Mayhem 2015 delivered beyond expectations. The horror/sci-fi festival at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema offered-up a wide selection of genre movies as well as a live reading of the lost Hammer film, The Unquenchable Thirst Of Dracula. Movies in Focus was on-hand across the festival’s four days (15th-18th October) to catch a selection of films. Here’s a breakdown of what I saw:
The first film to screen at Mayhem 2015 was the tense babysitter thriller Emelie. Michael Thelin’s film charts the drama across one night when an unhinged babysitter causes mayhem (pun intended) when she’s left with three siblings while their parents celebrate their wedding anniversary. Emelie is a tight 80 minutes and it keeps the tension ramped-up for the majority of the running time. Sarah Bolger is good in the title role and she’s able to add a certain amount of nuance into her role.
Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD
Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD was one of the highlights of the festival. The film took Movies In Focus back to the early 1990s when I was an avid comic reader. My brother was a big fan of the 2000AD comics and I would read the dark and twisted sci-fi tales held within its pages. Future Shock! goes into fascinating detail into how the influential comic book was created and it features a selection of wonderful interviews with its writers and artists. Paul Goodwin, Sean Hogan and D’Israeli were on-hand after the screening to make this a memorable event.
Within the horror genre there are probably more stone-cold classics featuring the lycanthrope than any other horror beast. Universal Pictures’ Lon Chaney Jr. classic The Wolfman, The Howling, An American Werewolf In London and Dog Soldiers are near perfect examples of how to build a movie around a monster and make them great. Paul Hyett’s Howl is a worthy addition to the list and while it may not rewrite the horror rule book, it does have enough fun, scares and gore to keep horror fans howling for more. Hyett’s film takes place onboard a late night commuter that breaks down on a deserted part of the track. Getting home late is bad enough – but being eaten by angry werewolves is even worse Hyett was there to discuss the film after the screening.
He Never Died
A totally bizarre black comedy with Henry Rollins as a cannibal with a long history of…everything. Jason Krawcyzk’s film has a lot of cartoonish violence and it’s underpinned by some wonderful humour. Henry Rollins gives the performance of his career, commanding the screen with a grumpy sarcasm that is a far cry from his usual high energy aggression.
Showing 11 short films from across the globe, these shorts offer something for everyone. Movies In Focus’ favourites were Ultravioleta (Paco Plaza), Solitudo (Alice Lowe), Surgery (The Clemens Bros), Count Magnus (Richard Mansfield), Heir (Richard Powell) and Kobald (Nicholas Verso).
The Unquenchable Thirst Of Dracula – Live
Without a doubt, this was the highlight of Mayhem 2015. This live script reading of an unmade Hammer screenplay was a special piece of Saturday night entertainment. Historian Jonathan Rigby narrated the action, with Jonny Phillips giving a phenomenal performance as Bram Stoker’s legendary Count Dracula. Originally intended for Christopher Lee, this India-set script failed to make it to the screen for a variety of reasons in the late 1960s. Mayhem 2016 needs to include something similar.
Brian Yuzna’s Society plays like a warped episode of Beverly Hills 90210 directed by David Cronenberg. It’s a paranoid body-horror filled with black comedy and gruesome practical effects. It’s icky, creepy and funny yet it lacks any real scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. This 1989 effort hits the spot however, and it’s a must-see for fans who like a lot of latex in their horror.
This German anthology film from Jorg Buttgereit, Andreas Marschall and Michal Kosakowski is a dark and dirty affair. Each story is set in Berlin and it makes for very uncomfortable viewing. This isn’t easy viewing for its audience. There are a lot of issues raised withing the three tales but it’s not something that you would watch for a second time.
Director Robert Eggers’ The Witch is a supernatural drama set in 1600s New England. Eggers’ film reeks of atmosphere and it delivers a lot of unsettling eerie moments. A small cast deliver impressive performances and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke offers-up beautifully grey visuals. This puritanical chiller is one of the best horror films of the last decade. Impressive.
Mayhem continues to thrive and Movies In Focus looks forward to covering the festival again in 2016.