Saturday night at Mayhem was party night. Fancy dress was obligatory and I must say some of the costumes went far beyond the usual Halloween standard into the realms of the wonderfully ridiculous. But in the judges’ reckoning, 1st prize was deservedly awarded to a group who had come as various Batman characters: The Joker, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Harley Quinn and The Dark Knight himself. The films showing that night were an eclectic bunch. First there was Mayhem’s annual collection of ‘Scary Shorts’…
The 11 shorts we were treated to are probably best described as a mixed bag, mixed in every possible sense; length, language, production value, humour, scariness, quality. Since so much dedication and love had clearly been put into each film by their creators I will justify their efforts with a, suitably short (excuse the pun), review.
Battenberg (UK, dir. Stewart Comrie) – A stop-motion animation re-imagining of Frankenstein featuring a malevolent Squirrel and an unwitting Magpie. No dialogue and rather bizarre, if you ever happen across this one day it’ll leave you never wanting to eat another Battenberg again
Ella (UK, dir. Dan Gitsham) – A father (played by none other than Anthony ‘Giles-from-Buffy’ Head) must hunt down his own daughter who is not quite herself. Despite the obviously short running time, this was extremely well put together and packed one hell of a punch.
Switch (UK, dir. Melanie Light) – A complacent psychopath thinks he’s bagged another victim in snow covered woods, but he ends up getting more than he bargained for. Some rather dodgy stunts and laughably bad dialogue hampered what initially shaped up to be an interesting snow bound chase. Don’t expect to see a feature length version anytime soon.
Landpartie (Austria, dir. Lukas Vossoughi) – A man is bitten by a zombie then becomes one himself, as he attacks his first victim she pleads “No Papa!”… Shot entirely from the point of view of the freshly bitten zombie this was an intriguing idea that effectively tackled the question of what would it be like to be a zombie?
The Last Post (UK, dir. Axelle Carolyn) – A bed ridden Frenchwoman keeps seeing a mysterious man in her care home that no one else seems to seems to be able to see. Starring Jean Marsh (remember ITV’s Ghost Hunter?) and Kimberley Nixon (Josie in Fresh Meat) this only really qualified as horror because of the ghostly apparition seen by our protaganist. Despite no scares, it was tender and touching.
Miss Mishima (Portugal, dir. Pedro Rocha) – Ok, brace yourself for this one. A Japanese woman is kneeling on a mat; she breathes in some incense and then proceeds to masturbate; afterwards she cries and then commits Seppuku (Samurai ritual suicide by self-disembowelment); before death she rolls around in her own intestines then pulls out her own heart; a man in a mask stands up and applauds; the credits roll. I, nor I think anyone else in the cinema, had no idea what to make of this. All I’ll say is thank God for what came next.
Banana Motherfucker (Portugal, dir. Fernando Alle) – An intrepid film crew travel to a supposed undead Colombian graveyard in the jungle and disturb a relentlessly brutal bunch of bananas who, in the course of 14 minutes, literally take over the world. By far the most well received short of the night, I’d even go as far to say this is one of the funniest films I have ever seen; I’m not exaggerating when I say I did not stop laughing from start to finish. It played right into the hands of the Mayhem crowd, paying homage to *deep inhale*: Night of The Living Dead, Alien, Predator, The Mummy, The Evil Dead, Cape Fear, Raiders of The Lost Ark, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Slither, Halloween and Gremlins to name but a few. Seek it out online now!
The Pack (UK, dir. Owen Tooth) – Five strangers awake in a warehouse, bloodied and naked they come to realise the terrible acts that they committed the night before. With the filmmaker present in the screening room, this piece was also well received. Like Landpartie this asked the question of what is it actually like to be a horror film monster, in this case as werewolf.
The Water’s Edge (UK, dir. Chris Thomas) – A man living in a desolate mountainous world spends his days by a lake, his nights hiding from unseen predators. Again the filmmakers were present, and this deservedly received a warm response from the audience. Highly cinematic and visually stunning this was the short with the most potential for feature length expansion. Think a British I Am Legend set in Snowdonia.
Waffle (USA, dir. Rafael De Leon) – A disturbed young girl and her possessive mother have invited a classmate over for dinner, waffles anyone? This American offering wasn’t particularly scary or shocking, despite featuring a teenager cutting the outline of a waffle into her own face with a razor.
Decapoda Shock (Spain, dir. Javier Chillon) – An astronaut returns home, having mutated into a human-crustacean, to find himself betrayed by his employers; so he takes revenge, in the only way a bad-ass-man-crab would. This, like Banana Motherfucker, was brilliantly funny and utterly ridiculous.
Party night concluded with a special late night screening of the classic British horror parody Theatre of Blood (1973, dir. Douglas Hickox), starring the don of camp horror Vincent Price (who would have been 100 this year). If you’ve ever struggled to make sense of Shakespeare, watch this film and all will become clear. Price plays Edward Lionheart, an actor who has spent his life only playing roles written by The Bard. After supposedly falling to his death, the critics who once derided Lionheart’s performances are one by one dispatched in ways resembling the most gruesome deaths from Shakespeare. I was a little sceptical as to whether I’d enjoy this and even if it was a justifiable inclusion in the festival, oh how naïve I am. Introduced by Mayhem’s organisers as one of their collective favourite horror films, this turned out to be extremely funny, playful and ultimately a brilliantly biting comment on the role of a theatre critic. It was easy to see why its such a favourite amongst the aficionados of horror and was the perfect way to round off a Saturday night of Mayhem frivolities, bravo.