For horror fans up in the north of England, and arguably across the country Grimmfest is an unmissable line-up of some of the best upcoming and ‘ones to watch’ of the genre.
This years event once again saw some of films biggest and best showcase of horror films from across the globe, including Manchester film director, Andrew Goth’s latest mind-boggling offering, DxM, which premiered on the final day of the festival. As usual, the organisers of Grimmfest appeared to have thought long and hard about the films on offer, and the programme offered a varied and interesting collection of classic cult horrors in the form of Hellraiser, recent sequels to previous hits, new kids on the block and even documentaries.
With Halloween on the horizon, now is the perfect time to check out these highlights of the festival, perhaps with one exception.
If anyone out there has ever experienced sleep paralysis, or even the occasional nightmare then they will be able to understand the sheer indescribable terror which taunts them in the comfort of their own home.
What American documentary director Rodney Ascher has admirably attempted, and succeeded in doing, is to tap into the mind of several individuals who suffer with the relatively uncommon phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Each subject interviewed throughout The Nightmare has suffered one or more forms of the disorder, which they describe in bone-chilling detail.
Throughout the documentary the audience is subjected to the terrifying re-enactment of nightmarish characters including the ‘shadow men’ and the alien-like creatures with plastered on smiles and Ascher has done a great job of locating a number of dynamic characters, each with a very different story to tell. Amazingly so, given the Grimmfest location, there is even a Manchester man who suffers with the terror on a nightly basis.
If you are expecting answers to the age-old question, ‘what causes sleep paralysis?’ then expect to leave feeling pretty empty-handed. But if you are interested in a fascinating and horrifying insight into the plight of sleep paralysis, you should prepare yourself for an hour and half of chills, looking over your shoulder, and not being able to sleep comfortably for a week after.
The Nightmare is a concise and well-thought-out documentary with plenty of food for thought.
A Christmas Horror Story
William Shatner fans will be delighted by this festive fright fest, which brings more laughs to the table than genuine scares.
A Christmas Horror Story, directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan is an entertaining smorgasbord of short interwoven stories. Like most coherent anthologies, A Christmas Horror Story has an over-arching theme, which is where our old friend Shatner comes in.
As the narrator, Shatner plays a washed up radio DJ seeing his sparse audience through one unfortunate Christmas Eve. As he becomes more and more inebriated throughout his show, each of the four stories comes to its bizarre but thoroughly amusing crunch.
The stories follow a group of teenagers locked in their schools basement, a family who bring home more than they bargain for when they go Christmas tree hunting, a family of sinners who must be punished, and a zombie-fighting Santa who must fight off his hoard of infected elves. The Krampus, a justice-giving demon who preys on the souls of the wicked on Christmas Eve was bound to make an appearance, and so it does, and even during the films big reveal this grumpy Grinch does not disappoint —while viewers will be delighted to see that the folklore classic, the changeling, is also incorporated into one of the four stories.
Each narrative in itself is entertaining, albeit more creepy than terrifying, so for hardcore horror fans, it is possible that A Christmas Horror Story might miss the mark on scares. Still, if you are looking for an entertaining bit of festive fun, this ever-changing black comedy with plenty of unexpected twists and turns may just be for you.
Antisocial 2 proves to be a bittersweet collection of horror triumphs and unfortunate misses.
The 2015 offering follows on from the 2013 debut film from director Cody Calahan, in which the main heroine, Sam, encounters the Social Redroom virus which infects users and turns them into violent zombies.
Much like its predecessor, Antisocial 2 begins well, following Sam through the post-apocalyptic world in which the Redroom virus has destroyed society. After her son is cruelly snatched away from her at birth, Sam is then kidnapped and taken to a complex where the experiments begin.
It is there where she meets Bean, a likeable ‘defect’ who has also survived the Redroom virus, and the two strike up a friendship despite their unfortunate circumstances. Sam is desperate to find her child, but as she is trapped and tortured it looks unlikely that she will succeed before the virus reaches 100% of the update.
The tragedy of this film is that the potential for a clever and satisfying storyline is there — the characters are likeable and the idea of a social media virus is not too far-fetched to be totally unbelievable — but for all of that the film fails to deliver at the crunch. As the virus edges closer to upgrade, the narrative steers violently off course and the sympathy for each character wanes as the audience struggles to grasp the muddled conclusion.
Antisocial 2 is entertaining, and it is worth a watch until the last 10 per cent of the download. Unfortunately an incoherent finale destroys some great potential.
As Sam Neill comes into shot within the first five minutes, hopes are high for DxM, a futuristic film following the lives of a group of students studying quantum science. But 20 minutes in, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the appeal, or the point of the narrative.
The main foundation of the plot is a fascinating one: how would a group of students restore mobility to a man who is completely paralysed? As our world becomes increasingly efficient with medical advances it is great to see what the outcome could be if we continued to progress with biological discoveries, but it seemed that this concept was not enough for director Goth, who for some reason feels the need to take the film away from the digestible idea of mind and body and attempts to take it beyond its parameters.
Along with acting legend, Sam Neill, the film also stars Guardians of the Galaxy’s Melia Kreiling, Tom Payne of The Physician and even world-champion free-runner Ryan Doyle in his first feature film — and every one of them does a fine job for their part, but alas this is not enough to explain the confused tangents explored throughout the messy plot.
The concepts behind the film’s story are new and exciting enough, and had they been explored in a cohesive way DxM could have been a mind-bender like no other. Unfortunately though its incoherent portrayal of an unrealistic future will likely leave you confused and disappointed.