Dr. Lauren McIntyre is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. Lauren is currently binge watching Season 1 of The Mandalorian and by the time this goes to press she will be binge watching Season 2. Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth
Darren Gaskell is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. Darren is probably going to be kicked out of a watch party group fairly soon because his suggestion for an upcoming movie is The Severed Arm. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell
WARNING: THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS AHEAD AS WELL DISCUSSION OF SOME UNPLEASANT STUFF BUT THERE ARE NO SWEARS – YES, THAT IS SURPRISING…
Not content with bringing the horror crowd not one but two online horror festivals in 2020, Soho Horror Film Festival supremo Mitch and all-round lovely person Mitch Harrod only went and confounded our already pretty confounded expectations by springing a THIRD – count it! – festival on us!
Spoiling us all rotten with three more days of features and shorts, it’s no surprise that SoHome “veterans” Dr. Lauren and Darren were once again ready to sample more horrific delights from the comfort of their respective sofas, several miles apart, in accordance with lockdown rules. It’s the final day of feature films, but not the final SoHome Part III article as Dr. Lauren and Darren will be back with their picks from the fine selection of short movies which played across the fest. For now, it’s back to the features.
THE QUIET REVOLUTION (dir. Philip Escott, Xavier Mendik)
Darren: Day Three started with The Quiet Revolution, a documentary about the rise of the Canadian horror movie going right back to the 60s and going through to the present day so you had early Cronenberg movies and much more recent films like the Soskas remake of Rabid. You didn’t manage to catch this one, did you?
Dr. Lauren: No. Again, life was getting in the way so I ended up missing this one.
Darren: Which is fair enough. I have no life so I caught most of the stuff playing here. It was a decent documentary. For anyone that hasn’t caught a lot of Canadian horror this was a good primer so if you haven’t seen things like Shivers or Death Weekend then it gave you a nudge in that direction which is always a good thing. Obviously a labour of love and it took a more academic view of how the films reflected the politics and the social landscape of the time which isn’t a bad thing at all. It showed how the horror followed what was happening in the country at the time so you also had an insight into how Canada developed as a country over the last few decades. It’s well worth seeing. If you’re looking for a Greatest Hits of Canadian gore and you turn up expecting to see all the gross bits from Cronenberg movies you’ll be disappointed but if you come at this with a clearer head then it’s worth seeing for the insight. Also, if you’re looking for the high spots of Canadian horror over the last 50 years then it gives you a decent list of titles which you can seek out.
BLEED WITH ME (dir. Amelia Moses)
Darren: After The Quiet Revolution, for me it was another case of tricky second film syndrome, which was Bleed With Me, a movie about a girl who goes to stay in a cabin. This is basically a three-hander about what happens to these people in the cabin and there’s a vampirism slant to the plot.
Dr. Lauren: A woman’s been invited there by her friend and the friend’s partner is there as well. She starts to think that her friend may be stealing her blood but also you’re not sure because this woman’s quite self-destructive and there are other things you find out about her so you’re in a situation where you’re not sure how much of it is really happening.
Darren: I saw this at Abertoir and I’ve also talked about this for the Socially Distanced Cinema podcast. I did not like this movie much at all.
Dr. Lauren: Oh, really?
Darren: It dragged, it had characters I didn’t care about. I was so glad to be out of it after the 79 minutes. I’ve said this elsewhere, I don’t mind if characters are unlikeable as long as they’re interesting. I could not be arsed about any of them.
Dr. Lauren: You see, I thought it was all right. It wasn’t my favourite film of the weekend but I thought that it was interesting. It was quite a slow burn, it brought quite a lot to the table especially in terms of what happens to people when they’ve spent a long time together. That’s quite relevant at the moment what with being in lockdown. There’s also that creeping paranoia and distrust about people you should know rather well and whether or not you or someone else is imagining what’s going on. It was quite low-key but I thought it was doing some quite interesting stuff.
Darren: I think a lot of people latched on to that. I was left absolutely cold. It’s the sort of thing that looked right up my street. I saw the synopsis and thought it could certainly be one of my favourites. I was really, really looking forward to it but it didn’t work. I like flawed characters but the main character here is so drippy. She just sat there agonising over and over about not being able to do something. An hour or that just wound me up.
Dr. Lauren: I think I had a much better time with it than you did.
