I really enjoyed Horrorthon film festival in Dublin when I went in 2014 but missed the last two years due to other commitments. I didn’t want to miss out again this year so I made a special effort to keep the bank holiday clear in order to see as many movies as possible. I really enjoy the mix of screenings: from older “classics” which can be great to see on the big screen, to new movies which I don’t have any expectations about, and also discovering different documentaries.
I went along to the opening night (a Thursday after work) on the strength of the buzz surrounding Tragedy Girls (2017), which stars Alexandra Ship and Brianna Hildebrand (both from X-men-related fame). This decision proved to be a good one as the film ended up being my favourite of the festival. It was funny, the lead characters had great chemistry and there were lots of sly homages to classic movies, including a particularly inspired Cannibal Holocaust set piece. The surprisingly bleak ending was refreshing: refusing to let the girls off the hook for, basically, being monsters.
I also bought a full day pass for the Saturday and Sunday and wanted to see as many films as I could over those two days. Saturday started with the “classic” Eaten Alive (1976), by Tobe Hooper. Now, I’m a big defender of Hooper’s work post Texas: I love Poltergeist, Salems Lot and Lifeforce, but this was just awful. The soundtrack was like nails on a blackboard and the characters were somehow even less palatable. Apart from one good scene of crocodile-related carnage it was mostly a tedious experience.
I got far more enjoyment out of the Hitchcock documentary 78/52 (2017), as I do enjoy listening to people analysing great movies (and it inspired me to watch the original film again). The next film, Tag (2015), was one of the few films representing J-horror at the festival. From the trailer (seriouly, dig it out) I knew it was going to be bizarre and I sort of verged between hating it and loving it as it went along, but in the end I was won over as it somehow created a coherent ending out of seemingly unconnected set pieces.
The best film of the day was undoubtably the Brazilian shocker Our Evil (2017). This started out as a weird mix of torture porn and dark drama before turning into a sort of Lynchian supernatural fantasy. It was properly disturbing and scary and kept me guessing throughout. Next for me was Victor Crowley (2017) a sequel to the Hatchet film series which I haven’t seen. While the film isn’t really my thing, I can appreciate why people enjoy it and I must admit I laughed and jumped in all the right places.
I ended my Saturday with Fashionista (2016). Midnight is not the best time to sit down for a Nicolas Roeg-inspired art film, but Amanda Fuller’s performance was so compelling that I kept awake (although someone did snore through the entire movie) and was glad that I stayed up.
I started my Sunday with the documentary King Cohen (2017), which was a very entertaining romp about a very charismatic film maker. I also enjoyed the short films selection and, while there were too many to mention, I was particularly impressed by animated film Winston (2017) about paranoia in a remote locale and Spanish dark comedy RIP (2017) about a man who ruins his own funeral by waking up alive, only to have his mother and wife try to kill him so that they won’t lose face.
Every year the secret film is the most popular: when I was there in 2014 it was the The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake (which I enjoyed), and in 2015 it was The Witch which is an awesome film. This year I was genuinely worried it would be the awful-looking Leatherface, but thankfully it wasn’t. It was weird watching a Christmas film in October, but as soon as the carol singers kicked in I knew it was Better Watch Out (2017). The pitch is “Home Alone as a horror film” but, although there were some timely digs at male chauvinistic behaviour, it wasn’t funny or violent enough to really work. Weirdly, it didn’t even seem to make use of the Christmas setting and overall it was a bit of a let down. (PS. I’m in the minority here it seems).
68 Kill (2017) was my last film of this year and it was as offensive and bad taste as any exploitation film, but it made for a welcome jolt in the arm after the lacklustre Better Watch Out. It was so fast moving and incredibly funny that it was easy to forgive the grossness; the plot was held together by Matthew Grubler’s likeable performance, and some great evil characters played by Anna Lynne McCord and Sheila Vand. From the reactions around me it was a real crowd pleaser and a fitting end (for us) at the festival.