Grimmfest 2019 was the first horror film festival I have ever attended, and was one that did not disappoint. My urges as a horror fan were satisfied, as I was presented with a plethora of horror films that scratched a desirable itch of experiencing an eclectic range of movies. That we definitely got. Grimmfest explored every sub-genre imaginable, presented a buffet of movies, some leaving a long-lasting taste after viewing, others tasting like a bad apple.
Luckily, these bad apples never tainted the rest, resulting in me finishing Grimmfest on a high note. This was mostly due to the hugely entertaining Sunday Screenings which tied the whole weekend up in a neat and bloody little red bow. It was a great experience and one I will be revisiting come 2020. Here is now where I delve into all the films I attending during the four days of screening. Do not worry as there will be no spoilers in any of the short films below, so if you were do want to venture into a viewing of these movies don't panic I am not here to ruin it for you. The following movies will be placed in alphabetical order -
1BR was a surprisingly solid home-invasion-esque entry into the festival with its off-beat approach to a seemingly familiar narrative structure. While its plot does hit a few repetitive beats, there is no denying a level of flare and craft involved in the execution and writing of the flick. We are presented to plenty of fresh plot points to keep us engaged, and enough self-aware post-modern storytelling to cash in on its level of intensity generated by the social construct of today's society. 1BR often has its finger on the pulse of what's seen to be tainting our modern age of technology and its counter effect on humanity, but done in such a way where they are never too arrogant or irreverent. It's clever central story is actually quite chilling, allowing the events that unfold around it to become increasingly more gripping and more graphic as the film progresses. Although it doesn't quite play like a horror movie per-say, it does equip itself with the right utensils to make for an enjoyably unsettling piece of filmmaking.
A Serial Killer's Guide To Life
While there is ambition to be awarded for its intriguing premise and alluring visuals, neither the comedy nor the horror aspects are quite as inviting as the films initial attraction, resulting in a half-baked execution that left me unfulfilled with an appetite for something more. The acting is solid and there are a few elements that hook you into the films narrative, but once you surpass that intrigue you'll find there isn't much else to appreciate after. The dead-pan comedy feels flat, the horror elements feel skimmed as if they were a second thought, and the conclusion fails to conclude the movie with any substance. I am being quite vague here due to an attempt to withhold spoilers, but the truth of the matter is that for me there was little here to be desired aside from the occasional quip and attractive miss-en-scene. The bottom line is - I was disappointed. I expected more and get less, maybe I'm just bitter. Who knows, and after watching this, who cares.
Artik is many many things; tasteful and effective are definitely not one of them. What was described by the director Tom Botchii Skowronski as "a movie that is supposed to replicate a horror trailer" is already warning shots this the experience isn't going to be a particularly enjoyable one, and unfortunately for me he said this AFTER the screening so I couldn't dodge the bullet. My review to this is so that you can. Skowronski's feature-length directorial debut is a headache-inducing mess that completely squanders any slither of potential within it. The plot is somewhat intriguing and the score is authentically authentic to his style, but they are both completely butchered to the extent of un-recognition. The score is distastefully misused, used to extreme measures unnecessarily, utterly obliterating the potential effect it could have had on the audience. Not only that, but paired with a fast-paced clunky edit resulted in a very ugly, misguided project that was broke far beyond repair. Even some elements of the narrative which were intriguing were either left ignored or savagely turned to mush during post-production. Artik was a tough film to endure, and easily the weakest entry in the Grimmfest line-up. Oh it was terrible. Don't believe me? ask the 70% of the audience that cut and ran before his Q&A and come back to me with your verdict.
The third and entry and follow-up to "The Woman" is one held by the woman herself, Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead, White Settlers), giving it's her directorial debut I was intrigued to see her first product, but once the film gets going it loses steam at a rapid pace. It feels nothing like it’s predecessor, which in this case is a major fault as the film struggles to make a statement on its own existence while disappointing those who came for a carry-on of The Woman’s narrative. It’s a flop all-round that will discourage fans of the franchise lore and any casual film-goer looking for an admirable horror.
Every Time I Die
Egotistical, repetitive and most of all bland; Every Time I Die offered up a slurry of uninspiring ideas on the surface of a somewhat interesting concept, all of which tainted by its exploitive nature of arthouse horror. It’s visuals leave very little to be admired and it’s central narrative is all-too frequently recycled through the film’s runtime. I can see the idea of what the director is trying to achieve here, but the final product leaves fails to capture the essence of what the film so desperately tries to achieve - a twisted tale of memory and repercussions.
