Review – Videodrome (1983)

Grace from Film Overload takes a look at our Saturday evening feature screening of  VIDEODROME. Watch this genre defining horror/sci-fi classic at this years festival on 31 October 2020 at 19.00pm. (some spoilers ahead!)

‘Cronenberg’s artistic vision of visceral sensuality, body horror and alluring conspiracies – brings a genre defining classic’

David Cronenberg’s legacy as a genre defining director began when his incredibly influential film Videodrome was released in 1983. Cinema of the 1980s still remains iconic to this day, with Videodrome solidifying its status due to Cronenberg’s artistic vision of visceral sensuality, body horror and alluring conspiracies.

We follow the sordid channel operator Max Renn (James Woods) who specialises in the adult entertainment industry. With audience expectations becoming harder to meet, he searches for something never seen before. Fortunately he stumbles across a seedy show broadcasting extreme torture and violence. However, his new-found show ‘Videodrome’ brings about horrid consequences.

The film also features Debbie Harry, or as some may know her, Blondie. Harry plays the masochistic Nikki Brand who sensationally thrusts Renn’s life into a chaotic oblivion. As with most of Cronenberg’s work Videodrome is not shy to venture into eccentric and surreal topics. The film works as a metaphorical standpoint, alongside the utilisation of horror iconography to create a transcendent experience.

From Cronenberg’s visual perspective we are manically treated to a spontaneous eruption of visceral images exhibiting fleshy horror. As aforementioned body horror is a keen contributor to the film, with blood, guts and gore heavily making an appearance. But it’s the treatment of the body within the film that fashions such a complex visual composition; the themes of violence that come from the channel Videodrome are not afraid to cross the line, with one particular scene exhibiting a human torso being ripped open, graphically exposing each vein and tendon.

Despite the brutal exposure of torture and violence, the film is yet to fall into the satirical gory horror of the eighties. Instead, the act of violence is a simulation to further the film’s powerful allegorical notion.

The film plays its message out via a morbid and torturous atmosphere that has no fear in pushing audiences limitations. At the time television was seen by many as the enemy, the ruthless manipulator causing havoc amongst the young. With the early eighties seemingly dooming the horror market by the video nasty scandal and an influx of graphic and violent horrors being imported across the world, it’s no surprise that the media spread fear. Although from today’s perspective the idea of TV haunting viewers is radically nonsensical, it was once a real ‘emergency’.

Cronenberg utilises and exploits this fear through directly mocking people’s responses to the media. Within Videodrome, this channel that Renn stumbles upon is powerful enough to cause hallucinations and psychically harm. The show is a weapon that can literally cause mass tumours, with the intention that anyone who would want to consume the snuff-like material coming from the channel deserves a fatal end.

Videodrome is a testing film, the characters are not necessarily likeable and the entire play-through is gloomy. Yet, it’s an unforgettable experience that uses its speculative nature and bitter eccentricity to coerce and distort the viewers expectations, making it a must see for all horror fans.


Review – Chestersberg – Make. Murder. Legal

Grace from Film Overload takes a look at our Saturday local feature screening of  CHESTERSBERG, made right here in Yorkshire. Watch this horror comedy gem at this years festival on 31 October 2020 at 17.00pm. (some spoilers ahead!)

‘Hilariously gruesome mockumentary with one of the most unique plots to come out of this year’

Bearing tonal resemblance to Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (2007) and the bloodiness of gory slasher flicks, comes a brilliant tale from Jamie McKellar. We are introduced to the enigmatic Chester Mapleforth (Andy Love), who after procuring a hefty fortune forms the village Chestersberg. But the quaint Yorkshire cul-de-sac holds something quite dark within its territory; murder is entirely justified and legal within the lands’ threshold.

McKellar brings us a hilarious but gruesome mockumentary, with one of the most unique plots to come out of this year. It’s not often that mockumentary cinema works without constant twists and turns, but Chestersberg has a certain simplistic charm that doesn’t confuse and run off topic, with a steady comedic pace and macabre motives that delivers exactly what it says.

