I slid into Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema around 6.45pm and collected by press pass from a particularly ghoulish chap in the foyer (he was wearing a Halloween mask). I hit the cafe-bar for a coffee and made my way to Screen One and took my seat, ready for the Mayhem Film Festival’s opening night line-up. Film festivals always have a certain type of energy, because the people present really want to be there. Horror fans in particular have a certain emotional attachment to their genre that adds an extra buzz to proceedings. This opening night of Mayhem X would deliver everything they wanted.
First up was an introduction by Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil, the founders of Mayhem, who were then followed by Mathew Kennedy, Adam Brooks and Connor Sweeney, three members of Astron-6 (who were behind Manborg), the team behind the night’s selection of short films and The Editor (a giallo pastiche, but more on that later). They give a laid-back talk about their work before the lights went down and the curtain opened to show the Astro-6 shorts.
These shorts have an ‘80s video vibe, and the boys at Astro-6 embrace this video-era aesthetic. The likes of Cool Guys, Gore Blade, Fireman, Bio-Cop and Lazer Ghosts 2. These guys lovingly use the ‘80s as a way of mining for interesting concepts, making shorts that make fun of their subjects without ever forgetting what made these films work in the first place.
The main event of Mayhem X’s opening night was The Editor, the latest feature from Astron-6. The film takes a comedic look at the badly-dubbed Italian horror-thrillers form the ‘70s/‘80s. These super-stylised films features a lot of killing, sex and ludicrous plots, making them ripe material for the burgeoning homevideo market of the time. Adam Brooks plays Rey Ciso, a once hot film editor now slumming it by making low budget efforts. Someone starts offing the cast and crew of his latest production and he comes under suspicion from moustachioed detective, Peter Porfiry (Matthew Kennedy).
The Editor plays up all the ludricious elements of the giallo films, lacing its running time with good natured humour. This humour is never mean, and that’s what makes The Editor work – it feels honest, even though it’s a comedy. The Editor also features legendary genre star Udo Kier, in a small but pivotal role, a major coup for Astron 6. The Editor is a must for fans of schlocky thrillers, delivering a fun homage, that on some levels, also works as an authentic giallo.
Kennedy, Brooks and Sweeney then took to the stage for a Q&A session to discuss the film and how it came together. Again, it was an enthusiastic discussion by three guys who clearly have a passion for a specific time period in film history. They talked about how they effectively made the film with no crew and a tiny budget and how they managed to get a genre icon like Udo Kier. It was entertaining and informative.
After a bit of a breather it was time for Brian O’Malley’s Let Us Prey, a supernatural thriller with shades of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and Prince of Darkness. O’Malley’s film begins with a great opening credit sequence (at times it feels like one of those great Guinness adds from the 1990s), before we segue into a quite police station where PC. Rachel Heggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) begins her first night on duty. Things take an odd turn when a mysterious stranger appears (Liam Cunningham).
Let Us Prey is a stylish mood piece that delivers some impressive tension. It’s more of a supernatural thriller than a horror but it features enough gore to keep horror fans satisfied. The film is anchored by Cunningham who continues to build on his genre cache after the likes of Game Of Thrones and Dog Soldiers.
Proceedings wrapped a little after 1 am, and then it was time to step into the darkness of Halloween morning for the long walk home.