Wednesday 17 October 2018

Report from 2018 Mayhem Film Festival, Nottingham

They're queuing up to write for DEoL it seems - and I'm not complaining. So here's guest reviewer Satu Sarkas-Bosman's report on the delights of Nottingham's Mayhem Film Festival, which ran from 11 to 14 October this year.

Mayhem Film Festival was founded in 2005 by film makers Steven Sheil and Chris Cooke; it has evolved into a marvellous mixture of horror, science fiction and cult cinema.

This year we enjoyed 16 new films. Three of those were UK premieres, and the programme also included a rare showing of White Reindeer (a 1952 Finnish supernatural folk tale) and a raucous outing of Lamberto Bava’s Demons. The selection of films came from the UK, USA, Canada, Finland, Japan, South Africa, Italy and Brazil. The short film showcase is still one of the most acclaimed segments and always attracts a large audience.

The Festival is well known, not only for its selection of films, but also the extremely friendly and welcoming atmosphere. This is where cinema goers, movie aficionados, film makers, sound engineers and individuals from many walks of life get together and talk cinema. Steven Sheil wants Mayhem attendees to ‘have an experience of watching films together and talk about them.’ Mayhem certainly achieves this.

So what about this year’s Mayhem offerings? I have a few that I can heartily recommend. The top spot was a tight battle between Marc Price’s Nightshooters and Andy Mitton’s The Witch in the Window.

Marc Price delighted us in 2008 with his zombie movie Colin which was created on an unbelievable budget of £40.00. Nightshooters was shot in three weeks, in a building marked for demolition, and follows the fortunes of a film crew witnessing a gangland killing. Price provides snappy dialogue, real laughs and incredible martial arts sequences showcasing Jean-Paul Ly’s skills. The pace of the film never lets up and you find yourself caring what happens to the characters. This movie was a firm favourite of many attending Mayhem.

The Witch in the Window is a beautifully shot and slow burning story of a haunted house. Hang on, before you groan, there was something rather special about this one. My son, whose least favourite genre is the haunted house movie, absolutely loved this. Simon, played by Alex Draper, takes his 12-year old son Finn (Charlie Tacker) to rural Vermont where he has purchased a property to fix up and sell on. However it seems that they are not the only ones occupying the house...

The strength of this film comes from the storytelling and the relationship between father and son. The interaction and the dialogue between these two characters is so natural and believable, delivered by solid acting from both actors. The director, Andy Mitton, does not rush the delivery and allows it to unravel in its own pace.

A wonderful addition to anyone’s Christmas movie list would be Anna and the Apocalypse from John McPhail (director of 2015's Where Do We Go From Here?). I am not a fan of musicals and the idea of zombies, combined with musical tunes, did not fill me joy. Well, I was very wrong! It appears that you can create a zombie musical full of toe-tapping tunes and likeable characters. The cast, led by Ella Hunt with her impressive singing voice, fight and sing their way through a zombie apocalypse descending upon the small town of Little Haven. This, not without its very moving moments, is crying out for a sing-a-long release around Christmas time at a cinema near you.

One Cut of the Dead is a Japanese comedy horror from Shin’ichiro Ueda which is slowly gathering quite a following. It's a fresh look at the genre and gathered many laughs at Mayhem. We follow the shooting of a low budget zombie movie, when suddenly it appears that real life zombies are attacking the crew. All I can say is, persist through the first 20 minutes and you will be rewarded, but I will not divulge any more....

Shinsuke Sato’s film Inuyashiki is a Japanese comic based movie following the fortunes of middle-aged Inuyashiki Ichirou. He is truly downtrodden, pathetic and if his life is not hard enough, he is also diagnosed with terminal cancer. However, after witnessing a bright light descending from the sky, knocking him out, he wakes up in possession of superpowers. Whilst Inuyashiki gets used to his newly acquired gifts, it looks like he is not the only one who changed that night. Although this movie follows very much the path of good versus evil, the characters are engaging, the acting is excellent, the story heartfelt and not always morally clear cut.  

Finally, how can I not recommend the latest instalment of the Puppet Master franchise, Puppet Master: the Littlest Reich from directors Tommy Wiklund and Sonny Laguna. It has gore, guts, extremely dubious humour, puppets, Barbara Crampton (from the original Puppet Master) and Udo Kier.

Okay, it is not everyone’s cup of tea (and there are those for whom it was downright offensive) but I found it to be rather entertaining. The story centres on the celebration of 30th anniversary of the Toulon murders, where collectors gather for the auction of the notorious puppets. Who would not want to own their own Tunneler, if only these pesky puppets would not be so psychotic and have a tendency to go on a killing spree? True fans will lament the absence of some of the original puppets such as Jester, but since there are more of 'Puppet Master' movies in production, we can only hope that they will return.

Mayhem also  presented an interesting film from South Africa.  Number 37 is an impressive debut from Nosipho Dumisa. She adapted Hitchcock’s idea of Rear Window and interpreted it through the story of individual experiences of those living in one of the most deprived areas of Cape Town.

You could do worse than putting Mayhem 2019 into your diary. If four days of (fantastic) cinema and friendly debate sounds like a good use of time to you, please join us at Broadway Cinema, Nottingham next year.

The website for Mayhem Film Festival is here.

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