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Mayhem Horror Film Festival

27 October 11 words: Alison Emm
Mayhem are back with a bag of tricks and treats of gore, horror and thrills for film fans
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Illustration: Ian Stewart

It’s that time of year again, and there’s no time to worry about the nights closing in. Gooseh has been and gone which can only mean one thing – Halloween is upon us and with all the ghosts and ghouls, Mayhem are back with a bag of tricks and treats of gore, horror and thrills for film fans.  Spread over an impressive five days, get your hands ready for hiding behind as they plan to scare you witless with their gruesome selections…

In it’s eighth year, Chris Cooke, Gareth Howell and Steven Shiel of Mayhem Festival are more than adept at putting together a selection of celluloid masterpieces from days gone by and modern day to get us all jumping out of our seats.  2011’s five day feast of fear comes complete with scary shorts, cult horror classics, feature films, anthologies, Eastern horror, special guests, competitions, some science based antics with Thrill Laboratory, a suitably brain exploding quiz and, of course, a Saturday night party that will be in honour of the Hammer Horror master, Vincent Price, plus some good old fashioned ghost stories hosted by local writer Niki Valentine on Halloween itself

Don’t feel overwhelmed, we’ve got a guide to all the events and screenings taking place throughout the festival:


Who cares if it’s a school night, it’s half-term for schools so it doesn’t count. Or something like that…  BAFTA start the proceedings with the UK horror flick, The Awakening, at 9pm. Set in London in 1921, Florence Cathcart is an academic and writer with an unwavering confidence in logic and science.  That is until she hears about some incidents at a boy’s boarding school and she starts to uncover more secrets than she bargained for.  Don’t run off straight after though because there’ll be a Q&A with a special guest writer and the director Nick Murphy. You’d be a fool to let the prospect of sleep draw you home because at 11.30pm there is an anthology, Theatre Bizarre, which promises madness, violence and death from a series of directors who are worth their weight in gold in this genre. 


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The Wicker Tree

The real weekend starts here and a little bit earlier than the Thursday line-up with The Devil’s Business at 5.45pm.  Another UK film but a little bit more low budget than The Awakening, Two hitmen arrive at the home of the man they've been dispatched to kill and quickly discover signs of devil worship that reveal that they are in over their heads. There’s another treat straight after with a Q&A with the producer Jennifer Handorf and director Sean Hogan.  At 7.45pm is the long awaited sequel to the cult classic The Wicker Man, The Wicker TreeDescribed as more of a satirical companion piece than a full blown sequel to one of the most seminal British horror films of the twentieth century, Robin Hardy, the legendary director, will be special guest for the screening. 

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Thrill Laboratory: The Experiment Live

The masters of science and scares are back at 10pm; Dr. Brendan Dare and his Thrill Laboratory team will be using biomonitoring to see the effect that a real haunted building has on the human body and mind.  With four carefully selected paranormal investigators, their experiments below the streets of Broad Street will be broadcast live into Broadway Cinema.  Wrapping the night up with a bright red bow will be J-horror Helldriver at 11pm.  After a catastrophic asteroid collision divides Japan as an inevitable zombie outbreak takes grip of the city.  But fear not, Kika and her chainsaw are on hand to save the capital.


Get up! Really, it’s not that cold and how can you miss the midday screening of The Whisperer In The Darkness - a HP Lovecraft adaptation that pays homage to the heyday of Hollywood monster movies and it’s filmed entirely in Mythoscope.  Oooooh. Following closely after at 2pm is A Horrible Way To Die.  Watch on in fear as you see a serial killer making his murderous way across America’s Midwest… it promises to be gripping, emotionally draining and very disturbing. The afternoon is rounded off nicely at 4pm with a Dutch take on Christmas with Saint. St. Nick is in Amsterdam and instead of a team of reindeers he has a gang of zombies with him to reek havoc. 

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The Whisperer in Darkness

From the Hong Kong team behind Dream Home, Revenge: A Love Story is on at 6.30pm. Squirm in your seats with this slick, sick serial killer flick.  For those that like more bite-sized pieces of gore – sorry! – the annual Scary Shorts is back at 8.30pm with subjects ranging from lobster men on horse back to killer bananas - an unmissable line-up of gore, threat, laughs and total horror.  If dancing and drinking isn’t your thing – or you just fancy a break in the Price based frolics – check out Theatre of Blood at 11pm.  A seventies classic about a mad Shakespearean actor who takes bloody revenge on his critics.  Vincent Price is at his best in this late night horror.


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J-horror with Tomie: Unlimited

It might not even be worth going home as Sunday’s festivities kick off at midday with another J-horror, Tomie: Unlimited. With centipedes that don’t come near to humans, this weird Japanese horror features Tomie, a girl who if you love, you want to kill: but she just won’t die.  At 1.45pm is a film that informed the recent surrealist thriller The Skin I Live In, Eyes Without A Face was released in 1960 but still has the power to shock fifty years later.  Three films by three British directors are together Little Deaths; stories of sex perversity and horror – perfect Sunday viewing at 3.30pm…

If you’re old enough you’ll remember the must-see Halloween broadcast from the BBC that managed to raise 30,000 calls to the BBC switchboard in an hour.  A must see for nostalgia or to see what all the fuss was about. A forerunner of reality mockumentaries and Most Haunted, Ghostwatch stars the legendary Parky who leads us through a gripping, tense night in a suburban house.  The screening is at 6.45pm and screenwriter Stephen Volk will be at Broadway to field questions and discuss Ghostwatch and more after the show.  The last film of the festival is on at 9pm; The Last Employee is a Germanfilm about a lawyer who can’t deal with the last employee of a firm he has liquidated. 

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Ghostwatch - a BBC classic from 1992

Dry your eyes, it’s time to show off your infinite pools of horror knowledge in Broadway’s The Quiz of Fear at 10.30pm.  David Flint is back to get you scratching right in the folds of your brain for fiendish facts. Author of Zombie Holocaust: How the Living Dead Devoured Pop Culture and Ten Years of Terror, he’s not going to give you an easy ride…


It’s Halloween proper! From 8pm will be a Halloween treat for fans of supernatural storytelling.  Local author and horror aficionado, Niki Valentine will be compering a night of haunted tales and live readings. Oh, OK, there will be some telleh – the night will have a series of screenings of cult television ghost stories including Tom Baker reading The Emissary by Ray Bradbury, plus more.  And all for free. And as a very, very last minute admission with it only just receiving a BBFC certification... that's right, The Human Centipede 2 is slithering onto the screen at 11pm for a finale to the festival that will have you asking "Why?!" for the rest of your life.  The BBFC said their initial refusal to show the film was because the film's central theme was "the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture and murder of his naked victims." After over thirty cuts, it's fine now - so enjoy!

Saturday and Sunday will also have a free Laser Maze from Nottingham's Hackspace in Broadway’s studio downstairs.  Expect a fear filled fun house of ghosts and games in a unique environment. Escape the deadly laser maze in the fastest time to win fantastic prizes.

Weekend passes (£55) and day passes (£9/£13.50/£24/£20) are available.  Individual tickets are also available for £7/£5.50 concessions/members.

Mayhem Horror Film Festival website

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