Canadian Film Collective RKSS’s (François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell), Summer of ’84 proved to be a popular entry on the UK festival circuit throughout 2018. With its comparisons to Stranger Things despite the film rumoured to have been in production first, the adolescent thriller carved itself an instantaneous appeal to genre audiences and proved a strong choice in the new features category at Abertoir due to its nostalgic vibe, complimenting the 80’s slasher theme exceedingly well. Summer of ’84 is a gripping thriller that takes narrative risks that your standard Hollywood fare wouldn’t even dream of.
As the film’s plot tells the tale of a group of teenagers who begin to suspect that their friendly neighbourhood cop is a nefarious child killer, it’s best to avoid spoilers at all costs and approach the film with open-mindedness. Evocative and downright chilling, it’s no surprise that Summer of ’84 has taken the UK genre scene by storm. For my full, spoiler-free review, check out this link: https://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-reviews/summer-of-84-2018-review/
When it comes to slasher movie boom of the early 1980’s, this next screening is often overlooked however it is surprisingly one of the strongest efforts of the era. The wonderful Abertoir treated their audience to an uncut screening of, My Bloody Valentine (1981) with all the gory bits rightfully restored for good measure. My Bloody Valentine still holds up to this day with its tale of jealousy and vengeance in a small sleepy mining town. In the aftermath of an unfortunate tragedy, the town forbid the celebration of Valentine’s Day, though seemingly with their hearts now healed, they decide to revive the tradition of the Valentine’s Day dance, with, you guessed it, bloody consequences as the younger population are picked off one by one by an axe wielding maniac on a quest for revenge!
The extended cut looked gore-geous on the big screen, even with the grainy restored scenes slotted in. Despite the visual contrast between pristine picture quality to grainy frames, the fact that the quality differed during the murder scenes added a sleazy, grimy tone to the proceedings, juxtaposing the romantic aesthetic and optimism of the dance setting next to brutal slayings. My Bloody Valentine is highly suspenseful with an engaging storyline, which can be a rarity in an over saturated genre which usually sways more towards spectacle than plot. Abertoir did this criminally underrated Canadian primo 80’s slasher justice, screening the film in its gore soaked entirety as it was meant to be viewed before being chopped to pieces by the censors for its depictions of graphic violence.
Abertoir’s most eagerly anticipated event of 2018 had finally arrived, an in-depth Q&A session with the legendary Sean. S Cunningham, presented by horror expert Stephen Thrower. Prior to this was a screening of arguably one of his most iconic films which spurned a hugely successful horror franchise, ‘Friday the 13th’. The film is notable for the creation of Jason Voorhees and for introducing the likes of Kevin Bacon and the late Betsy Palmer into the horror fold. Friday the 13th remains a highly enjoyable slasher flick, keeping up the suspense founded in Halloween with added gore included! Tom Savini’s special effects are still stomach-churningly impressive to this day, and it’s no surprise that the successful slasher formula in the film proved popular, paving the way for a slew of imitators to follow throughout the 80’s decade. During the Q&A, a broad selection of Cunningham’s career was discussed, memorably his work on Wes Craven’s, ‘The Last House on the Left’ (1972) leading to him recollect his fondest memories of working with the much missed director. Cunningham was also pleasantly surprised to discover how much love the Abertoir audience had for his ‘House’ franchise, with a number of audience members asking him about the production and the possibility of a future reboot.
The standout moment of the festival as well as the Q&A was when Cunningham donated a giant teddy bear featuring a good humoured horror twist to raise money for charity. An auction took place and amazingly, loyal audience member, Julian Neilson donated a staggering amount towards the cause with that figure subsequently matched in full by two dedicated festival attendees, Kristen & Jeff McGorry. With Hospice care being a cause close to Sean S. Cunningham’s heart, the money raised was donated to Mid Wales charities, Skanda Vale and Hahav (based in Aberystwyth). This level of generosity is a credit to the wonderfully kind and caring horror community, who I am lucky to share the Abertoir auditorium with. Following the Q&A, Sean chatted with fans, signed autographs and took photos all while raising money for a good cause. Sean S. Cunningham was brilliant and engaging with his fan base, it was truly an honour to meet him and is an opportunity I am forever grateful to Gaz Bailey (Abertoir’s Director) for.
Closing off the Friday schedule was a sure-fire sleeper hit of the festival, Party Hard, Die Young! Throughout the week we admired the exemplary slashers from the 80’s heyday, now it was time for something fresh and modern, step forward this pulsating, heart thumping Austrian entry that deserves a lot of credit. Think, ‘Sun, Sex & Suspicious Parents’ meets deranged maniac abroad and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when describing, Party Hard, Die Young! Dominik Hartl updates the familiar slasher formula and slices it into a modern context, commentating on 21st Century youth and their Instagram filled aspirations. Party Hard, Die Young has more heart to it than first expected, featuring an engaging story, an edge of the seat whodunit and why mystery, set against the luscious Croatian backdrop, allowing for some incredibly stunning cinematography.
Coming Up Next…Abertoir Part 5: The Final Chapter