Grimmfest 2020 Review Roundup – Ropes, The Special, An Ideal Host And More

Manchester’s horror film festival Grimmfest has recently shut its virtual doors after delivering a festive Halloween program of over 20 feature-length films and twenty genre shorts between October 7th and October 11th.

Like other festivals that preceded it, Grimmfest was forced to make the switch from a physical in-person festival to presenting an online selection of some of the world’s best up-and-coming genre efforts and the variety and quality of films on display was superb.

I was lucky enough to catch many of the films Grimmfest was showing this year, and I’ve written down my thoughts for each of them below!

Ropes

Ropes has a very simple, yet slightly disaster-movie-esque outlandish premise that will immediately have horror aficionados drawing comparisons to Stephen King’s Cujo as quadriplegic Elena finds herself trapped in a poorly adapted accessible house with the disability dog who is supposed to help her having turned rabid and trying to kill her.

The incorporation of Elena’s disability, the clever use of the house setting and the combination of drawing upon Elena’s psychological fears and mental state matched with the very real and scary fear of the rabid dog make it a slightly more emotionally affecting affair than Cujo, though. Especially when paired with a committed and triumphant performance from lead actress Paula Del Rio.

Death Ranch

Talking of outlandish premises, Death Ranch comes at you with a delightfully pulpy, B-movie-esque plot. A trio of Black siblings find themselves holed up in a ranch that happens to be the base of operations for a group of Klu Klux Klansmen, who also happen to be cannibals.

Drawing upon the year’s work of Blaxploitation films that have come before, Death Ranch is a fun, visceral and riotous romp as our black heroes enact bloody justice on the racist group, although the film does potentially cross over the lines of acceptability at times.

Urubu

Urubu’s cautionary tale on the effects an unhealthy obsession can have on your children smashed into a cautionary tale of the way that children are often exploited or neglected in general is as darkly poignant as it’s fantastic Amazon setting is beautiful.

The story of Tomas’ ‘white whale’ pursuit of a rare albino vulture leading to the destruction of his family as his wife Eva considers being unfaithful and their daughter Andrea goes missing is entertaining throughout. Plus, the horror elements and completely unexpected taboo moments truly shock.

The Special

The Special is almost hard to believe as we’re given a powerful metaphor on how sex addiction and infidelity can completely consume and destroy a person through the medium of a story involving a man who can’t stop putting his d*** in a box.

It’s completely mental plot somehow comes together to create a truly compelling downward spiral and a memorable climax and masterful handle of physical effects body horror really do help drive the message home.

Revenge Ride

With The Walking Dead’s Pollyanna McIntosh and a rad plot involving a group of sexual assault victims coming together as a cool biker gang and enacting revenge on the men that wronged I expected a lot more from Revenge Ride.

But, the film doesn’t get exploitative enough as instead of becoming another Death Proof it comes across as more of a Lifetime movie relationship drama with stilted scripting and bizarre narrative choices that really don’t do the setup justice.

10 Minutes To Midnight

10 Minutes To Midnight isn’t the first film to tie the fears of being replaced by someone younger to vampirism and it won’t be the last, but this light-night radio-station set vamp movie is a delightfully trippy psychological rollercoaster.

With a clear affection for the vampire genre, a very interesting narrative twist towards the end and several allusions to some of the classics, genre lovers will definitely find something to bite into here, especially as the film’s lead, Caroline Williams, and her supporting cast are all extremely good here.

Anoymous Animals

Anoymous Animals makes it’s point very early on, what if it was human beings who were treated like animals, and animals that were doing it. It invites us to consider how we’d feel if we were in the positions of the animals that we farm, hunt and fight with.

It’s rather one-note with this particular message, as the film is essentially this visual metaphor, of humanoid captors with animal heads, abusing humans, dragged out over a feature-length runtime. That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining, just that you know what you’re getting very early on and that’s it.

An Ideal Host

An Ideal Host is a wonderfully idiosyncratic and pleasantly bizarre dark comedy about a couple’s perfectly planned dinner party and proposal that goes horribly wrong when some of the guests are revealed to have been taken over by an earth-invading alien parasite.

We’ve all seen parasite horror films before, but this one has a whole host (sorry) of laughs, an all-out balls-to-the-wall climax and such a keen understanding of the pressures of hosting a dinner party that it’s hard not to entirely relate with it.

12 Hour Shift

Horror legend Bea Grant’s second feature film is a deeply dark comedy of errors as organ smugglers in a hospital completely lose control of the situation and must struggle to stay out of jail, and stay alive.

With a standout performance from the exasperated Angela Bettis at it’s centre as the film’s solid anchor, the chaos that unfolds around her is effortlessly entertaining.

I hope to have full reviews of these films out over the next few weeks. The other films I didn’t get around to seeing from the festival were HP Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones, It Cuts Deep, The Unhealer, Stray, Monstrous and Rent-A-Pal.

I had already seen Triggered, The Oak Room, The Horror Crowd, Fried Barry and Alone elsewhere, you can read the full reviews for each one by clicking on the links.

You can also see my full review for They Reach here, and interview with the film’s star Mary Madaline Roe here.

That wraps up our Grimmfest coverage, a great genre festival in Manchester, England that I’d urge any horror fans in the UK to attend if they can.

And you can find the rest of our Grimmfest 2020 coverage here!

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