So it begins! Welcome to our coverage of the eleventh iteration of Celluloid Screams Film Festival, taking place in Sheffield from October 24th to October 27th. We’re nothing short of thrilled to be bringing you reviews of the excellent line up that has been curated. As the opening gala began last night with a passionate speech from the festival committee, it was evident that the sense of community was certainly unique.
Describing fellow attendees as a festival family was an apt label, as the passion for filmmaking was bleeding from the atmosphere. Let’s kick it off shall we?
(Short – Dir: James Ashcroft)
Starting proceedings was The House, a recent installment to the cult New Zealand based web series The Watercooler. Created by fan favourite Mike Minogue, the series spans tales of wild proportions, taking inspiration from true stories sent in by the audience. Karen O’ Leary (The Breaker Uppers) joined the show in its second series and has already earned a place within fans hearts. Rightfully so, as O’ Leary is exceptionally hilarious and blessed with faultless timing. In this episode of the show, O’ Leary and also the terrific Abby Damen gossip about the sales department of their company, naturally leading to a story of the strangest endeavour in their career experience.
With a background in sales myself, I think this one might just take the cake in relation to anything I’ve encountered.
Whilst I won’t be spoiling anything here, it really is the back and forth between Damen and O’ Leary that are the focal point here. Before you can take a second to recover from the rigorously side splitting awkward dialog patterns, you’re already belly laughing into the next exchange of outlandish tension. Sporting a brand of comedic sparaodity in the same vein of current film favourite Taika Waititi, The House is a wonderful jumping off point to get stuck into The Watercooler, which you can be assured I will be doing over the next week.
Foyer / Hearth
(Short – Dir: Sophie B. Jacques)
Hearth (Foyer) was a distressingly dark turn to take next on the bill. Emilie (Marilyn Castonguay) rents her home out to holiday makers whilst she is away, but what took place in her absence wasn’t for the faint of heart. Striking a dagger down the middle of our own perceptions of “home sweet home”, Jacques direction is of a steadily caustic hand. Delivering a chillingly non-linear recollection of the horrors that took place as Emilie navigates her home, aided by anxiety inducing steadicam takes, Hearth pulls its punches in a deliberate fashion.
Sometimes the nastiest terrors are the ones we create for ourselves in our head. Joël Marin steals the show as part of the alarming duo that temporarily inhibits the house. Exuding a calculated calm to proceedings, Jacques uses him as an observational tool to the dangers of social media and the real people on the other side of the screen.
Bloody good fun might just be the review that Emilie’s guests left on Tripadvisor.
Killer Instinct (Tone-Deaf)
(Feature – Dir: Richard Bates Jr)
Richard Bates Jr. returns with his follow up to Trash Fire, in the form of Tone-Deaf. As Olive’s (Amanda Crew) romantic, social and career life all begin to dwindle the short span of a few days, her friends suggest she escapes the culture vultures of the city for an AirBNB orientated holiday. Harbouring a trauma from her childhood, Olive’s holiday turns into a satirist take on millenials seemingly not having the function to unplug from the modern day avenues around them. The owner of the house where Olive takes up her stay, sees her generation as a plague on the “hard work” and “community work” he has dedicated his life too over the years. This man, Harvey, is played astonishingly by Robert Patrick.
I don’t mean this lightly when I say that Robert Patrick might just have turned in one of the year’s best horror performances. Channeling all things Norman Bates, with a dash of Pamela Vorheees for good measure, Harvey is both wicked and often surprisingly laden with droll comedy. Throwing out fourth wall breaks that serve as a playful insult match towards both Olive’s generation and the audience, this stylistic choice is sure to split people down the middle. Bates Jr is going for subtlety with his observational offerings on what the millennial era might be perceived as in the eyes of what Olive proclaims to be a “baby boomer” in the later half.
Whether it’s the cringe injection via gential focused rap songs or the culture clash between Olive / Harvey, Bates Jr opts to showcase the most amplified examples of both divides. It might be a love it or leave it situation, depending on how tolerable someone finds humor in this vein.
Bates brand of youthful horror shines more than ever this time round, in an approach more akin to his 2014 feature Suburban Gothic. Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day franchise would be an excellent pairing, should someone want to triple bill this those films. Have I mentioned yet how marvelous Amanda Crew is? Giving off the same infectious vibes that Jessica Rothe plays with in the Happy Death Day films, Crew’s dry wit and naivety is both charming and fantastically entertaining.
Tone-Deaf is a welcome spin on holiday horror, with Patrick’s performance as an anchor to set it down as a confident addition to Bates Jr filmography. It’s opinionated stance on generational ethics might not be completely solid but Bate Jr is fledged enough with his direction to commit the Tone-Deaf to a path of chiliastic thrills.
Five Course Meal
(Short – Dir: James Cadden)
Five Course Meal was on our radar in our previous Celluloid Screams piece and for good reason. James Cadden has built up a rapport amongst the short film circuit over the last couple of years. His latest chapter, Five Course Meal is a gnarly project to set your eyes upon. Revolving around an experiment to monitor the effects of chemically engineered food, couple Mark (Murray Farnell) and Jenny (Melissa Kwasek) hope to win a cash reward in return for time. Unfortunately for them, they might have bit off more than they can chew.
Exploding with a sickeningly striking moments of stomach churning food gore, Cadden isn’t interested in letting this one settle anytime soon. Whilst its lacking something to digest in terms of narrative, Five Course Meal aims to show off the vile tendencies that unfold in the lowest moments of disparity. It’s a quick hit of nausea, but the taste will linger long after the last bite.
(Short – Dir: Charles A. Pieper)
As writer Chris (Charlie Pecoraro) starts to lose his grip on reality in the face of fatherhood, his wife Sophie (Amber Marie Bollinger) unwillingly suffers the consequences of his unravelling. Borrowing a few pages from the Eraserhead book of horrors, Pieper’s perturbing dissection of fearing fatherhood manoeuvres with a grim outlook on the future to come. Pecoraro is feeding vicariously off of Johnny Depp’s Secret Window psyche, much to the detriment of Sophie’s treatment as the idyllic surroundings of their home start drowning under the decaying colour palette. Playing it as the doting nuclear family wife, Bollinger’s candor is hard to see worn and boiled down to nothing but an irritant to Chris as Pieper’s plunges us further into dread.
Gorgeously lensed with a pulsating guiding hand in Pieper’s direction, Malacostraca is a fever dream of the suffocating grip that mental health can have when adversity strikes.
The last feature of the evening, Girl On The Third Floor, was recently covered by fellow JumpCut member Zoë Rose Smith at Frightfest and can be found below;
We hope you’re enjoying our coverage of Celluloid Screams. You can look to further updates as the next few days unravel!