Darren: Which is good. When I dislike a movie I’m hoping that a lot of other people did and I’m glad that it got a decent reception. It didn’t land with me. Maybe if I watched it again I might just get something from it but I couldn’t get on with any of the characters and I wasn’t sufficiently interested in them to be involved to the extent I would want to be. I didn’t bale out, I watched it to the end, but about an hour in I was waiting for it to end.
Dr. Lauren: My husband said it was one of his favourites of the weekend.
Darren: You see? There you go! We can’t all like the same stuff, which is a good thing. It didn’t do anything for me but it obviously had the right effect on a lot of people. It would be terrible if everybody hated this movie.
At this point in the proceedings, we should mention that the festival took a short break from its features to present a HorrorIsQueer short film showcase. We’re not going to go through the whole line-up here as we’ll be mentioning some of the those in a separate article about our favourite shorts of SoHome Part III, but here’s the line-up so you can check these fine mini-masterpieces out:
GOING STEADY (dir. Brydie O’ Connor)
THE CLEANSE (dir. Lucas Omar)
META (dir. Sydne Horton)
THE HOLLOW HOURS (dir. Shane Anderson)
DON’T TEXT BACK (dir. Kaye Adelaide, Mariel Sharpe)
POLTER (dir. Alvaro Vicario)
LIMERENCE (dir. Dan Pederson)
POLTERGAYS (dir. Andrew Ceperley)
Also, it should be mentioned – nay, shouted from the rooftops – that the short film showcase was presented by a surprise guest – the brilliant VANDER VON ODD, who was on hand to keep the proceedings moving along in fabulous fashion.
THRESHOLD (dir. Justin R. Long, Powell Robinson)
Darren: A movie that got a lot of love from the festival goers, and certainly from me, was micro-budgeted road trip horror Threshold.
Dr. Lauren: I loved this! This was my favourite of the weekend.
Darren: A brother and sister travel cross-country to find the source of the strange occurrences which have happened to the sister because she’s connected to some weird death cult. Or is she? You’re not quite sure.
Dr. Lauren: We also find out fairly early on that she’s had a long-term drug problem and the brother’s trying to be supportive but he’s also trying to figure out if maybe she’s still on drugs or whether she’s telling the truth.
Darren: Which makes it all the more interesting. This is the contrast with Bleed With Me. Again, it’s a slow burn. Again, there are not many characters in the movie. Arguably you could say that even less happens in Threshold than in Bleed With Me but the characters are so interesting. They draw you in and you really want to see what happens to them next. Even when things aren’t happening there’s an atmosphere about the movie which makes you think there’s something bad just around the corner.
Dr. Lauren: This was so well-written. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d told me that Jeremy Gardner had a hand in it. It’s exactly the sort of film he’d make. It’s quite slow, there is a horror element to it but it’s very much character-driven. The majority of the film is about the relationship between the brother and sister. You find out how their relationship has deteriorated and that they’d lost touch for a while before the sister suddenly turned up again. There’s this cult element which you’re not even sure is real until about the last 15 minutes when you actually find more out as to what’s going on. I thought it was brilliant.
Darren: Same here. The horror elements were almost incidental to quite a lot of the movie, a lot of it’s about how the brother and sister can either repair or destroy their relationship, which I’m not going to spoil. It reminded me a little bit of They Look Like People, where the horror is on the edges of the story. It shows its face every so often but it’s much more to do with the dynamic between the main characters.
Dr. Lauren: Yes.
Darren: And apparently the filmmakers just grabbed something to film on, drove around and a lot of it was improvised as they were going along.
Dr. Lauren: Which, again, is amazing. Well done to everybody involved in that film because I enjoyed it so much.
Darren: Yeah. I hope it’s going to get a decent release because more people should know about this movie. Considering the lack of resources at their disposal, the folks who made it this have come up with something distinctive and quite scary as well.
Dr. Lauren: I will be on the look out for this and as soon as it comes out I will be recommending it to everyone.
Darren: Same here.
ILL: THE FINAL CONTAGIUM (dir. Lucio A. Rojas, Lorenzo Zanoni, Domiziano Cristopharo, Kai E Bogatzki)
Darren: After the lower-key scares of Threshold, there followed the postively gorge-rising and gory shocks on anthology piece Ill: The Final Contagium which contained some of the most disgusting material I’ve seen in a while.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, there are some really awful things in this. Oh, God. By this point, I was texting you as we were watching it and there were a couple of things I was not happy about seeing.
Darren: A couple of moments made both of us retch.
Dr. Lauren: Involving fingernails, definitely.
Darren: And sequences involving bodily fluids and the breakdown of tissue. I’d eaten just before this movie started.
