It wouldn’t be Abertoir without paying tribute to one of horror cinema’s most beloved actors, Vincent Price. He is the official patron saint of Abertoir which was confirmed by his daughter Victoria, last year’s guest of honor.
This year a real gem from his filmography was screened, 1958’s The Fly. The Fly is a delightful film and still holds up very well in 2016. It’s a love story and a horror story rolled into one as a scientist suffers a horrific accident and is never the same again after his new invention, a teleportation device doesn’t go quite to plan. Price plays Francois Delambre, the brother-in-law of the tormented Helene (Patricia Owens) who harbors a dark secret about the mysterious disappearance of her husband, Andre (David Hedison). The Fly is a colorful B-Movie, featuring likable, engaging characters and a suspenseful narrative alongside elements of comedy. Despite being a secondary character this time around, Price still maintains a striking screen presence in another memorable role.
Abertoir always showcases a variety of events and as well as the films, the talks are a prominent feature. This year we were treated to Professor Gaz’s History of 42nd Street, a humorous and in depth overview of how the New York street built up into the grimy place we knew and loved! 42nd Street captures the atmosphere of horror and exploitation and Abertoir expertly re-created the mood and setting for which these kinds of movies should be enjoyed in. This was a history lesson that proved extremely useful later on in the evening when it came to Abertoir’s notoriously difficult pub quiz!
The Horror shorts of 2016 have all been strong contenders. Abertoir’s short film competition was exceptional, with no weak entries whatsoever. There was such a diverse level of horror on offer that each short was of a high standard of effort and quality. Portal to Hell!!! which had previously screened at Celluloid Screams in 2015 proved to be a crowd pleaser as anticipated. Starring the late, great Roddy Piper in one of his final roles, Portal to Hell!!! is a bunch of fun and perfect to watch with a festival audience. It proved incredibly popular and won the Abertoir Short Film Award.
Prano Bailey-Bond, an Aberystwyth based filmmaker treated us to Nasty, an aesthetically gore-geous throwback to the video nasties era and all that VHS quality goodness.
Spanish short Into The Mud was I Spit on Your Grave with an eerie and unexpected twist!
Gabriela Stansiszska’s I Should Have Run was a stunning piece of tension, shot completely in black and white told through a voice over in the past tense which added to its atmospheric tone.
Death Metal rocked the Abertoir audience just as much as it had in Celluloid Screams with it’s pure gory fun factor.
Neville Pierce’s darkly twisted Bricks won the Abertoir Melies d’Argent award, the pacing is intense as a wealthy stockbroker hires a working class builder to renovate his wine cellar, what happens next is disturbing and effective. Blake Ritson gives an unnervingly frightening performance while Jason Flemyng allows the audience to feel a sense of empathy for him.
The most personal highlight of all the shorts was a French entry titled Quenottes. With a fairytale vibe and a chilling mythology, Quenottes places a twisted spin on the tooth fairy legend and is unrelenting from start to finish.
Up next was one of Abertoir 2016’s main events, which saw the festival welcome iconic, horror actress Lynn Lowry. Two of Lynn’s 1970’s films were screened, David Cronenberg’s Shivers and the 42nd Street classic I Drink Your Blood. Following on from Shivers Lynn took part in a Q&A which was to be recorded for Arrow Video’s up and coming re-release of The Crazies. Lynn spoke about her experiences and enjoyment of starring in the horror genre despite it being tough, physical work when shooting certain scenes namely in Shivers and the 1980’s Cat People remake. Lynn Lowry came across as very cool and very appreciative of the horror genre and the opportunities she was given.
Much like The Void, as discussed in the previous Abertoir article, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, to be released in 2017 is one of the most talked about films of the year. So far, it is of award winning proportions, coming out on top at the two horror festivals I attended this year.
Set in the claustrophobic environment of a family run morgue, The Autopsy of Jane Doe focuses on a father and son, both coroners who one night receive a mysterious female corpse who is believed to have been murdered. As the night sets in and the two get to work on the unidentified body, a string of unsettling events kick start a nightmare fueled evening. Dark secrets spill but are they ready to discover the truth about Jane Doe. The Autopsy of Jane Doe incorporates a fascinating subject matter, dealing with both death and body horror. It’s a very well made film that knows how to create discomfort and tension throughout and even has unexpected elements of humor.
The close up shots of Jane Doe lying on the operating table is uneasy and disturbing viewing. Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox have great chemistry and portray the father/son relationship convincingly. The issue was the hype surrounding it being this year’s most terrifying, sleep depriving film which again when you’ve seen so much horror it takes a lot to feel effected by what’s on screen. There isn’t anything too out of the norm in terms of how the film plays with the horror formula. Plot-wise, there are several clichéd moments. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is in many ways an excellent piece of horror but it’s not anything unique.
The main reason for this year’s 42nd Street theme was to celebrate the career of one of Italian Horror Cinema’s greatest, Lucio Fulci. 2016 marks twenty years since the passing of Fulci so what better way to pay tribute to him than to screen a selection of his most nastiest, goriest and memorable films. First up was a previously banned, nasty from 1982, The New York Ripper. It was refused certification in 1984 during the panic era and all prints were deported out of the UK. In 2002 it was given 22 seconds of cuts and finally received a big, red 18 rating! Shameless Films then re-released it in 2007 with only 19 cuts and is the version that can be endured or enjoyed (for some!) today. It’s a film that certainly needs to be seen to be believed.
The plot centers on a deranged serial killer who claims female victims while quacking like a duck (yes, I just said that!). The New York Ripper is an unforgettable experience and is best watched amongst fellow gore enthusiasts who appreciate the more bizarre style of film. It’s sleazy and strange but has a certain charm to it, forget glossy Hollywood horror, this is the kind of stuff that cuts close to the bone. By today’s standards the level of gore and violence isn’t so bad, or maybe I’m just too desensitized?! It would certainly be interesting to watch the uncut version and see what all the fuss was about. Overall, I’m very glad I’ve had the chance to see this movie after hearing all the controversy for many years and what made it even better was viewing it on the big screen!
Look out for Part Three, Coming Soon…!