Wales’s number one Horror festival returned for its eleventh consecutive year from the 15th-20th November 2016 at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. This year the festival programmers took us on a trip down 42nd Street memory lane, treating us to plenty of seedy shockers, fiendish frights and the latest and greatest from recent horror cinema.
The effort put in to recreate the vibe of 42nd Street was exceptional with the foyer displaying prints of the old cinemas advertising all that X-rated good stuff! There was even a peep show curtain and of course the traditional Abertoir themed cocktails for festival attendees to sample in-between films, The New York Sipper was particularly delicious!
Kicking things off on night one was a wine reception which was a chance for horror folks to mingle while anticipating the week ahead.
The opening film was the 1966 classic Carry On Screaming, an affectionate parody of the Hammer films that starred Kenneth Williams and Fenella Fielding in iconic and memorably funny roles. Over the years Abertoir has screened a number of Hammer classics from Countess Dracula to The Quatermass and the Pit making Carry on Screaming a fitting choice to open the festival with its homage to that particular era of cinema.
This choice of film also showcases Abertoir’s fun vibe which is to have a great time and enjoy all things horror with like-minded fans. In 2016, the film still holds up, it’s cheeky, full of innuendos but captures the mood of the Hammer era in its atmosphere and setting.
Next up was the UK Premiere of The Inerasable, a Japanese ghostly chiller. In this slow burner filled with eerie imagery a novelist is sent a letter by a university student named Ms. Kubo linking to haunting noises heard in her apartment. An investigation takes place by the two leading to an unnerving discovery. Based on the novel by Fuyumi Ono, The Inerasable has the potential to get under the skin and spooking the audience however for seasoned horror fans it might not be quite as effective. That said, The Inerasable is a solid film and already demonstrated the versatility of the Abertoir line up. The festival has a place for all kinds of horror from the classic, to the black comedy to the supernatural chillers.
Following on from The Inerasable was a film that has received a great deal of buzz on the horror circuit this year, The Void. Produced on a small budget by two of the Astron-6 team, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, The Void is a love letter to John Carpenter films layered with Hellraiser vibes. The film is set primarily in an abandoned hospital adding to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s an intense piece centring on cop Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) who comes across an injured man down an isolated stretch of road during a routine patrol. He takes the man to a nearby hospital which is where the horror finally begins.
Despite being a tremendous effort on a low budget and including slick editing techniques, The Void was a victim of its own hype and unfortunately didn’t resonate the way I had hoped for. It’s a strong film but not mind blowingly brilliant. With many films, hot on the horror circuit it’s always advisable to go in with very little expectation and not to read into the buzz.
It wouldn’t be 42nd Street without a grimy and grizzly film to finish off the first night. Bill Lustig’s Maniac (1980) captures the atmosphere of the dark depths of New York City accompanied by Tom Savini’s innovative gore effects. Maniac is a gorgeously unpleasant film that’s perfect for a midnight movie audience. Joe Spinell plays Frank Vito, a psychopath, troubled by his dark past that stalks the streets searching for women who he murders and uses their scalps as trophies. Vito then meets enigmatic photographer Anna D’Antoni (Caroline Munro), will she put an end to his killing spree? Or is this one dangerous association she’ll come to regret? Maniac is both disturbing and effective ensuring you can’t take your eyes off the screen and is packed with surreal moments.
It’s certainly one of the strongest slasher films from the early 80’s that doesn’t hold back on its nastiness. Vito is a complex villain, unlike the icons of the time, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Vito is unmasked from the beginning, the audience sees the killer’s face from the get-go making the most compelling element of the film about what drives him to murder.
Abertoir’s strong opening night then set the tone for what was to come including a mystery off site screening that didn’t quite go to plan and a mesmerizing concert conducted by the Frizzi 2 Fulci band.
Part Two Coming Soon…