Celluloid Screams 2013

I can safely say that this year’s Celluloid Screams was the best yet. It gets bugger, busier and better every year, but still manages to maintain the same friendly atmosphere it’s had since the beginning. There was strength in depth throughout the entire festival programme, with great Bumpers, Shorts and Features.

The Bumpers are a welcome addition, setting the tone for what was to follow and, in the case of the clever Cold Feet, lightening the atmosphere. Given the subject matter of many genre films, horror festivals can easily become more of a trial than a pleasurable experience, but intelligent programming meant Celluloid Screams avoided such pitfalls.

The Jury Prize for best Short quite rightly went to Angst, Piss & Drid, which is a very impressive piece of film-making. The offbeat tale of the love between two-serial killers is simultaneously disturbing and touching; filmed in a uniquely Scandinavian way.  Eden and The Last Video Store also impressed: The former, a futuristic sci-fi horror following a family of terrorists who infiltrate a government stronghold; whilst the latter is a pure fanboy homage to the video tape.

The Audience Award went to Big Bad Wolves, and it’s a film you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the future. It’s one that’s difficult to fit into genre classification, having elements of comedy, torture and thriller. Described by Quentin Tarantino as “The best film of the year”, the Israeli drama shares many similarities with his work in terms of the black humour and snappy dialogue. As someone with a deeply ingrained hatred of the Hostel and the like I was slightly wary going into this. Thankfully my fears were unfounded. Big Bad Wolves is quite frankly brilliant – a tale of two men who will stoop to any lengths to discover the truth.

The secret film at Celluloid Screams a few years back was Paranormal Activity, and whilst it has certain merits it is sadly responsible for a number of dire sequels and insipid imitations. Delivery could easily have fallen into the latter category. It invests heavily in building up the story of a couple who agree to be part of a reality TV show documenting the birth of their first child, doing so slowly whilst not taking the easy option of cheap scares along the way. Towards the end I was thinking that the set-up was brilliant but director Brian Netto would have to pull something special out of the bag to make it work. He certainly doesn’t disappoint and it’s refreshing to see such brave and startling film-making.

Of the other highlights, the Opening Gala film Motivational Growth is a very odd concept to describe. It’s certainly the weirdest film I’ve seen in a long time but it’s brimming with inventiveness. A man living in an apartment with a talking fungus isn’t likely to be a normal film after all. The secret film this year is Almost Human, a hark back to the late ‘70s/ early ‘80s – part John Carpenter’s The Thing, part Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Celluloid Screams pulled off a bit of a coup landing this and it goes down very well with the audience whilst not quite having the feeling of claustrophobia which makes The Thing special.

2013 has been the best festival yet, and I managed to recover thanks to following it up with a day of children’s films. Now I have a year to prepare myself to tackle the Allnighter next year….