Chestersberg brings the best of dark British humour to its forefront, even the most heinous scenes are brought to life with perfectly timed jokes and hilariously surreal characters. In fact this aspect of surrealism is a running theme throughout. The plot is crafted in such a realistic fashion that we almost forget this is entirely satire, plenty of familiar circumstances are strewn out such as town hall meetings and debates about outsiders invading the community. But of course with it being set in Chestersberg, beheading’s, mutilation and gouging constantly comes into play.

McKellar combines the two typically polar opposites of village conundrums with murder to create a hard to fathom surreal environment, yet you can’ stop watching due to its cleverly crafted story.

Chestersbergs distinctive mockumentary disposition works perfectly with the unparalleled distorted reality that plays across the whole run-time. The deliberately exaggerated tone captured in a documentary fashion forms a purposefully raw quality that enhances the aforementioned realistic atmosphere. One of the more prominent aspects that the documentary composition highlights is the wonderfully gross kills and violence.

Within the first introductory minutes we are a witness to a bloody beaten man with one of his eyeballs loosely dangling, nevertheless the humour taps in when Chester interrupts his suffering with the offering of a battenburg slice and a lecture about the importance of sleeping bag togs. Despite the hilariousness seeping in each scene, the impressive special effectsstill remain quite potent.

Now, with quite a rambunctious story comes natural questions ‘how would a town like this actually work?’ Fortunately McKeller soothes our intrigue, with scoping out further than the village boundaries to introduce our secondary group of characters – the law. DI Matthews (Alexander King) plays a rageful officer, disgruntled at the legal loopholes that Chestersberg has played. However, due to the consistent character development and their charismatic personas we somehow are completely on their side. It’s these brief interludes of seemingly more ‘normal characters’ that prevent the film from dragging and keep the absurdity of Chestersberg fresh and charming.

Of course these aspects come to life quite frequently throughout, they even form a large part of the build-up within the film; although a successful job is done at making Chestersberg seem slightly conceivable in a mad sense, it is when the other British murder towns enter the picture does the bloodshed and carnage really come to life. Who would have thought that the inner politics of killing towns would be so interesting?

McKellar delivers an overall exciting watch, with equal amounts of tomfoolery and bloody gags to both disrupt audience expectations, slightly disgust and to more importantly entertain.

 Watch CHESTERSBERG at this years festival on 31 October 2020 at 17.00pm.


Review – Danni and the Vampire

Grace from Film Overload takes a look at our Saturday international feature screening of  Danni and the Vampire, available to watch at this years festival on 31 October 2020 at 13.30pm.

‘Endearing indie vampire flick breathes new life in to saturated genre’

Danni and the Vampire tackles the saturated vampire genre, with a fresh perspective on horror comedy. To mix habitually alternate genres is a brave decision. However, it’s one that writer and director, Max Werkmeister handles with a clear sense of direction. In a film drenched with a neon glow and warm characters comes a unique tale of acceptance told through a morbidly charming lens.

We follow Danni (Alexandra Landau), a seemingly heroic creature-catcher who can’t escape her legacy as the famous Jersey Devil slayer. However, behind her bold persona lies a much deeper want for confirmation and steadiness. Her true unravelling identity is discovered when her past catches up with her when she meets two cryptic organisations hunting down the bloodthirsty vampire Remy (Henry Kiely).

From the offset a satirically macabre sense of humour is established, with purposefully exaggerated characters that quickly leave the audiences hooked from the very beginning. The comedy is not overtly theatrical, but instead well timed and appropriately dark. With this being said, Werkmeister steadily transitions the narrative to not solely focus on the horror comedy aspect, with a gradual thematic shift that focuses on the blossoming dynamics between Danni and Remy.

Vampire films pair perfectly with human relationships, however after years of tiresome ‘immortal versus mortal’ bonding stories, the whole aspect of vampiric enamour has worn dry. Yet, the bond between Danni and ‘the vampire’ runs deeper than the bloodlust tales of the past, with their dynamics remaining unexploited and somewhat wholesome. Dripped in a neon light, we see this unlikely relationship grow into something that we actually care about, our compassion lies within their understanding of each other’s inner intentions, not just their tough exteriors. Danni and Remy’s obvious chemistry is significantly transparent throughout.

