On October 2nd the third annual GoreZone International Film Festival got under way at Leicester Square’s Prince Charles Cinema; and for the first time ever, Dread was on the scene to check it out. Our report follows along with condensed reviews of six of the films shown over the weekend.
Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, Breath of Hate, Hyenas, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer, New Terminal Hotel, Darfur, and Devil’s Playground are all included, but first a recap of the event and awards show.
In the face of fellow Leicester Square-based festival and horror heavy hitter, Film4 Frightfest, GoreZone (or GZ, as the magazine has rebranded) would appear to be the underdog. Having experienced the festival first-hand, however, it’s pleasing to discover a level of intimacy and audience connection that is easily lost amongst the hustle and bustle of many larger profile fests, bolstered by the cosy (and immensely comfortable) surroundings of the two-screen Prince Charles Cinema.
Presented by GZ’s resident horror hotties, Emily Booth and Christa Campbell, the two days of the fest played host to an eclectic, and often surprising, bunch of genre offerings alongside the magazine’s first ever live awards ceremony featuring plenty of celebrity guests. The early morning opening offered a jolt to punters’ bleary systems not only through the abundance of free cans of Monster energy drink provided by the sponsor, but also a brilliant sword-swallowing live show by “Hannibal Helmurto”, straight from the UK’s Circus of Horrors – who even went as far as walking around the audience so everyone could feel the authenticity of his surgically modified floating upper ribs. Just what you need to wake you up for a day of carnage!
As per usual for any fest, many of the screenings featured Q&A sessions with filmmakers and stars including Breath of Hate director Sean Cain; Life Blood (aka Pearblossom, aka Murder World) director Ron Carlson and actress Anya Lahiri; and Devil’s Playground director Mark McQueen, who was joined on stage by actors Craig Fairbrass and Craig Conway.
Recorded for broadcast next month on the LAVA TV channel in the UK and The Fusion Network in the US, the awards certainly had a character all their own. The lack of a teleprompter saw that main hosts Booth and Campbell were relegated to reading their lines at the podium from a few sheets of paper printed, as exclaimed by an exceptionally good-humoured Emily, in the tiniest font imaginable. This sense of humour permeated the entire proceedings and ensured that everyone – audience, guests, and winners alike – had an absolute blast. The intro to the ceremony included a troupe of ghoulish live actors invading the seating and stage to shake up punters and, ultimately, savage a screaming victim for all to see. Special props need to be extended to one particular actress who quite unsettlingly crawled around the floor, manipulating her joints and making a high pitched clicking noise that, quite frankly, was not something that should ever come from a human throat.
Purists may balk at the lack of high-class sheen and intermittent issues such as spelling errors in nominee projections and technical hitches, but for a first run at this type of event, magazine editor Bryn Hammond and the GZ crew approached their task with just the right amount of enthusiasm and lighthearted camaraderie. Feeling more like a family get-together than a suited and booted occasion, nobody was left feeling uninvolved or unwelcome. Surprise guest appearances were in full force, including the unexpected attendance of Taiwanese black metal band Cthonic’s diminutive (and lovely) bassist Doris Yeh and the undeniably legendary Doug Bradley.
Winners of the awards were voted by the GZ Magazine crew and readers, and for your perusal, here is the full list of those who walked away trophy in hand:
Best Director: Gerard Johnson for Tony
Best Horror: Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl
Best Thriller: Across the Hall
Best British Horror: Temptation
Best Soundtrack: OST – Mark Isham: The Crazies
Goremate of the Year: Doris Yeh
Goremale of the Year: Chris Divecchio
Best Cover Star: Suzie Kennedy
Best Distribution Company of 2010: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Outstanding Contribution to the Horror Industry: Doug Bradley
Congratulations to the winners, and to all who made it to the final nominations! Footage of the ceremony should also be appearing on a GZ Magazine cover DVD soon.
All in all, GoreZone’s fest is an irrefutably welcoming way to spend a weekend and an event that we’ll definitely be attending again. So should you.
Now, no event report is ever complete without a selection of photos to give you a look at what you missed, and truth be told we did manage to accumulate a huge number of really great shots to bring you guys. All this proved to be for naught; as in a rare moment of uncharacteristic absent-mindedness, after browsing through the day’s snaps, yours truly left the camera sitting on a table in a central London bar only to discover it had mysteriously disappeared when the mistake was noticed.
To those out there who deem it appropriate to pocket the belongings of others rather than do the right thing and hand them over to staff: I hate you. Dread Central hates you, and our readers hate you. I’ll bet you even hate yourselves – and you fucking well should. Scumbags.
