Last November we attended the Mayhem Film Festival hosted by Broadway Cinema here in Nottingham. Over the course of four days we saw some of the best horror flicks currently making the festival circuit (and some select classics too). Day three saw six films screened: the demented splatter flick throwback The Demon’s Rook; vampire romance Kiss of the Damned; terrifying found footage thriller The Borderlands; an eclectic selection of shorts; low-budget British science-fiction The Machine and lastly, Tobe Hooper’s 1985 space-vampire movie Lifeforce.
The Demon’s Rook
The Demon’s Rook began the day and was truly a prosthetic miracle: full of demons but no CGI whatsoever. Directed by the bearded James Sizemore (and written, produced, acted in etc.) the story follows little Roscoe and his sister as they attempt to rid their village from demonic forces. The plot thickens as one of the demons turns out to be magician and tutors Roscoe in the art of spiritual attack and healing in his cave underneath the forest. Check it out for a good time.
Kiss of the Damned
Kiss of the Damned felt like an extended perfume advert for fans of True Blood, but retrospectively it was actually pretty impressive for a debut. A screenwriter embarks on a creative holiday in the hills but becomes fatally attracted to vampire succubus Djuna and they enter into a blood-sucking relationship of going to champagne socials and drinking sanguineous shots of animal juice. However, their love is threatened when Djuna’s fun-loving sister comes to stay and attempts to seduce everyone in sight. A well-made gothic romance that sits precariously on the line between novelty and cliché.
By far the best film of the day (and possibly the whole weekend), The Borderlands documented the terrors experienced by three priests/miracle-busters sent from the Vatican to investigate a small village community that claims to have witnessed the presence of the Holy Spirit. After CCTV cameras are set up in every corner of the church, objects start moving around at night and baby gurgles are heard in the vestry, but other, more malevolent horrors await the unsuspecting trio – some not entirely Christian. Incredible stuff. The Q+A afterwards with the cast and crew demonstrated just how much research and effort went into the film’s production, which though overusing a few of the classic found-footage tropes, its Lovecraftian subject matter elevated it above any of its predecessors.
The shorts selection was like a mini-festival of its own: ten or eleven short horror films, some hilarious, others deadly serious (and probably the worse for it). The highlights included Fist of Jesus – a Spanish language parable of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead as a zombie and having to team up with Judas to stop the apocalypse; and stop-motion animator Lee Hardcastle’s An Alien Claymation in which extra-terrestrials try putting a baby in a microwave. Two hours of continuous entertainment – make it three next time.
A good, original British sci-fi about artificial intelligence programming in the near future. The plot centres around Ava, a robot intended initially for MoD martial combat, but her creator Vincent desires to fit her with a complex emotional spectrum that mimics the human brain as closely as possible. Sparks fly, people die and there are one too many heated arguments. The production design and visual effects were beautiful, but it ended up feeling a little uneven in terms of character and script.
Lifeforce was last on the list, a Tobe Hooper sexy space-vampire thriller which was great fun in parts, but by this point it was closing in on 1am and the cinema seats were starting to feel comfy and bed-like. Patrick Stewart’s appearance near the end was a welcome surprise and the vampires’ true forms were definitely something to behold, yet the film felt overlong and the plot was stretched so thinly over the two-hour running time that paying attention became painfully difficult. Stick to chainsaws perhaps?