Thursday 12 January 2017

Top 10 British Horror Movies

The League of Gentlemen's Tubbs & Edward Tattsyrup

As my regular readers should know, over the years I have done a few top ten list. The majority of them are normally part of my "Top 10 Countdown to Halloween." But alas, life has been full, hectic and pretty damn good, so my blog some somewhat been on the back burner. Anyway, I'm catching up on a couple of things over the next week. I'm posting now, what should've been last year's countdown to Halloween!

As per usual, I took to Facebook, to gather the votes, take the survey etc. But this time I only used my own group on Facebook and it's members for their opinions. The group is called UK Horror Fans United and is made up of horror fans that live in the United Kingdom and Ireland. As the picture says "ARE YOU LOCAL?" The idea was to bring together "local" fans of the genre in one place, unlike every other Facebook group which is made up of anyone and everyone. Anyway, I digress...

This top ten is the best of British horror films from across the decades. There's a couple on the list that are co-productions, but that's fine, they still had British backing and finance. Let's begin...

Number 10

Eden Lake (2008)

Nursery teacher Jenny and her boyfriend Steve, escape for a romantic weekend away. Steve, planning to propose, has found an idyllic setting: a remote lake enclosed by woodlands and seemingly deserted. The couple's peace is shattered when a gang of obnoxious kids encircles their campsite. Revelling in provoking the adults, the gang steals the couple's belongings and vandalises their car leaving them completely stranded. When Steve confronts them, tempers flare and he suffers a shocking and violent attack. Fleeing for help, Jenny is subject to a brutal and relentless game of cat-and-mouse as she desperately tries to evade her young pursuers and find her way out of the woods.

Written and Directed by James Watkins.

Starring Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O'Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, Thomas Turgoose.

Number 9

28 Days Later (2002)

Animal activists invade a laboratory with the intention of releasing chimpanzees that are undergoing experimentation, infected by a virus -a virus that causes rage. The naive activists ignore the pleas of a scientist to keep the cages locked, with disastrous results. Twenty-eight days later, our protagonist, Jim, wakes up from a coma, alone, in an abandoned hospital. He begins to seek out anyone else to find London is deserted, apparently without a living soul. After finding a church, which had become inhabited by zombie like humans intent on his demise, he runs for his life. Selena and Mark rescue him from the horde and bring him up to date on the mass carnage and horror as all of London tore itself apart.

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland

Starring Cillian Murphy, Toby Sedgwick, Naomie Harris, Noah Huntley, Christopher Eccleston.

Number 8

The Desent (2005)

After a tragic accident, six friends reunite for a caving expedition. Their adventure soon goes horribly wrong when a collapse traps them deep underground and they find themselves pursued by bloodthirsty creatures. As their friendships deteriorate, they find themselves in a desperate struggle to survive the creatures and each other.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall.

Starring Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone.

Number 7

Mum & Dad (2008)

Mum and Dad, and their 'adopted' children, Birdie & Elbie, work at the airport. The family live off whatever they scavenge from cargo holds, offices and hotels - including a steady stream of transient workers who populate the airport's soulless hub. When Lena, a young Polish office cleaner, is befriended by Birdie, she gets drawn into a nightmarish world of torture, murder and perversity. Imprisoned in a suburban House of Horrors and designated a 'Mummy's Girl', Lena's only options appear to be to become part of the family - and join them in their insanity - or die.

Written and directed by Steven Sheil.

Starring Perry Benson, Dido Miles, Olga Fedori, Ainsley Howard, Toby Alexander, Micaiah Dring.

Number 6

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun doesn't have a very good day, so he decides to turn his life around by getting his ex to take him back, but he times it for right in the middle of what may be a zombie apocalypse... But for him, it's an opportunity to show everyone he knows how useful he is by saving them all. All he has to do is survive... And get his ex back.

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright

Starring Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Nicola Cunningham, Peter Serafinowicz.

Number 5

Dog Soldiers (2002)

A British Squad is sent on a training mission in the Highlands of Scotland against Special Operations squad. Ignoring the childish "campfire" stories heard about the area, they continue with their mission and come across the bloody remains of the Special Ops Squad, and a fierce howling is pitching the night sky... With two mortally wounded men, they make an escape, running into a zoologist by the name of Megan - who knows exactly what hunts them. What began as what they thought was a training mission turns into a battle for their lives against the most unlikely enemies they would have expected - werewolves.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall.

Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson.

Number 4

The Wicker Man (1973)

A young girl has been reported missing on Summerisle, a remote Scottish Island and Sergeant Howie is sent to investigate. On arriving on the Island Howie sees how the islanders live and is a bit unnerved because they are all weirdo's in their own rights. No one knows who the missing girl is and Howie is sent on a wild goose chase by the islanders trying to get to the bottom of it. He eventually seeks out Lord Summerisle who is also barking mad, and learns that the islanders live by different rules and philosophies which Howie very strongly disagrees with. But Howie has been lured to the island as the perfect sacrifice with the pretence of investigating the missing girl.

Director: Robin Hardy
Writer: Anthony Shaffer

Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp.

Number 3

Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker's feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature - the man's half-brother, who is also the woman's former lover - hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body... but the Cenobites won't be happy about this.

Written and directed by Clive Barker.

Starring Doug Bradley, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, Grace Kirby, Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Kirsty Cotton, Sean Chapman.

Number 2

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths.

Written and directed by John Landis.

Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, David Schofield, Brian Glover, Rik Mayall.

Number 1

Alien (1979)

Sometimes the scariest things come from within

In the near future, during its return to the earth, a commercial spaceship Nostromo intercepts a distress SOS from a distant moon. The seven-member crew are woken up from the hypersleep and the spaceship subsequently descends on the moon. While exploring the moon, a three-member team of the crew discovers a derelict spaceship and a huge chamber inside it containing thousands of eggs. When a curious team member goes too near the egg the parasite inside the egg attacks him, rendering him unconscious. He is brought back aboard, the spaceship takes off. After a little while the parasite dies and his host wakes up seemingly unruffled. Everything returns back to normal - but not for long.

Directed by Ridley Scott.
Written by Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett.

Starring  Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo.

There you go. What do you think to the list? Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below.
Honourable mentions: Nina Forever, The Shining and Dracula (1958) were just outside the top ten.

Thanks to everyone that took part on UK Horror Fans United Facebook group.

(source for film plot summary: IMDB)

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Mayhem Horror Film Festival 2016 (Part 4): Day 4 & 2017 Dates

Day 4 began with Don't Kill It, starring Dolph Lundgren and directed by Mike Mendez (Tales of Halloween, Big Ass Spider!).

This was the UK premier of the possession horror comedy and unfortunately I had to miss this one. It received a lot of praise from the Mayhem audience Here a quote from a friend's blog that was there...

"I have to admit I wasn't really expecting much but it blew me away. It was a perfect start to the Sunday." Johnny's Cult Films

The second film out of the 4 on Sunday came out of Japan. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's (Cure, Pulse) aptly named film, Creepy.

Kurosawa returns to J-Horror territory with this very unsettling and nerve wracking film that begs the question "do you really know who your neighbours are?"

Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima), an ex cop turned criminal psychologist, receives a visit from an old colleague concerning a missing person case. Even with the distraction of his teaching job and settling into his new home with his wife, the investigation into the missing person case takes Takakura onto a journey that leads him right back to his own street and onto the doorstep of his Creepy neighbour Nishino.

The performance from Teruyuki Kagawa as Nishino is simple fantastic. The film is well written and could've taken a couple of turns in the final act. Thinking back, the two choices that popped into my head right at the end, either one of them would've work just as well as each other. 

The third film, and in my top three of the festival, was I Am Not a Serial Killer.

Director Billy O'Brien was in attendance for this showing and did a Q&A afterwards to.

The film stars the young excellent up and coming actor Max Records as a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies and movie veteran Christopher Lloyd as the friendly wise old man. The pair play so well on screen together in this brilliantly crafted film.

As a number of murders break out in the small Midwestern town, people are pointing fingers at freaky Max who has an interest in all things serial killer related. In order to keep his name in good standing he tries to hunt down the real killer, but what he finds is more than he could possibly prepare for.

The film is widely available now, so if you haven't seen it, then I highly recommend grabbing a copy.

After a break for the annual Flinterrogation, the hardest horror and cult cinema quiz there is, we were introduced to the final film of the festival by the two directors, Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski (best known for their work as part of the Astron-6 collective (Manborg, Father's Day), and producer Casey Walker.