There was a lot of fun to be had with this fresh and goofy Irish black-comedy that took its conventional narrative and moulded it into an exceptionally hilarious and intriguing ghost story. Extra Ordinary has its fingers on the pulse of Irish humour, and as an Irish person the quick wit mixed with supernatural genre themes was a fresh pallet cleanser for Grimmfest, one that was thoroughly entertaining. From its stellar cast to its humour tackle of ghost themes made for a memorable, yet still flawed viewing experience. It will be difficult coming away form this one saying you’ve seen it before, because chances are you probably haven’t.
This was a surprisingly sharp dark comedy that caught everyone at Grimmfest off-guard; Harpoon utilised its stripped back narrative and location to pull-off an off-kilter black comedy that makes the most of the little it's got. In fact, its clever portrayal in simplistic effectiveness is that it's very much in on the joke - we expect a movie like Harpoon to throw everything plus the kitchen sink in to keep our wondering minds at bay. Luckily, however, Harpoon is one step ahead, reminding us that we are to leave our expectations of such a genre-film at the port, allowing us to get on board this crazy, bloody boat trip. Dark horse of 2019? I'd certainly add it to the list.
I See You
One of the most surprisingly well-crafted entries in Grimmfest, and one to look out for when it's released sometime this year, I See You is a taut and well-crafter suspense thriller, that is nimble in its execution. This slow-burn mystery does a clever job in toying with audience's expectations, often juggling tonal shifts with mostly successful results, ensuring a tense and surprisingly scary experience with a solid cast to match.
At no surprise to anyone, Lupita Nyong'o pumps out a stellar performance in this wacky little zom-rom-com that is as adorably endearing as it is gleefully grotesque. There is nothing we haven't seen before, and not many have done it as good as this, with a ludicrously effective blend of comedy and horror that works way more than it should. Little Monsters is an absolute blast, and although it's not the stellar representation of its niche sub-genre, it's arguably one of the best zombie films of the past few years.
The Soska Sisters are something of a cult favourite within the horror community, delivering some fan favourites like American Mary and See No Evil 2. Their next (and nearly last) film is one to add to the list, as they release a remake actually worth talking about. Despite having a very distinctive and often sloppy style, The Soska Sisters remake of Rabid plays to its contemporary setting, using its poignant narrative as a reflective on the post-modern decay on society's addiction to physical image. Rabid also works best when it toys with the concept of cannibalism and the consumption of meat, tapping into the mental and physical decay of modern society. Not everything works here, but when it works, it works well, and you have to appreciate it for that.
Tales From The Lodge
Here is where I had the most fun at Grimmfest, one that taps into its absolute goofiness, and works best when it's being unapologetically and authentically itself, which is silly goofy fun. Tales From The Lodge knows exactly what it is, and delivers it's own brand of comedy and horror with decliously wacky results. Director and writer Abigail Blackmore does a brilliant job of crafting an all-round entertaining experience, tapping into each individual talent of its cast and utilising their skills to successfully leap between horror and comedy with a swift change in narrative tone. Aside from one segment which feels a little too boisterous, ultimately Tales From The Lodge never takes itself too seriously, and still delivers some fresh thrills with a devilish wacky third act to match. Welcome to one of the most underrated gems of 2019.
Although not all of the most films shown at Grimmfest went down well with audiences, The Shed was by far the most likely to find on the Horror Channel at 1 a.m on a Sunday. What we have here is a blatantly cheap and weak new spin on the vampire sub-genre, that becomes increasingly more absurd and inept the closer its gets to the end. Its themes on over-powering bully mentality and teenage adolescence are welcomed, and (sometimes) portrayed well, but mostly The Shed seems stuck in motion and never fully knows how to utilise every tool in its already vacant toolbox.
A strong and chilling first act can't save this one from cripplingly derivative storytelling, which is an awful shame as all the ingredients to make something truly terrifying and fresh are there, however the ability to craft them into something memorable is lacking. The Witch itself is genuinely scary, and there are more than a few tense scenes to have you digging into your chair, but the rest of the film falls flat, resulting in an often forgettable lacklustre experience that can't keep up with its promising premise.
Why Don't You Just Die!
Hands down the most savagely entertaining film from the entire schedule, and arguably the best film from Grimmfest. Why Don't You Just Die is mean, lean fighting machine that is laced with taut and tension action sequences; splashed in blood-soaked dark humour that is as sharp as it is raw. Drenched with gleefully gory flare, this Russian black action comedy never lets up, delivering relentless action that is as brilliantly executed as it is violent. The narrative itself is also crafted with near perfection, exposing us to a plethora of unique characters who's motives are as devilishly twisted as the film itself. The first opportunity you get to watch this then do it; I can promise you a crazy 90 minutes of your life that you'll never want back. Energetic, dynamic, and flat-out bonkers, Why Don't You Just Die is an absolute blast!