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Mayhem 2015: Day Four (Part Two)

20 October 15 words: Harry Wilding, Ash Carter
Aaaaaaaah! and The Invitation finished another excellent weekend of films
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Aaaaaaaah!, the directorial debut from Sightseers star Steve Oram, is certainly one of the more bizarre eighty minutes I have spent in the cinema – which was at times great and at others, not so. It certainly split us Leftlioners and the festival goers, in general.

Oram also stars, along with Toyah Willcox (who was phenomenal) and a whole host of British comedy peeps (Julian Barrett, Noel Fielding, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey etc). There is no traditional dialogue throughout; instead, the actors grunt and scream their way through the proceedings like apes. Oram, in his enthuaistic Q&A, told us that he wrote the script with human dialogue but they decided against it when they began filming. It certainly makes for original viewing, and it sometimes pays off with its intended humour.

The idea is brilliant - humans acting like apes (with less shame about sex and toilet habits and with alpha males taking over households by a show of physical strength and usefulness) but all in the same kind of houses, cars, shops, etc that we all know. Although the idea to have no traditional dialogue was probably the correct one, it did highlight that it might have been better as a short film or a sketch in a sketch show – perhaps subtitles would have remedied that? Or perhaps that might have ruined the effect? It is hard to know. Nonetheless, it did feel a bit laboured at times.

Aaaaaaaah!  is quite the achievement from Oram, as it was self-financed (mainly from his voiceover work on some Ladbrokes ads)  and it was always going to be a divisive film for audiences. It does not always quite hit the mark, but I would recommend it to any film lover with an open mind. Oo-oo-aah-aah, ducks. Harry Wilding.

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An excellent film to end Mayhem with, The Invitation was, to me, the surprise hit of the festival. Walking the much loved thriller trope of ‘dinner party terror’, The Invitation manages to pull be a stylish, beautiful piece of work that is greater than the sum of its parts. The film has a tense, slow-building tension to it, that works perfectly for this kind of psychological thriller. The tight, claustrophobic shots and excellent sound engineering only serve to highlight this, making the film as stylish as it is tense.  

Following the death of their young son, estranged couple Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and Will (Logan Marshall-Green) are reunited when the Eden throws a lavish party for their mutual friends at the couple’s former home. The party is lovely at first, as old friends catch up and get a little drunk on some very expensive and fancy wine. However things start to get a little weird as the night continues and Eden’s new man David (Michiel Huisman) begins to introduce the group to The Invitation. Part bereavement group, part cult, The Invitation is the reason David and Eden (plus their new girlfriend) have been in Mexico for a while. Although at first it all sounds lovely, it doesn’t take long before explanations of The Invitation’s beliefs start to creep the guests out, though none more so than Will, who is accused of being just a little bit too paranoid for his own good.

As the film continues we are left wondering if The Invitation really is as scary as it first seems or if Will is just overreacted as his heightened emotions at being back in the house his young son died are clouding his judgment. 

The final reveal can be seen coming a mile off, and left me wanting to shout at the screen at the collected beautiful people, who didn’t seem to have any kind of sense for danger. Saying this, there are still a couple of twists enabling the ending to satisfy audiences. 

Director Karyn Kusama has been in what seemed to be a downward spiral of late. With Aeon Flux bombing at the box office and Jennifer’s Body not doing much better there was, quite rightly, some apprehension towards The Invitation. Luckily though, Kusama seems to have turned her shit around, delivering a stylish, nailbiting drama that was, to me, one of the best films of Mayhem 2015. Recommended. Ash Carter.

Aaaaaaaah! and The Invitation showed at Broadway Cinema as part of Mayhem Film Festival on Sunday 18 October 2015. 


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