The Void was the perfect film to end the weekend. 

The movie follows police officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) and a group of staff as they defend themselves against a violent cult that threatens an isolated hospital only to find the real horror is already inside.

Poole (The Conspiracy, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) gives a dominant performance, but is still supported by a great cast in this brilliantly directed movie that boasts an absolute showcase of practical FX and bloody gore. Tense and atmospheric from start to finish, the film has the feel of such classics from the 80s like Hellraiser, The Thing, and The Keep. An unintentional homage to such films, as the directors said in the Q&A afterwards that growing up they were more influenced by Japanese horror.

I loved it. It was my favourite film of the festival even though my top three, The Void, The Devil's Candy and I Am Not a Serial Killer are all very different from each other. This film made me feel like a kid again watching horror with wonderment, intrigue and intensity. I'm going to pre-order the DVD/Bluray as soon as humanly possible!

So there we are, another year of Mayhem. But fear not, there's this year to look forward to! This morning they announced this year's festival will be held on Thursday October 12th to Sunday 15th. I'll be there once again. Hopefully you'll be there too.

Check out Part 1 of Mayhem 2016   HERE, part 2 HERE, and part 3 HERE.

Mayhem Film Festival was founded in 2005 by filmmakers Steven Sheil and Chris Cooke. They screen the best in contemporary horror, science-fiction and cult cinema and television from around the world. Featuring premieres, previews, masterclasses, international special guest filmmakers, and unique live cinema events, the festival has developed a reputation as one of the strongest and most innovative genre festivals in the country. They are based at Broadway in Nottingham, one of the UK's leading independent cinemas and creative hubs.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Mayhem Horror Film Festival 2016 (Part 3): Day 3

Day 3 kicked off with an Italian superhero type thriller called They Call Me Jeeg Robot.

Directed by Gabriele Mainetti, written Menotti and Nicola Guaglianone, all three have made their full feature debut with this film. Part Sci-Fi, part Fantasy, part Thriller, the story follows Enzo (Claudio Santamaria), a lonely and misanthropic small time crook, uses the superpowers gained after falling in the Tiber river to chase down a crazy gangster called "The gypsy" (Stefano Ambrogi).

The lead cast are absolutely fantastic and delivery memorable performances, but standout performance for me was from supporting actress Ilenia Pastorelli as the adorable, yet slightly crazy Alessi.

There's plenty of action, but there's also a lot of emotional content too, which put together makes for a highly entertaining film. If you like foreign films then this should be high on your watch list! I loved it and thought it was a great start to the day.

On to the second film of the day...

Pet, comes from the director of Apartment 143 Carles Torrens, and  Jeremy Slater, the writer of The Lazarus Effect and The Exorcist TV show. Now, I liked The Lazarus Effect and Apartment 143, but by the end of this film, I ended up hating the story and how it turned out. As per IMDB...

"A psychological thriller about a man who bumps into an old flame and subsequently becomes obsessed with her, leading him to hold her captive underneath the animal shelter where he works. But what will the victim have in store for her assailant?"

OK, let me say this first, I thought both leads, Ksenia Solo (Lost Girl) as Holly and Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings) as Seth were excellent in their roles.

Right, there's gonna be a small spoilers here so scroll past if you wish...

The main character Seth ends up being manipulated by Holly in only a way a man can be, which I hated. Why? Because I hate those kind of weak ass men and hate the woman that try to do that. Just a personal thing. Anyway, Holly ends up being a complete nut job and Seth is pretty much a fucking wetbag momma's boy. So my thoughts are along the line of, what exactly are we meant to feel about the characters? Much the same as Fede Alvarez' Don't Breathe, I ended up feeling neither sorry nor rooting for either character, but instead thinking they were both idiots and pretty much deserved what they both got. I felt a bit cheating by the ending I guess.

The next film was from British actor/writer/director and comedian Gareth Tunley (Kill List).

"A homicide detective goes undercover as a patient to investigate a psychotherapist he believes is linked to a strange double murder. As his therapy sessions continue the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur."

Had a bit of a gripe with this one too. It started off really strong, very dark and depressing, but the longer it went on it seemed to go off on a tangent that really didn't make much sense in the end and I feel it didn't quite accomplish what it set out to be. I'd put that down to the writing to be honest.

