10th Annual Fantastic Films Weekend

fantastic-films

When I was invited to cover the Fantastic Films Weekend at the National Media Museum in Bradford I snapped up the chance.  Being a fan of horror and living in Bradford it was very easy for me to get there and it gave me the chance to view many movies that I’d never seen on the big screen and of course finally get to see Hobo with a Shotgun which I’d wanted to see for a while.  My comments on Hobo will come in my coverage of day two, but I will say that I loved it.

DAY ONE

This is my coverage of day one which was Friday 10th June.  I’m going to comment on the movies I managed to see but there was much more I would have loved to attended including the talk by Peter Sasdy one of the key directors of the Hammer movies.  But alas I’ve not managed to create clones of myself to allow me to see everything.  I’m working on it though.

The Stuff
The first movie showing I attended was The Stuff.  More comedy than actual horror this movie reminded me in some ways of The Thing, especially with the special effects.  The highlight for me in this movie was Paul Sorvino’s performance as Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears, an obviously insane man who sees himself as defending America from any threat he can find.  Once he finds out about the threat of the Stuff he finally gets the war he wanted and springs into action.  His conviction is only matched by the comments he often spouts out at random which of course is entertaining.  I also have to mention the name “Chocolate Chip Charlie” too, the man with the killer hands.  The only way to describe him is to use one of his own quotes “Don’t you know who I am? I am Chocolate-Chip Charlie! My hands are registered with the mid-New Jersey police as lethal weapons, and I eat them guns for breakfast!”.

When a Stranger Calls
This was a movie I’ve wanted to see for quite some time.  Based on an urban legend it works on the fear of being alone in a house and the possibility that some bogey man could be in there with you.  We’ve all heard the story of the babysitter who gets a phone call asking if she’d checked on the kids right? Which she ignores only to find that they’ve been killed? Well this is what this movie is based on.  This is extended though as the urban legend is used for the first 15 minutes of the movie.  Most of the movie actually looks at the killer returning seven years later to haunt the babysitter again.  On first viewing there is a twist at the end that uses misdirection perfectly to actually surprise you, this movie is a definite must watch classic.

Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
This was the movie I had been looking forward to.  As a fan of classic horror since childhood this was the movie that mesmerised me every time I saw it.  Kung Fu and Peter Cushing all in one movie what else can you ask for? (Christopher Lee of course but we can’t have everything).  Watching this on the big screen was one of the highlights for the weekend for me and seeing a vintage milk advert done on the set of the actual movie by the actors was a funny and nice way to start the movie.  If you ever get the chance to see this movie at a cinema snap it up, it’s a must see.

The Dead
This is a movie for all zombie fans out there, especially the ones who hate zombies that run.  This is a movie about the oppression created by the zombie and uses the metaphor of what the zombie is perfectly.  The zombie is the creature that dominates, it has no fear it’s just there and it has one aim which is to consume you and take away your free will.  It’s interesting that the zombie outbreak takes place in an area of Africa that is at war (which is the point) as it pushes the survivors of both sides of the conflict to have to work together to fight against the zombies.  There is little hope shown for the people in this movie but when hope appears it really hits effectively because of the overall oppressive feeling of the rest of the movie.  It’s message seems to be that even when everything seems impossible there will always be a glimmer of hope to pull you through, this movie is a glimmer of hope for the zombie genre.

The Exorcist
This version was the Directors Cut with scenes such as the spider lady scene added.  I’m not sure which version I’m a fan of but sitting there at midnight watching this movie I don’t think I cared really I just got lost in the amazing sound system they had in the Pictureville cinema at the museum.  With a sound system as good as this it really hits you just how important sounds are to a movie like the Exorcist.  Hearing the demonic sounds and constant ravings of Regan as she is possessed floating around the in all directions around you really adds to the creepy effect of the movie which still manages to have an impact after all these years.  I’ve been to a few midnight showings of this Exorcist but I’d say this was the best one.

The main feeling I had after the first day of the festival was that it was a huge success for both me as a horror fan catching up with all these classic movies and getting to see new movies and also a success for the museum itself.  Most of the movies ran from film and it’s quite an nostalgic feeling to be able to hear the projector start up and also hear it clicking away in the background as the movie plays.  Some of the movies had aged with time and were a bit worse for wear but that also added to the magic and to be honest I don’t want these movies to look perfect when I’m at a festival like that, seeing the scratches on the film and the odd hole that has started to appear adds to the atmosphere and the enjoyment.  Next time I will cover day two where I’ll probably ramble on about Hobo with a Shotgun way too much.

DAY TWO

As I moved into the second day of the movie festival my first thought was realising that I’d gone to bed at four in the morning and I was waking up at seven for another full day of movies.  Yes I was tired, but once I got back to the festival though it was time to stop yawning and get back to the movies.

Clash of the Titans
This was the first and probably only chance I will ever have to see this movie on the big screen (yes it was the original not the CGI remake) and I loved every minute of it.  This is one of those movies that almost everybody has grown up watching and it’s always a delight to see.

The Vampire Lovers
The first movie in the the Karnstein Trilogy is pure Hammer horror.  The gothic sets, Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt; you can’t go wrong.  I do like it though because it has its own original take on the Vampire legend and it felt quite unique instead of just being another Dracula re-hash but with a female lead.

Lust for the Vampire
What can be said about the second movie in the Karnstein trilogy? Not a lot really, it’s bad.  It’s so bad though that if you go into it with a view of mocking the hell out of it, you actually find it entertaining.  It attempted to be a campy Vampire horror but fails so hilariously.  With the wooden acting of Yutte Stensgaard and the perfectly hammy acting of Mike Raven it just becomes a parody of itself but one that is important as being the second movie of the trilogy.  It will at least always be memorable for the “Strange Love” scene and constant reuse of the “HEART ATTACK!” scene (just watch it and you’ll see what I mean).