With the performances from Kiely and Landau coming across so fluidly; we truly connect and root for them, rather than simply watch their actions unfold. Combined alongside their like-ability is their endearing self-discovering journey, that is portrayed as authentic, rather than overtly cliche. In fact this avoidance of familiarity and typicality is something that runs across the entire film, with the audience constantly left unaware of what’s around each corner.

All these boundless subplots could be easily distracting and overzealous, yet Werkmeister cannily holds our attention via the visually engaging imagery, with vibrant neon lit atmospheric tones and impressive effects that successfully reel the viewer in. Despite the bright exterior, there are still lingering moments of suspense that balances out the sporadic humour, all the whilst keeping in time with the zesty aesthetic. It’s this quick paced fun vibe of the film that not only adds to its rewatching power, but also it’s memorability for being an obscure comedic take on the classic vampire tale.

Catch Danni and the Vampire at this years festival on 31 October 2020 at 13.30pm.


Review – Ten Minutes To Midnight

Grace from Film Overload takes a look at our final feature screening of the 2020 festival Ten Minutes to Midnight, available to watch at this years festival on 1 November 2020 at 21.45pm.

Blood, thrills and carnage wrapped up in a kaleidoscopic fever dream

Erik Bloomquist and his brother Carson Bloomquist bring us Ten Minutes to Midnight, a hardcore bloody film that delves deep into the rattling psychosis of a feisty late night radio host as she battles through her tumultuous last shift before being savagely replaced by an entitled young women straight out of college.

This is not a film for the faint-hearted, with the shock value tuned to the highest frequency. Blood, thrills and carnage make Ten Minutes to Midnight unmissable, but what Bloomquist undoubtedly achieves is a gripping adventure into an unravelling breakdown surrounding the loss of personal identity and not knowing your own existence without the foundations that bind it together.

Unfortunately films that combine both electrifying visuals and emotive narratives typically fails, with one aspect always outshining the other; however, our protagonist Amy Marlowe played by the talented Caroline Williams delivers a heartfelt performance as an experienced radio DJ being harshly forced out of the career that defined her. Williams portrayal of Amy is irrefutably enthralling as she not only hits every mark, but also brings such a convincing representation of a person on the edge.

It’s no surprise that Williams’ acting raises the stakes as she has an iconic scream queen reputation from playing the fan favourite ‘Stretch’ from the infamous 1986 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper). Despite the notable filmic accolade that Williams claims, she does not craft her performance around her previous roles, with the character of Amy presenting a fresh take on a delusional individual. Horror fans may also notice that the eccentric security guard Ernie is played by the late Nicholas Tucci who famously played Felix in the outstanding home invasion film You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011).

The at times over the top aesthetics such as the sporadic shift in discourse is purposefully adapted to cloud the viewers sense of judgement throughout. Each act of the film serves to amplify the building atmospheric tension, with an utter sense of dread being conjured in each scene. The first portion of the film plays out as a catalyst for the madness we are set to witness, with Amy being bitten by a rabid bat which sets the pieces in place for a crazy night which can only end in madness.

As the film progresses, we see Amy recklessly ruin what’s left of her career. To further the ensuing chaos is the complete kaleidoscope fever-dream that the film becomes. Just like Amy we do not trust what is fiction and what is the truth, everything is sporadic and disjointed, with grotesquely violent visuals flooding the screen in the best way possible.

To complement the intentional dismissiveness of reality is the outstanding special effects that startle the audience. Graphic burns and peeling skin are only some of the viscerally rich imagery that certainly magnifies the horror. But what really serves to dramatize the film’s message even more is the narrative compositional flow that directly pushes the limits on the necrotizing reality that can be quite contentious throughout.

