On the third day festival goers caught up with the first part of Danger 5 Season Two then attended a talk on Contemporary British Horror Cinema with academic Johnny Walker from Northumbria University. Walker spoke at last year’s festival about the video nasties panic, his lectures are particularly interesting especially for fans of cult cinema while keeping everything down to earth with plenty of humour. Walker mainly focused on the British Horror films that have emerged during the past fifteen years, some well-known such as The Woman in Black and The Descent and some lesser known e.g. Venus Drowning. He spoke about how certain films remain in sync with the gothic, hammer horror style while some are more brutal, grittier offerings e.g. Mum & Dad. British horror films are becoming more and more homemade with technology becoming accessible and affordable, many of them achieving distribution deals, widening the market.
After the decline of the Hammer era in terms of its films and the shift of transitioning the label into a television series, iconic British horror during the 1980’s is considered films like Hellraiser. Walker also showed us a trailer to a hilarious, lesser known Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off starring Timothy Spall and Jimmy Nail, called Dream Demon. In the Q&A discussion turned to contemporary horror being fitted to television rather than films with the emergence of a slew of horror themed TV shows e.g. American Horror Story, Hannibal and Scream. The market is there for more stories to be told in an episodic format rather than a 90 minute to two hour feature.
On day three it was time for the short film competition that left it up to us the audience to rate 10 shorts between 1 and 10. An interesting selection emerged this year from the Humans-styled Juliet to the bizarre, surprising musical entry Bionic Girl to Quija Boards and retail in Vintage Blood. A home invasion turns into a gory, slapstick spectacle in Invaders and a grim creepiness emerges in La Séance along with morbid fascination. The Particular favourite was Sanguine Craving. The short surrounds a father passing down a gruesome rite of passage to his son to become the world’s most notorious serial killer of women to have ever lived. Unbeknown to him, his son has other ideas and isn’t interested in killing females at all!! Sanguine Craving plays out as a metaphor for coming to terms with your sexuality with its not so subtle subtext. Incredibly well executed, Sanguine Craving turns slasher conventions on their head, its bloody brilliant and so much fun to watch, therefore there were no surprises that it won the best short film of the festival.
There was a running theme of Asian Horror at this year’s Abertoir. First up was a Vietnamese film titled Hollow, offering up a spine tingling ghost story about the disappearance of a little girl in a small community. Little Ai goes missing, leaving her parents and sister naturally devastated. In an unexpected turn of events after the discovery of her body, Ai is mysteriously back from the dead! Her teenage sister Chi is the first to realize that Ai isn’t her beloved little sister anymore. Now Chi is determined to find out who or what is inhabiting Ai’s body and is she prepared for the horrific truths she is about to uncover. Hollow features some gorgeous cinematography accompanied by an eerie atmosphere and melancholic tone. There are decent performances amongst the cast particularly the young actress who plays the tormented Chi. Much like Sensoria, there were solid ideas in place however it didn’t strike the right chord. It charters into unexpected territory, but by the end aptly leaves a hollow feeling! The plot twists become too convoluted and when it looks like the narrative is about to wrap up it throws in more. It’s an interesting mix of spiritual horror and dark realism that could have been much better.
Deadman Inferno proved highly popular with the audience, so much so that it turned out to be the winning film. Certainly a festival crowd-pleaser, Deadman Inferno is not my cup of tea but it’s easy to see how it won the audience over. It’s a satirical comedy that differs from the typical splatter-tastic Japanese offerings that are normally shown at the festivals, it features exaggerated characters and a zombie backdrop which kicks off the action banding a group of unlikely allies together. Personally, the humour fell flat pretty quickly and zombie related horror has become tiresome. The Abertoir audience have always had a taste for comedy and usually it’s the films with the most laughs that come out on top.
To finish off Day Three was the incredibly tough, infamous Abertoir Pub Quiz. It’s a fun social event that gets festival goers together to indulge in some themed cocktails or Abertoir ales at the bar. Each year our team has always joked that we never win, however to our surprise we came in second place!! We celebrated our victory with a case of the Lord Summerale Ales. The Quiz consisted of several rounds including music, pictures and questions about the classics. It’s safe to say the third day closed off on a high.
Next Up: Day Four.