With that out of the way, here are a few photos we did manage to pull together (thanks to Bryn for allowing us to nab a few of his snaps), and on the next page begin our mini-reviews of the movies that we managed to catch: What should you be looking out for? What should you avoid? Read on!
Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet
The local legend of murderess Mary Mattock spawns one small town’s annual night of mischief: Blood Night. Danielle Harris joins the cast as a group of partying teenagers mess with an Ouija board on Mary’s grave before finding themselves being bloodily offed in standard slasher fashion. Surprisingly high quality for what appeared to be a no-budget quickie, Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet is a well acted and unapologetically old-school slice of gory fun. The teens are well drawn and the script is tight and accessible, sporting some quick-fire dialogue delivered with authentic aplomb by the players alongside a healthy dose of humour. The physical gore effects are first-rate, but plausibility occasionally wears thin, and most will see the killer’s identity coming from a mile away. Genre legend Bill Moseley pops up in a small role as local kook Graveyard Gus.
3 1/2 out of 5
Breath of Hate
Director/producer Sean Cain (Someone’s Knocking at the Door) brings another nightmarish story to life with this tale of call-girl Love (Lauren Walsh), who decides to take one more job before abandoning the escort business to shack up with boyfriend Ned (Jason Mewes). Unfortunately, her clients on this particular occasion happen to be a trio of escaped mental patients led by the intelligent and philosophical Hate (Ezra Buzzington). As the girls are abused and murdered, Ned leads his own search through the seedy world of prostitution in an attempt to find Love before it’s too late.
Cain’s film is an engaging, tense, often humorous and thoughtful piece of work. Marked by sexual perversion and frustration, it may prove slightly uncomfortable for some – however, it’s definitely worth it if only for a scene involving one character graphically getting his jollies with half a melon. It does tend to drag somewhat at points and takes a little too long to truly get going. More time to flesh out the characters completely would have been welcome – especially Mewes’ Ned. Some may feel cheated by the culmination of Love’s experience, but it works, even if it doesn’t deliver on the supernatural or philosophical level that the rest of the setup appears to promise.
Buzzington once again proves himself a formidable screen presence with his memorable villain, and the script remains witty, disturbing, upfront, and aloof all at the same time. The final scene is great, too.
3 out of 5
Costas Mandylor stars as an average Joe turned monster hunter when his wife and child are killed by a clan of shape-shifting human hyenas, led by soon-to-be-alpha-female Christa Campbell.
Quite frankly, there’s barely any way to describe this flick that could do it justice. An absolute train wreck of the highest magnitude, Hyenas sports a plot that appears to have been written by a twelve-year-old with severe learning difficulties, direction and editing that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, a bafflingly horrible score and selection of sound effects (seriously, hyenas laughing is NOT scary), some of the worst CGI you’ll ever see, and dialogue so stunningly atrocious I simply can’t fathom how the filmmakers managed to convince the cast to spout it. For example:
“Your wife wasn’t the only killing!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That there have been OTHER KILLINGS!”
“The name’s Briggs. Folks round here mostly call me…CRAZY BRIGGS.”
“Are you OK?”
*Shot of female character’s face…vacant stare…shot goes on…and on…*
Every single minute of this movie delivers something new to laugh at, whether it’s awkward dialogue, major plot holes (how come the shape-shifters need to remove their garments to turn into hyenas but can turn back to human and be immediately fully clothed?), or even just the actors’ facial expressions. Most of the flick seems to be an exercise in just how many times it’s possible to show Christa Campbell’s breasts sans nipples. When the climax hits, there are just too many instances of hilarity that you can’t help but believe it’s intentional; but Hyenas is played with such straight-faced resolve it results in being the single biggest accidental laugh riot since Day of the Dead 2: Contagium and James Nguyen’s Birdemic. Mandylor’s final shot will go down in bad movie history, and that’s all I’m going to say.
5 out of 5 Hyena Heads
Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer
Danielle Harris takes on the role of reporter Maria, who is making a television documentary about serial killer Cyrus Dancer, the “County Line Cannibal”. When she’s contacted by a man named Emmett (Lance Henriksen), who claims to have been the disappeared killer’s best friend, Maria and her cameraman sit down to listen to his story. Ultimately, Emmett seems to have a little too many in-depth details about Cyrus’ reign of murder for comfort.