What kept my attention throughout though was the excellent lead performance from Tom Meeten who's actually best known for his comedy work. 

I would like to see what Gareth Tunley has in store next to see if his writing improves, because on the plus side I did enjoy his direction of the film.

Following The Ghoul was Mayhem's regular Saturday afternoon slot, the short film showcase...

What I'm going to do here is mention the shorts that stood out the most for me, but you can check out the full list by CLICKING HERE.

Directed by Liam Banks.
Duration: 5'30. Country: UK.
When Sandy is woken from a strange dream nothing could have prepared her for the nightmare she finds herself in now she's awake.

This reminded me a little of last year's Lights Out (now turned into a full feature this year) which was simple yet effective. However, Nottingham local Liam Bank's short  is a lot more creepy and plays with the Sandman and the bedtime/fear of the dark ideas very well. It has some rather nice visuals and made use of some good misdirection.

Strangers in the Night
Directed by Conor McMahon.
Duration: 12'00. Country: Ireland.
Two lonely people find the love they were searching for. Well, one lonely person and one banshee!

This was a rather memorable cute little tale that had some fun moments.

Directed by Prano Baily-Bond.
Duration: 15'09. Country: UK.
It's 1982. Twelve-year-old Doug is drawn into the lurid world of VHS horror as he explores the mysterious disappearance of his father.

A tribute to the video nasties of the 80s. Pure enjoyment. That's all I need to say!

The Home
Directed by L. Gustavo Cooper.
Duration: 7'02. Country: US.
Set in Ireland at a 19th century home for pregnant women out of wedlock, THE HOME tells the story of a young pregnant woman fighting for her sanity (and her unborn child) as an ancient evil descends on the convent.

Quenottes (Pearlies)
Directed by Pascal Thiebaux & Gil Pinheiro.
Duration: 12'35. Country: France.
In every body's mind, the little mouse (or Tooth Fairy) is a benevolent and generous character... What if it isn't ? What if it is actually a neurotic psychopath obsessing about its collection of dental trophies? If a tooth is missing, it must be replaced. By any means necessary...

The Stylist
Directed by Jill Gevargizian
Duration: 15'00. Country: USA
Claire is a lonely hairstylist with an unnerving desire to escape her disappointing reality. When her final client of the evening arrives with the request to look perfect, Claire has plans of her own.

This stylish, slick and stunning looking short is very well made and is a nice little twist to, what otherwise wouldn't interest me, hairdressing. In fact, this was in my Top 5 short horror films of 2016.

It was back to the features after the Short Film Showcase with what would be the best film of the festival so far, The Devil's Candy...

From the director of Australian flick, The Loved Ones, Sean Byrne brings something different compared his first and very well received debut feature. Something even better! Heavy fucking metal (you should all know by now that I'm a metalhead)! Mayhem 2015 gave it's audience a treat with the New Zealand horror Deathgasm, which was so much fun. This time though we were in for something serious and frightening.

The film follows struggling artist Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) and his family, wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) as they move to a rural Texas farmhouse that has a barn for Jesse to get creative in. But when he starts to paint, his mind becomes disturbed with satanic images and this over spills on to the canvas. The house's sinister past soon catches up with the family though as former tenant, the mentally disturbed Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince) pays them a visit.

This movie is beautifully shot with some fantastic imagery, well written, brilliantly directed, and Byrne puts his stamp on the, stale of late, haunted house / possession sub-genre with impressive style. The thrashing soundtrack brings an impact to an already intense film. Embry plays and looks the part perfectly. Both Appleby and Glasco bring something different to the table within the movie and as for Pruitt Taylor Vince, well, he's his usual creepy as fuck self!

I missed the last film of the day, the late H.G. Lewis' 1963 Blood Feast as I had to leave, but The Devil's Candy was a perfect end to the day.

Check out Part 1 of Mayhem 2016   HERE and part 2 HERE.

Mayhem Film Festival was founded in 2005 by filmmakers Steven Sheil and Chris Cooke. They screen the best in contemporary horror, science-fiction and cult cinema and television from around the world. Featuring premieres, previews, masterclasses, international special guest filmmakers, and unique live cinema events, the festival has developed a reputation as one of the strongest and most innovative genre festivals in the country. They are based at Broadway in Nottingham, one of the UK's leading independent cinemas and creative hubs.