29th Jan2018

Horror-on-Sea 2018: Weekend One Report

by Philip Rogers

The Horror-on- Sea Film Festival is Southend’s annual horror event, which showcases the talents of Independent filmmakers, through shorts and features over two weekends. This is the 6th year it has been running and judging by the turn out for the first weekend this is going to be there biggest event yet.


Day 1: Friday 19th January


Short – Daughter of the Lake
A group of friends looking to getaway for the weekend, but following a flat tire, things soon start to take a more sinister turn. This horror blends in a mixture of ideas for a busy first short to start the day.

Short – Not Alone
Social media is proven to be deadly when your alone in this short but effective horror.

Feature – Islamic Exorcist
A UK premier for this India horror, which offers a unique take on a possession, and is based on a true story. Writer and director Faisal Saif does well to gradually build up the tension in this creepy horror, which features a memorable performance from Bollywood actress Kavita Radheshyam as Ayesha Khan. Make sure you watch until the end for the final twist, although don’t expect it to be a comedy ending just because it is produced by Ali G.


Short – Mea Maxima Culpa
A slow-paced period horror which gives a chilling take on Edgar Allen Poe’s, Tell Tale Heart.

Short – Mountain King.
Madness and depression leaves a woman wondering if something is really there or is it her imagination?

Feature – Pitchfork
Creating a balance between the comedy and horror in equal measure, Pitchfork has plenty of laughs during the first half of the film where we are introduced to the characters, but the film quickly takes a darker turn when Pitchfork decides to join the fun. Pitchfork embraces elements of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) with its raw horror, whilst creating a new unique animalistic villain with Pitchfork, who is portrayed with plenty of energy and enthusiasm by Daniel Wilkinson.


Short – The Plan
An intelligent dark and twisted horror which sees a monster making his plans to change the world

Short- Monitor Against Mexicans over Nationwide
With Donald Trump undergoing heart surgery, a portal to another reality opens. As Mexicans are thrown over a wall surrounding America, a giant trump like robot begins to hunt them down in this. Surreal, imaginative and extremely funny short.

Feature – Darken
in a mixture of Sci-Fi and Horror the Darken takes us through a labyrinth world is this stylish action-packed film from director Audrey Cummings. After trying to help a woman on the street Eve is propelled her into a violent prison-like world of labyrinthine rooms. She has no choice but to fight for survival alongside the allies who are rebelling against t a self-appointed religious despot who demands allegiance to an all-powerful god called Mother Darken. This is only the beginning for the darken and the film leaves the door open for a continuation in the upcoming web series. It is an impressive start which really does prove that #DarkenProvides


Short – Downunder
Although this Spanish short didn’t have English subtitles, that didn’t affect he enjoyment of this dark comedy thanks to the offbeat performances from the cast.

Feature – Blessed are the Children
A solid thriller which deals with the taboo subject of abortion in America, whilst taking visual inspiration from the classic Gallio horror films and Brian De Palma in its gory execution. The film takes time to builds up the tense atmosphere and has some great performances from the talented cast, but the highlight has to be Arian Thigpen who steals the film with her comical timing once she has a drink on her date.


Short – Judge
When a pub regular is offered money by a stranger and his dog, things take tense turn in this horror which despite its simple premise brilliants builds on the tension with an effective twist.

Feature – Mask of Thorn
The main feature for the night and world premiere, Mask of Thorn is the latest film in the Mycho universe, from writer and director MJ Dixon. The film manages to replicate the feel of an 80’s slasher which has been crossed with The Terminator (1984), whilst still in keeping with the unique look and style to the film which has become synonymous to Mycho Productions. The perfect choice for Friday night’s feature, Mask of Thorn was played to a sell-out audience and continues. The best film of the day which features great performances from Eve Kathryn Oliver as Bethany Lovell and Maria Lee Metheringham as Mina Adams who really stand out in the film.


Feature – Dead Love
An unlike any love story you have seen before. A deliciously dark comedy, involving cannibalism, murder, and a sexual relationship with a table voiced by Emily Booth. The concept sets it up as a ridiculous off the wall comedy, but with the grounded performances of the two leads (James Hamer-Morton and Victoria Smith) delivering a sense of normality to the unusual scenarios, makes this a brilliantly clever love story that’s not for the faint hearted.

Day 2: Saturday 19th January


Short – Devil Town
One of my favourite shorts of the weekend, dealing with paranoia which creates a unique take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and the perfect film to get you in the mood for another day of horror.

Short – Happy Valentines
A romantic valentines’ dinner has a dark twist when there are strange noises coming from the cellar.

Feature – Holy Terrors
6 unique stories from Welsh writer Arthur Machen are brought to the screen in this experimental horror. Each of the stories are represented differently with their own unique look and style, creating a haunting dreamlike vision which works brilliantly when accompanied by the spoken narrative from the book.


Short – Weird World of Molly Brown
A bizarre mixture of short comedy sketches, from a man developing a relationship with a prawn to singing skeletons. These brilliant shorts are creative as they were funny.

Short – Chihuahua Man
The title gives you an indication of what to expect from this madcap comedy. This short is about Chloe meeting her future father-in-law for the first time. Little does she know, he has a condition that will turn Christmas lunch upside down.

