska and how they have shown great support for his work. Stewart spoke briefly about his next short film taking a different direction with the crowd-funded Redacted, set to star Laurence R Harvey (Human Centipede II and III) and Tristan Risk (American Mary). Andy Stewart is a modern genre filmmaker to look our for and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
The trailer for UK exploitation flick Banjo premiered at the convention. The Liam Regan directed feature is to be shown at this year’s Fright Fest in Leicester Square, its official UK premiere. Banjo centers on a tormented young man Peltzer (James Hamer-Morton) who becomes manipulated by his imaginary friend Ronnie (Damian Morter) to exact revenge on the co-workers that ruthlessly bully him. Cult exploitation director Lloyd Kaufman of Troma films will appear in Banjo as well as the previously mentioned Human Centipede star Laurence R Harvey. Regan’s film background also lies in Troma having appeared in the recent Return to Nuke Em’ High giving an idea of the style and approach Banjo will take. Fingers crossed Banjo will tour the horror festival circuit following its Fright Fest screening this year as its one to watch out for. I’d like to thank the lovely cast and crew for signing the movie’s poster for me.
One of the major highlights of Horror Con was seeing all the cosplayers. There were some inventive costumes on display from Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Samara and many more. I fortunately had my photograph taken with both Voorhees and Myers, the actors were brilliant, staying in character throughout coming across as genuinely scary.
As previously stated, the fright-tivities continued over to the Showroom Cinema at 6:15pm until late.
The first screening was the classic 1971 Vincent Price chiller The Abominable Dr. Phibes. The Big screen presentation was stunning, as we re-lived Price’s wonderful performance as the twisted doctor/scientist who seeks revenge on former colleagues for the tragic death of his wife, murdering them in bizarre ways. Dr. Phibes is full of surreal cinematography, emphasizing a dream-like experience which is further heightened by Phibes orchestral versions of well known music and mannequin musicians, creating a creepy effect. Dr. Phibes is strange, twisted, dark and inventive, a unique and enthralling piece of 1970’s horror cinema that should be seen by all fans of Vincent Price and Horror films alike.
Up next was a different offering from 1971, the campy Hammer Horror, Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde. Martine Beswick (Mrs Hyde) was in attendance to open the film, she described it as a lot of fun and one of her favourite films that she worked on. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde is a Victorian period piece loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic novel.
This time around Jekyll (Ralph Bates) transforms into a seductive but deadly woman, hell bent on taking over his entire being and duping his closest friends. The comedy comes in when the rest of the characters seem oblivious to Jekyll and Mrs Hyde never appearing in a scene together. Beswick plays the menacing Mrs Hyde charismatically with her tongue firmly in cheek! Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde demonstrates a power struggle of the sexes, making it an interesting film for its time that explored gender and horror.
Finally, the notorious third instalment of sick n’ shock franchise Human Centipede was the final film of the evening. Laurence R Harvey was in attendance to introduce the film as well as involve the audience in a prize giveaway! A few years back I walked out of Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) drawing the line after the baby head squish scene, really not cool! Clearly these films are deliberately in bad taste however don’t really offer anything more than stupidity. They’re not entertaining and do not contribute anything interesting or significant to the genre.
They’re simply well shot exploitation films that feel forced rather than authentically weird. So, why did I decide to check out Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) you ask? it was more a less just to get into the spirit of things and some sort of endurance test to myself. Well that endurance test lasted all of thirty minutes. For me, the sexual violence the film directs at the only female character (played by former porn star Bree Olson) is not only degrading but played for laughs, and just like the baby head squish in the sequel, it’s really not cool or amusing.
Horror Con 2015 was a successfully spooky event that hopefully will be back next year.