Dr. Lauren: Same.
Darren: Probably not a good move. We had been warned not to. There were a couple of moments where I thought that I might be seeing my dinner again.
Dr. Lauren: I think the people who made Medusa, Queen Of The Serpents maybe need to watch this in order to fully realise what a body horror should be.
Darren: The effects are all very good. As an anthology piece it suffers from the usual anthology curse in that some of the segments are much stronger than others. The one thing I will say is that a lot of it is just so strange that you’re not going to get it out of your head quickly. It’s not your common or garden anthology flick. There’s some very odd stuff in there.
Dr. Lauren: It is quite odd. There are three main segments, is that right?
Darren: Yes, and the fourth is kind of the wraparound of sorts about how the contagion is transmitted and then it hops from Rome to Serbia to Germany, I think.
Dr. Lauren: The virus has effectively contaminated some money and whoever comes into contact with the money gets the disease. The only slight criticism I’d have is that because each segment is written and directed by different people there’s not really any consistency in terms of the disease and I wish there would have been because the disease manifests itself differently in each segment, it looks different and it has different effects. I wish there would have been more continuity but having said that I did enjoy – if enjoy is the right word – what the different directors were doing. The lack of continuity in terms of things like disease symptoms pulled me out of it slightly.
Darren: The fact that people were affected in extremely different ways did take you out of it because there was no logical progression. Initially there are folks whose bodies break down completely and that whole thing is particularly gross but by the end sequence the infected guy has fewer physical effects. It seemed a bit strange as to how the virus progressed but I guess if you hand different segments to different filmmakers they’ll have their own take. Another thing that took me out of it a little was that, although a lot of the film is set across various parts of Europe, most of the actors are speaking English or have been dubbed back into English. I would have preferred it to be subtitled. You have Italian actors speaking English, I would much rather they spoke their native language with subtitles.
Dr. Lauren: I would have rather had that as well. By far the worst bit of the film for me was watching someone eat mayonnaise out of the jar with their fingers.
[Darren bursts out laughing]
Dr. Lauren: That is so awful. It’s making me feel a bit retchy now just thinking about it.
Darren: So we’ve got people turning into bubbling messes and having bits of them fall off but it was the mayo that did it for you?
Dr. Lauren: I just can’t abide mayonnaise. I hate it so much. Watching somebody eat it normally is bad enough but watching somebody eat it out of a jar with their hands? No, I can’t do it. I had to cover my eyes.
RE-ELECTED (dir. Max Radbill)
Darren: From the mayo-based terror of Ill: The Final Contagium to the final movie of the weekend. It was the end of a long stretch of movies and it was quite late so I believe you couldn’t hang around for this one.
Dr. Lauren: Yeah, I had to get up early for work the following morning so Re-Elected wasn’t even on my radar.
Darren: You probably didn’t miss out on a classic. It was fun, though. This was about zombie versions of previous American presidents being resurrected when someone recites the words of the Declaration Of Independence.
Dr. Lauren: Oh! Okay.
Darren: Kind of an Evil Dead but with presidents. It was enjoyable, there were good moments of comedy, it was fine at what it did. I don’t think it was especially memorable but the gore sequences were reasonably effective. I think it was meant as a bit of fun and I certainly took it that way. It was one of those films which had a good initial idea and then perhaps wasn’t sure how it was going to stretch it to 80 minutes. For me, it kind of lost its way a little during the middle but it did rally towards the end. Looking at it from the point of view as it being an undemanding, light-hearted, end of night movie then we could have done so much worse than Re-Elected.
Dr. Lauren: Right.
Darren: Having said that, it’s not the greatest loss if you missed it. If it turned up on Horror Channel then it would be worth tuning in but set against some of the other movies it played against this weekend, it wasn’t really up there with my favourites. I did have a pretty good time with it though.
Dr. Lauren: There was a lot of good stuff to go at this weekend so if you do have a film that seems weaker in a strong line-up that film is going to look so much worse than, say, if you’d seen Re-Elected on its own. In this environment, this kind of film might fade into the background even though it’s not necessarily bad.
Darren: That’s true. It isn’t a bad movie at all. If you’re looking for this kind of movie, you will enjoy it. You’re right, at the side of some of the other movies that played SoHome this weekend it probably came off slightly worse just because of the company it was keeping.
And that’s it for the feature films at the SoHome Horror Festival Part III but that’s not it for the coverage. In the next article, Dr. Lauren and Darren will be revealing their Top Five short films of the festival. Bet you can’t wait!