Delivered mainly in flashback form narrated by Henriksen, the film stars Brian Krause as the older Cyrus for most of the runtime as the audience is taken through his abusive childhood (featuring an unsettlingly seedy turn from Tiffany Shepis as Cyrus’ mother); the failed relationship that eventually leads to his psychotic break, and ultimately his final range of killings. Director Mark Vadik delivers the story of Cyrus in an exceptionally frank and straightforward manner, eschewing visual and directorial spectacle in a way that really does fit with the material. The film also sports a methodical pace but never outstays its welcome, while notice should also be given to the very high quality score. Krause is outstanding as the brooding, psychopathic Cyrus, and Henriksen has much more material to stick his teeth into than most of his recent DVD efforts have afforded. The film’s main downfall is that it simply doesn’t offer anything new or surprising: Cyrus’ character is the textbook serial killer with the textbook serial killer past, and it never really succeeds in being a thoughtful exploration of the mind of a murderer. While Madik respectfully avoids going into exploitative territory with the gore, the approach leaves the film middling on both levels. Still, it’s a competently made and engaging piece of work that’s definitely worth a try.
3 out of 5
New Terminal Hotel
Stephen Geoffreys heads up the cast here as failing screenwriter Don Malek. Hiding out in the New Terminal Hotel on skid row, Malek exacts bloody revenge on the Hollywood producer responsible for his fiancée’s death. Facing regular visits from his agent (Tiffany Shepis), Malek keeps up the façade that he’s using his activities there as inspiration for a new blockbuster, meanwhile murdering those around him that he can’t abide.
New Terminal Hotel is one of the most mind-numbingly boring films I’ve witnessed all year. The dialogue is trite and uninspired, Geoffreys’ performance is unbearably sedate, and the pacing is non-existent. Director B.C. Furtney appears to want to craft a Hitchcockian slow burner but is defeated by the fact that just about zilch actually happens for the entirety of the film besides endless talking about nothing of any substance whatsoever. The murder scenes are just as plodding as the rest of the narrative, and that seals the movie’s fate. The only reason to even consider seeing this is Ezra Buzzington’s appearance as Don’s violent and bitter wheelchair-bound neighbour. This film also marks the final screen appearance of Corey Haim before his untimely death. An unfortunate send-off.
0 out of 5
Uwe Boll joins the canon of filmmakers who have tackled real-life atrocities with his uncompromising look at the humanitarian situation in Sudan. A group of American documentary makers covering the ongoing murder, rape, and genocide in the Darfur region find themselves in a moral quandary when the village they are visiting is invaded by a rampaging Janjaweed militia. Allowed to leave before the merciless killing begins, they must decide whether to risk their own lives trying to save the villagers or simply report on the aftermath.
Darfur is an incredible, and important, film: Raw, passionate, and distressingly emotional – it goes straight for the gut and doesn’t back down. Boll continues his legacy of gaining top-class actors with an exceptional cast including Kristanna Loken, Billy Zane, Edward Furlong, Matt Frewer, and a stunningly powerful performance from David O’Hara. Plenty of hand-held camerawork lends an authentic, and somewhat chaotic, touch; and unflinching portrayals of rape and murder – including men, women, children, and babies – are painfully brutal but never exploitative. A heavy hitter that will have you thinking about it for days, Darfur is easily the best film of Boll’s career so far.
4 1/2 out of 5
Like a mix between 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, Mark McQueen’s confident debut sees London overrun by protruding-veined, virus-infected flesh-eaters. Danny Dyer stars as an ex-policeman with his own emotional baggage released on bail just in time for the city to go to hell. Next to him is Craig Fairbrass as a beefy security agent trying to track down Dyer’s girlfriend – whose immunity may hold the key to a cure.
Devil’s Playground is a fast-paced and enjoyable entry into the zombie genre, even if it doesn’t offer anything particularly new. The script is well written and our lead characters anything but shallow, giving the performers plenty of substance to work with. Danny Dyer tends to take a lot of stick, mainly due to the prolific nature of his direct-to-DVD appearances, but proves here that he can dramatically hold his own. Gore isn’t too plentiful but packs a nice punch here and there, and the zombies themselves are pretty cool, energetically played entirely by professional free runners.
Brit favourite Sean Pertwee steals the show with an all too small, but hilarious, appearance. The film looks and sounds much, much more expensive than it was budgeted, with the final scenes in particular being visually breathtaking. Some major plot holes, noticeable continuity errors, and a few idiotic character choices mar the experience, not to mention the inherent redundancy of the plot, which unfortunately fails to really evolve the genre beyond the key ingredients. It won’t rock your world, but zombie fans should have fun and director McQueen is definitely one to look out for in future.
3 out of 5
While there were a few more movies on the slate after Devil’s Playground, travel commitments meant we unfortunately had to bail early. All we can say, though, is…roll on next year, and thanks to the GZ guys for having us!
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