Twins of Evil
For the people who survived Lust for the Vampire (or had left to save themselves from that movie and come back for this one) we were back to Hammer greatness.  Peter Cushing returns to the trilogy but as a completely different character than in the first one.  In this he’s a witch hunter who rides through the woods around the village he lives yelling at beautiful women about how they are witches then burning them at the stake, yes he’s part of a cultish group of serial killers pretty much.  When his twin nieces come to visit they are tempted by the wicked Lord Karnstein as revenge against their uncle which leads to the confrontation between witch hunter and vampire.  The best moment in this movie for me had to be the moment Peter Cushing says his most cheesiest line “Satan has sent me twins of evil!”.

Hobo with a Shotgun
This was the movie I was looking forward to the most in the festival and it did not let me down at all.  If anything I’d say its Toxic Avenger but with Toxie swapped for a Hobo and his mop for a shotgun, then of course turn it up by about a million.  Ever had one of those days where you just wanted to buy a lawn mower and be able to cut grass for a living instead of being a hobo? Well that’s the basic premise for this movie.  Of course if the Hobo got his lawn mower this would be a pretty boring movie.  Instead he finally has enough of the bad guys winning and gives up his dream, buying a shotgun instead of his dream mower, he decides to clean up the city one shell at a time.  This movie is gory, it’s violent and it takes a shot at breaking every taboo a movie can break and it manages it.  Yes it may be too extreme for some but if you are a Troma fan, or a fan of the recent Grindhouse style outlandish violence you will love this.  Rutger Hauer is at his best and any movie fan knows that when he’s at his best you are in for a real treat.

Hobo with a Shotgun was an excellent way to end the second day, it re-fuelled my flagging energy levels for the third day which would include being able to finally see C.H.U.D and enjoy the Re-Animator on the big screen for the first time.

DAY THREE

So, to the last day of the festival and I was actually feeling less tired as I managed to get some sleep. My main highlight I knew would be Re-Animator but I knew I would also be able to see some classic horror movies I’d not yet seen.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
This movie is the kind that offers more questions by the end that it answers, but for that reason it works even better. Jessica is almost certainly crazy, but strangely enough so is everybody else around her. Half between a ghost and a vampire story Jessica finds she has to work out just what is real and what is in her head but I’d argue one theory has to be everything is in her head because it’s all just that crazy. With its creepy atmosphere and insane environment this was a little gem that I’d both not heard of and rather enjoyed.

C.H.U.D
As soon as this movie starts you can tell it’s going to be crazy. It’s not everyday somebody gets dragged down in a sewer while walking passed a manhole in the middle of the night (thinking about that there are quite a few movies where that happens). I liked the old school conspiracy feel of this movie as the government try to hide the toxic waste that mutates the “underground dwellers” that live below the members of the more “normal” society in the sewers. This is a cult classic that most horror fans have either seen already or have on their must see lists, and I’m happy to say that it most definitely is one to see.

British Horror Revival
British Horror Revival was a collection of short stories showcasing the work of Ashley Thorpe & Robert Nevitt. Although there were technical difficulties that got in the way of viewing some of the shorts I have to say I really enjoyed them. The highlight for me was Ashley Thorpe’s Scayrecrow which used animation to tell the story of a ghostly highwayman. I mostly enjoyed his use of homages in his animation which kept my interest as I saw actors from the old Hammer movies interwoven seamlessly into the scenes, and noting that part of the story took part in an inn called the Slaughtered Lamb was a hidden treat I quite enjoyed.

With Robert Nevitt’s shorts the highlight for me was a story called Fragile which was a Lovecraft style tale of why delivery men should never go snooping in the basements of office buildings. Also of note was Mortified which was a humorous take on a child’s game of hide and seek, the little said about it the better or it would spoilt the punch line.

Whistle and I’ll Come To You; followed by Jonathan Miller in Conversation with Christopher Frayling
Whistle and I’ll Come To You was a very enjoyable of M.R James’s short story. Having seen this one recently by in a newer BBC adaption with John Hurt it was nice to re-visit this older version and confirm it to be the best. More humorous than the new this version is also a lot more interesting as it catches interest with its dark humour where the more up to date version is more serious which was not to my liking.

The conversation with Jonathan Miller after the screening was very interesting as he talked about the psychology of not only this story but other works that he directed such as Alice in Wonderland. Hearing him talk candidly about people like Peter Sellers and Peter Cooke really was a highlight of the talk.

Re-Animator
Re-animated bodies, heads and killer dead cats what else would you need to end a movie festival? The unrated cut of the movie of course. Notorious for the scene were the decapitated doctors head gets rather intimate with his female victim (let’s just say it gives new meaning to giving head) this American unrated version of the movie showed everything that until recently had been cut out of the English cut. This is one of those movies that if you have the stomach you just love. A must see for gore hounds and very enjoyable on the big screen.

So that was the end of the film festival which for fans of classical and more up to date was a pure joy to attend. There was an announcement that this could be the last one but that’s something I hope is not true as I know it will be a festival I will be attending every year if I can make it. While there may be bigger festivals such as the FrightFest’s there is a need for this type of festival “up north” this is unafraid to embrace the more classic horror movies and at a time when people are campaigning for more classics on TV, maybe they should be actually taking notice at festivals such as this that provide just what they are asking for.

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