Celluloid Screams 2019: Day Two – Reviews by Darren Gaskell

Day Two of Celluloid Screams brought us a serial killer in Germany, a cursed movie from who knows where, demonic possessions in Ireland, a disastrous company outing in America and something deadly from space. However, before all of that…

BONUS: STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENT SCENES PODCAST – “THE WICKER MAN” LIVE!

It’s better to die a hero…

As a scrumptious starter to Friday’s banquet of flavourful fright flicks, the Strong Language and Violent Scenes podcast guys served up a third Live helping of their continuing deep dive into all manner of horrors.

If you’ve heard this podcast before you’d know exactly what to expect and the Showroom audience for this most certainly fell into that category. For those of you who haven’t, Mitch Bain and Andy Stewart give a second chance to films that might not deserve them, revisiting critically panned films as well as other titles which may have gone under the radar.

Generally, Andy and Mitch will invite a guest to defend a film of their choosing but every so often there are episodes in which the two hosts will go up against each other and this one happened to be an Andy v Mitch episode and Andy had picked an absolute doozy of a film, certainly one of the boldest choices yet across the whole series.

Neil Labute’s reimagining of folk horror classic The Wicker Man did not go under the radar on its release, garnering a pile of terrible reviews as well as provoking the ire of most of the fans of the 1973 original. Not Andy Stewart – he loves the original but also sees something in the remake and he made his case for the Cage variant admirably, even if Mitch wasn’t exactly sold.

As usual, there was a constant stream of chuckles – which turned to guffaws and snorts for me when Andy recalled a funeral he’d been to – and the good-natured back and forth of the non-Live episodes was still much in evidence in front of a crowd. Add to that a Live version of the Mitch’s Pitches segment and this was an hour or so of everything a SLVS aficionado would wish for.

THE GOLDEN GLOVE

Wie schrecklich ist das?

In the 1970s, Fritz Honka murdered several women in the red-light district of Hamburg and this movie documents that period of his life, dropping us straight into a grisly post-killing scene and taking things from there.

With a couple of bigger name production companies – Warner Bros. and Pathé – behind it, this is more arthouse psychological study than gratuitous gorefest. Having said that, the murders are still shocking in their brutality and the content warning given pre-screening to The Golden Glove was certainly justified.

Anchored by an astonishing performance from Jonas Dassler as Honka, the story is told with an impressive amount of skill and relative restraint, giving the viewer an insight into the killer’s grim existence and social circle of acquaintances who have little do to other than drink to pass the time of day.

It’s also clear that the film in no way justifies Honka’s crimes whatsoever, showing them as the cold, depressing, sickening acts of violence they were. It’s interesting that, even having watched thousands of horror movies, it’s the real-life stories which always prove the most difficult to cope with and there were a couple of moments in The Golden Glove where I felt genuine, marrow-freezing dread. Shows just what a great, responsible job director Fatih Akin does here.

This is probably not the most life-affirming couple of hours you’ll spend in a cinema but it’s a mightily impressive piece of work about a time and a place that is unlikely to have been on the radar of many of us. That said, would I ever want to see it again? Well…

ANTRUM: THE DEADLIEST FILM EVER MADE

Dare you watch this Movie?

A girl and her younger brother head out to the woods to dig a hole to Hell and conduct a magical ceremony in order to bring back their recently deceased pet. However, more intriguing than the plot for Antrum itself are the stories surrounding the movie, which is thought to have been responsible for a series of lethal occurrences including a major loss of life at a Budapest cinema which burned down during a screening and a riot which occurred in the middle of a showing in San Francisco.

Several of the people who were involved with the movie’s distribution and programming at festivals also perished soon after encountering the film and there is a short documentary – and one last opportunity for the viewer to leave – before the actual movie itself.

Well, I’m still here but there was a point in the middle of the movie where I genuinely felt sick for a couple of minutes – came on from nowhere, was nothing to do with what on the screen and then passed as quickly as it had started. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, what of Antrum itself? It’s a fun concept and anything that ropes the audience in is usually going to capture my interest so I’m slightly disappointed to have to tell you that I didn’t enjoy it all that much. There’s one particularly memorable piece of machinery that is the movie’s most striking image, but it only briefly comes into play during the third act.

The overall anticipation and experience of being part of the audience for this was a lot of fun, it’s just a shame that what was up on the screen didn’t match it. Could it ever have matched it? Maybe not. However, if this article is published as a tribute after I perished in some unexplained accident, I guess the laughs are on me.

