Celluloid Screams: Sheffield Horror Film Festival returned for its 11th edition from the 24th-27th October 2019. The long-running festival run by Robert Nevitt and Polly Allen prides itself on supplying horror hounds with the latest and greatest fright flicks that the genre has to offer.
The line-up is undoubtably eclectic guaranteeing that there will be something for everyone to sink their fangs into! 2019 delivered one of the festival’s strongest line-ups to date, serving up harrowing true stories, satanic panic and pure playful scares with the more comedic offerings. Welsh Demoness gives her personal best from the fest with five must-see spooktacular recommendations.
[Please Note: Come to Daddy and Why Don’t You Just Die! will not be included in the countdown due to being previously reviewed as part of Frightfest].
5. Tone Deaf (2019)
• Director: Richard Bates Jr.
• Country: USA
At number 5 is Celluloid Screams opening film, Ricky Bates Jr’s sardonically unapologetic take on the generational divide between millennials and baby boomers in his fourth feature, Tone-Deaf. Amanda Crew stars as Olive, a disillusioned young woman who takes herself away from the city for the weekend in the aftermath of a bad breakup and the loss of her job. Olive finds herself in the picturesque countryside renting an elaborate stately home, but little does she know that her getaway is about to turn nightmarish when she crosses paths with the disgruntled owner Harvey (Robert Patrick) who harbours a vendetta against the generation Olive ultimately represents. Much like, Ricky Bates Jr’s previous films, Tone-Deaf sparks a razor-sharp script and pulls no punches with its cynical take on the current cultural climate. It’s fourth wall breaking, fast-paced and layered with pitch black comedy. Tone-Deaf pays homage to Bates’s debut feature, the divisive Excision (2012) through incorporating highly-stylised, surreal and arty imagery to reflect the characters inner thoughts. Amanda Crew and Robert Patrick deliver brilliant performances and play off against each other in a compelling fashion. Tone-Deaf is uncompromising and at times a complete acid-trip meeting the cutting-edge style we’ve come to love from Ricky Bates Jr.
4. Corporate Animals (2019)
• Director: Patrick Brice
• Country: USA
Patrick Brice (Creep & Creep 2) delivers a cut-throat comedy about a team-building excursion that goes dangerously wrong in Corporate Animals. Demi Moore brings in a fierce performance as the obsessively ambitious CEO of an edible cutlery company (yes, its as bonkers as it sounds!). Motivating her less than enthusiastic team is no easy feat and tensions soon exemplify when the group find themselves trapped in a cave with no means of escape. Corporate Animals is a dark comedy meets situational survival horror providing plenty of unforgettable humour-fuelled moments along the way. Starring a brilliant ensemble cast comprising of Karan Soni, Jessica Williams, Nasim Pedrad, Dan Bakkedahl and Ed Helms to name a few, Corporate Animals plays out like a pressure cooker waiting to erupt as tensions between the colleagues reach boiling point. Brice experiments with some interesting visual choices when conveying delirious states of mind amongst the group, allowing for some outrageously trippy moments. Corporate Animals is a ton of fun and proves to be both enjoyable and entertaining in equal measure.
3. Color out of Space (2019) (Secret Film #1)
• Director: Richard Stanley
• Country: USA
Richard Stanley makes a triumphant return to the cinematic fold with his visually creative take on H.P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name. Color out of Space is a slow burn focusing on a farming family living on the outskirts of Arkham, Massachusetts. Their lives are soon transformed in bizarre and unexpected ways when a mysterious meteorite lands in their yard. This is where the terror truly begins. Color out of Space is best approached knowing very little beforehand to experience its full visceral impact. It takes on quite a serious downbeat tone but bringing cult star Nicholas Cage into the mix does allow for some unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) amusing moments. The film contains strong performances from the cast, Joely Richardson is sympathetic as the long-suffering wife and mother and Madeleine Arthur delivers a remarkable performance as the melancholic daughter, Lavinia. Color out of Space is enthralling from beginning to end and invites its audience to marvel in its strangeness. The film features jaw-droppingly gruesome practical effects that look incredible and the cinematography alone is utterly mesmerising. A Science-Fiction/Body Horror fusion, Color out of Space is an unmissable piece of genre cinema and one of the highlights that 2019 has to offer.
2. Little Monsters (2019)
• Director: Abe Forsythe
• Country: Australia/United Kingdom/USA
The closing film of Celluloid Screams 2019 was ferociously good fun with bloodthirsty appetite for non-stop laughs and playful scares. Little Monsters is a heart-warming Zom-Com, surrounding an innocuous kindergarten class trip to a local farm park that turns deadly when they find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak! Prior to the utter carnage that occurs, we are first introduced to Dave (Alexander England), a failed musician who is forced to move in with his sister and her young son following a bitter breakup. Dave is reluctant to change his ways to begin with, frequently cursing in front of his young nephew and using him for his own gain, this all changes when he meets sweet-natured, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). Keen to impress, he accompanies her and her class members on the trip, once all hell breaks loose, its now up to Dave and Miss Caroline to keep the kids safe amidst all the obstacles thrown in their way, including an erratic, sex-obsessed, potty-mouthed kids TV host, played brilliantly by Josh Gad. Little Monsters is uncomplicated, light-hearted fun horror that encompasses a wide appeal for genre audiences and beyond. It’s the children who steal the show and certainly hold their own alongside the adult performers with many quick-witted one liners. Little Monsters is the feel-good horror movie of the year and you won’t want to shake it off!
1. Synchronic (2019) (Secret Film #2)
• Director (s): Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson
• Country: USA
Prior to the festival, Synchronic was not a film that I expected to be including on this list. Throughout the weekend festival-goers kept their fingers crossed but maintained low expectations that the latest mind-bending feature film from festival favourites Moorhead and Benson would be announced in the second secret film slot. As soon as the director duo appeared on screen with their intro video, we were not disappointed, and the speculation had been worth it. Synchronic centres on the lives of two New Orleans paramedics and best friends, Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan); their friendship is put to the ultimate test when they encounter a succession of deaths that happen to be linked to a mysterious designer drug containing unimaginable mind-blowing effects. Synchronic is beautifully paced encapsulating a plaintive mood, depicting a story of friendship and tragedy set against an otherworldly backdrop. Much like Color out of Space, Synchronic is best approached knowing very little about the plot in advance as its an immersive, thought-provoking story that takes its audience on an emotional journey. Anthony Mackie is a revelation in the leading role, he plays Steve’s emotional plight with utter conviction and balances both a serious tone as well as subtle comedic elements incredibly well. Moorhead and Benson have another successful feature on their hands, Synchronic once again shines a light on their flair for writing meaningful narratives, creating empathetic, layered and complex characters and introducing compelling and intriguing mythology to their films. Synchronic is a truly captivating piece of cinema and one to watch out for in 2020.