Underneath the impressive visuals are an obvious penchant Bloomquist has for the genre. One of the aspects that make any horror film stand out is the setting, for Ten Minutes to Midnight a radio station is where all chaos ensues. Bloomquist utilises some of the best genre tropes such as after-hour timeframes and dark hallways to alert the viewer to the claustrophobic environment.

Different meanings can be easily reached as Amy’s spiralling is presented in such a dream-like way. However, whatever you take away from the film, one thing is certain, underneath the blood-splatter is a brutally raw film that crawls between subjective and objective to create a memorable experience like no other.

Catch Ten Minutes to Midnight, at this years festival on 1 November 2020 at 21.45pm.


Review – I Scream on the Beach!

Grace from Film Overload takes a look at our first feature screening of the 2020 festival I Scream on the Beach!, available to watch at this years festival on 30 October 2020 at 13.30pm.

Homage to 80’s slashers brings blood soaked nostalgia to Southend-on-sea

Alexander Churchyard and Michael Holiday bring back eighties nostalgia in their latest film, I Scream on the Beach! Filmed at the infamous Essex seaside Southend-on-Sea we are introduced to the fictional sleepy town of Mellow Coast, where Emily (Hannah Paterson) is still grieving the mysterious loss of her father years prior. Unfortunately, for Emily her friends and rather cruel mother dismiss her suspicions surrounding the cryptic circumstances that her father ‘disappeared’ under.

It’s no secret that eighties culture has become somewhat of a surging trend recently, with films commonly replicating those vintage aesthetics. I Scream on the Beach! utilises this quality to manifest a magnificently rambunctious tale set over thirty years in the past in 1980s Britain. Churchyard and Holiday capture the nostalgia both technically and narratively, with ensuring the mention of video nasties and the moral crusader Mary Whitehouse. With this being said the film could be described as a homage to the once controversial VHS tapes that ‘plagued’ the nation, with the film embracing gore and purposefully featuring the grainy and distracting qualities that came with said tapes.

The recreation of VHS trademarks is cleverly executed and surprisingly challenging. Throughout the film the visuals are constantly washed with the classic worn down visual characteristics that were common with used tapes, alongside this is the out of sync dubbing that’s a token to nearly every eighties film. Although these techniques may weigh heavy on some, it’s what gives I Scream on the Beach! its overall thematic vibe.

In keeping with the reminiscent tone the horror legend Lloyd Kaufman makes an appearance as the enigmatic Dr. Lloyd. Kaufman’s cameo helps harness onto the eighties sensationalism, with him famously co-directing alongside Michael Herz the absolute horror classic, The Toxic Avenger (1984). Kaufman’s appearance is one of the many features that keenly highlights the passion project elements that this film fruitfully adapts.

Whilst the technical aspects draw the viewer in, what also keeps the audience guessing is the likeable nature of the lead characters (which can be pretty rare within horror). First we have the playful ‘Bants (Ross Howard) and the film aficionado Jeremy (Jamie Evans), followed by Bants girlfriend and Emily’s friend Claudine (Rosie Kingston) as a group the friendship dynamic comes across as realistic, with no awkward flow. But the true chemistry between characters comes from Emily and her budding romance with newcomer Dave (Reis Daniel).

To accompany the feasible bonds is the decent acting that is consistent throughout. Another aspect that I Scream on the Beach! effectively lands is the steady humour that hits on every beat. The warm character’s inner banter is genuinely comedic and quite familiar to many audiences. Yet, the amusing tone doesn’t distract from the terror, but compliments the tone instead.

To solely rely on classic horror and not create an original and expressive narrative to coincide with the theme is regrettably quite common within similar films. However the film works entirely as a standalone concept besides the vintage aesthetics. It’s this element that makes it stand out from the rest and succeed within the genre.

The entire story is not only effective within its portrayal of horror, but also relatively unique, with not many films being able to pull off the sort of twists and turns that Churchyard and Holiday achieve. This is what makes I Scream on the Beach! so entertaining, it’s the fact that it carefully balances humour and horror.

Catch I Scream on the Beach! at this years festival on 30 October 2020 at 13.30pm.