EXTRA ORDINARY

Will you not tell me about the sacrifice? Ah, go on…

Driving instructor Rose (Maeve Higgins) is doing her best to put her supernatural past behind her but the present is making that difficult as there’s never a shortage of locals clamouring for her ability to communicate with the dead. Doesn’t help that local minor celebrity and one-hit wonder Christian Winter has made a pact with the forces of darkness in order to get his career back on track, a pact which involves the possession and sacrifice of one of the community’s virgins…

This could be described as Father Ted meets The Exorcist and I suppose that most Irish comedies – especially those with a spiritual leaning – are going to draw comparisons to the goings-on around Craggy Island. However, Extra Ordinary quickly banishes any thoughts of Ted, Dougal et al with its own brand of warm, quirky, not to mention laugh out loud comedy.

As well as being consistently hilarious, there’s a clear knowledge of the horror tropes Extra Ordinary is using as the base for its plot and the various hauntings will be easily recognisable to horror hounds, whether it’s a spectre-inhabited wheelie bin or the ghost of a formidably foul-mouthed, chain-smoking wife.

The performances are note perfect, notably Higgins as the sweet, well-meaning but conflicted Rose and Forte as the humility-free, faded pop star who’s finding it tough existing outside of the business called show. The laughs keep coming right to the very end, with a final line that sums up the feeling of the whole film impeccably. A real treat and an absolute must see.

COLOR OUT OF SPACE

Wow! Look at that! Surely nothing bad’s going to happen…

There was even more speculation this year about what the Secret Films would be this year – two mysterious titles instead of one this time out. For this one, I’d guessed at Guns Akimbo and, as is customary when it comes to the Celluloid Screams Secret Film, I was spectacularly wrong. However, the reveal of the first Secret Film met with my approval and then some. I couldn’t wait to see it.

A meteorite falls to Earth in rural New England near the farmstead of the Gardner family who are building a new life for themselves away from the bustle of the big city. Melting into the ground, the extra-terrestrial projectile begins to affect the flora and fauna with which it comes into contact and, considering this is based on a story by HP Lovecraft, you know that can’t be good. Can concerned dad Nathan (Nicolas Cage) protect his family?

Firstly, if you’re here just for the Cage rage you might be a tad disappointed as he’s giving a relatively measured performance here. Yes, he does eventually lose his shit in the third act, but this film is not concerned with the baggage of expectation from some of his other performances and is all the better for it.

Secondly, if you’re just waiting for Nic to wig out then you risk missing all the amazing things going on in Richard Stanley’s psychedelic stunner. The visuals are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, there’s a family unit that doesn’t feel like a set of walking clichés and Joely Richardson proves what a trooper she is by throwing herself right into the gooey body horror of the piece.

For me, the MVP of the piece is Madeleine Arthur as the Gardner’s daughter Lavinia, who ticks all the usual rebellious young woman boxes as the script decrees but imbues her character with smarts and compassion and ends up being the one you feel is the key to anyone surviving the encroaching madness. Does anyone survive the encroaching madness? Of course I’m not going to say, you should see this for yourself.

CORPORATE ANIMALS

Working smarter, not harder

Lucy (Demi Moore), the CEO of Incredible Edibles (cutlery you can eat), takes some of her staff to New Mexico on a team building exercise which involves exploring a system of underground caves. Deciding that the beginner’s route isn’t challenging enough, the team’s attempt at the advanced one soon turns disastrous when an earthquake causes a rockfall which blocks their way out.

Director Patrick Brice’s previous “Creep” movies played to great receptions at previous Celluloid Screams weekends and although he was apparently wary of this being screened – as it’s basically a comedy – there was enough in the way gruesome goings-on for it to sit alongside the rest of the programme.

As with Day One’s Tone-Deaf, the targets here aren’t exactly the boldest but they’re ripe for comedy and, in this case, tackled on numerous occasions before. Its brew of organisational shenanigans and office politics doesn’t especially surprise and there are a couple of flat spots but there are enough laughs to carry it through, including a running gag about one of the group who’s just a little too keen to find out if can survival can be prolonged by drinking urine.

In addition, it’s a timely reminder of just how good a performer Demi Moore is. She’s great here and even though the no-nonsense boss figure she’s playing might be a touch one-dimensional she’s still easily the best thing in the film. You’re supposed to root for downtrodden underlings Jess (Jessica Williams) and Freddie (Karan Soni) but you know what? They’re kinda dull.

Yes, the Creep movies are better but, let’s face it, the Creep movies are better than most things. Corporate Animals is slight and doesn’t break new ground but at just 86 minutes it doesn’t hang around in getting to its point and has just enough of an edge to make it a worthwhile watch.

And that was that for Day Two. Seven films down, ten to go. Day Three was going to take the Celluloid Screamers to some seriously dark and twisted places but you’re going to have to wait for the next instalment for all of that…

About celluloiddeej

Film fan, horror festival goer, karaoke enthusiast, cat whisperer, world traveller, complete idiot. Invite me on your podcast if you can stand the Yorkshire accent.

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