Feature – Egomaniac
Based on the experience of the films writer and director Kate Shenton. Egomaniac blurs the line between fact and fiction in this very dark comedy which had me laughing throughout, and seemed to hit home with many of the filmmakers in the audience. Nic Lamont is excellent in the role as the unhinged Catherine Sweeney whose sanity is gradually taken away, and delivers my favourite line of the weekend. When she is told that she has “Spoken like a true filmmaker” she replies “No, not a filmmaker, I am an egomaniac”


Talk – Pat Higgins Masterclass: Fear and Film
The afternoon was double booked with two options. Although I was tempted by the shorts Extinction, Precious and the feature zombie horror Escaping the Dead, I decided to take a break from films and attend the Pat Higgins Masterclass: Fear and Film, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend. Pat Higgins is no stranger to Horror-on-Sea has done a masterclass every year since it started. The masterclass is an interactive experience in which Pat engages with the audience. Informative, clever and as expected with Pat’s experience in stand up very funny.


Short – Flytipper
An inventive comedy which combines the classic monster movies, with a modern problem of fly tipping.

Short – Life of the Party
A clever play on the name in this eerie horror which shows how some people can just kill a party.

Feature – Witches Brew
A world premier from Horror-on-Sea favourite Eileen Daly. Accurately described by Eileen as Benny Hill meets Hammer Horror this horror comedy sees the return of the scooby gang as they take on a haunting from a group of succubus witches who are sucking the lifeforce of men to stay young. An off the wall comedy that works really well because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, delivering a mixture of slapstick, burlesque and double entendres, there are plenty of laughs to be had.


Short – Alex
Alex is a mature entry from a young director Luke Jennings who was 13 when he directed the film, about a boy who is left with his drunken stepfather after his mother and brother are killed in a car crash. Really intelligent short which shows potential as someone to watch in the future.

Short – Baby Monitor
Whilst a couple is trying to watch a cult horror film, something seems to be causing the baby to stir. Things quickly take a sinister turn in this atmospheric horror and tense horror.

Feature – The Snarling
The Snarling returns to Horror-on-Sea for a second time and was welcomes back with a sell-out crowd. Some films just seem to work and with a brilliant script and amazing comical timing from the cast, The Snarling was the best film of the weekend. With homages to the genre including An American Werewolf in London (1981), it manages to replicate the formula of balancing between the comedy and horror. There were so many great performances from the cast, but Laurence Saunders stands out with an amazing performance in the film as both Les Jarvis and Greg Lupeen.


Short – AR
Augmented Reality a great film for those who play the AR games on their phones. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Feature – Mania
The late-night feature Saturday from Jessica Cameron is an ultra-violent road movie, which is perfectly described in the tag line as a “Fucked up lesbian love story”. More than just a serial killer version of Thelma and Louise (1991), Mania doesn’t hold back on the violence and delivers some creative visual moments, especially in some of the more surreal dream sequences. The two leads work brilliantly in the film and have some good chemistry on screen, but it was Ellie Church as Mel who really impressed, with her character having to hold it all together and clean up the mess.

Day 3: Sunday 21st January


Short – Nick
When an obscure poetry gig turns out to be a cult, things soon take a dark turn into this tense take on what length people will go for their beliefs and to be accepted.

Feature – Beast
There is a fantastic story behind Chris Jupp and his remake of Michael J. Murphy’s lost film Skare. It may have taken four years to make and even longer to get a release, but what he has managed to achieve on a budget of £500 is really impressive. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but a great story and solid execution shows that hard work can really pay off.


Short – Fugly
Whilst meeting a woman he met online at her house notices a mysterious picture on the kitchen wall drawn by her son of his imaginary friend called Benji and something sinister in his imagination.

Feature – Crispy’s Curse
A horror comedy in which an evil clown called Crispy comes back from the dead to go on a murderous. The only people who can stop his carnage are Messiah Fist, a Christian heavy metal band, paranormal ghost hunters and a psychic. Crispy’s Curse is a crazy as it sounds and has some hilariously inventive kills from the psychotic crispy. Derek Acorah has a great cameo where he parodies himself as Stan Baptiste, but it is Darren McAree who really steals the film with his over the top performance as Alon Baptiste.


Short – The Welcoming
A dark short which follows a young girl who wanders off on her own into the forest. A chilling build up and some great effects which create a hauntingly memorable vision towards the end.

Short – The End
Director Chris Gallagher’s second submission in the festival which was also filmed as the same time as his main feature Dead Love. Barricaded in a room to save themselves from the apocalypse outside and with nowhere to go.

Feature – Seizure
When a trafficking exchange goes wrong a group of criminals go into hiding, but with a supernatural curse surrounding the young girl things soon get complicated the group and no one is safe. I was impressed with Seizure which tries to create something different with the films themes, dealing as much with the predicament of the characters who are trying to figure out how to complete the exchange as the horror elements of the curse. It was a good first feature from co-directors Jamie Cymbal and Ryan Simons and I look forward to what they produce in the future.


Short – Stag Do
Sometimes stag night pranks can go a little bit too far and sometimes there can be consequences can be deadly in this clever short.

Short – Hush
A man gets awoken by the sound of his wife talking to their baby, but he soon realises now all is what it seems in this surprising horror.

Feature – Pumpkins
There was some secrecy regarding what we can expect from Maria Lee Metheringham’s horror, which had its world premiere at Horror-on-Sea. But now the film has finally been shown I can confirm that Pumpkins is an atmospheric 80’s style slasher which introduces us to a new horror icon The Pumpkin Man. The films offers a mixture of comedy and horror with the story unfolding differently to what you may have originally expect, especially the way some of the act when things start to go wrong. The film has some memorable characters including Georgia Annable as Macie and a tough as nails cameo from Maria Lee Metheringham as Shelly, but it is Danny Thompson who steals the scenes as the cockney no nonsense landlady Pam.

Check out the gallery of images from the first weekend of 2018’s Horror-On-Sea below, courtesy of J. Douglas Imagery:


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