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Review: Mayhem Film Festival 2019

18 October 19 words: Ashley Carter & Fabrice Gagos

Ashley Carter and Fabrice Gagos give a rundown of their favourite films of Mayhem Film Festival 2019...

Nottingham's best film festival was back with another belting year of horror, sci-fi and cult cinema, all masterminded by curators Steven Sheil, Chris Cooke and Melissa Gueneau. In what was a great year for the Broadway-based festival, we picked out some of the highlights from the four days...

Extra Ordinary
Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Kicking off this year’s festival was Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s Extra Ordinary, the story of Rose, a driving instructor with super-natural abilities, who chooses to help Martin rid himself of the ghost of his recently deceased wife. A little stop-start at times, it packed just enough laughs to carry through the 94-minute running time, thanks mainly to a wonderful performance from SNL alumni Will Forte. A solid way to herald the beginning to Mayhem 2019. Ashley Carter

Sword of God
Director: Bartosz Konopka
Comfortably my favourite film of the entire festival, and quite possibly my favourite Mayhem film ever, Sword of God was a sumptuously shot historical film, reminiscent of František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarova and The Valley of the Bees, with a bit of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre and Cobra Verde thrown in for good measure. Bartosz Konopka’s engrossing, beautifully acted and mesmeric story of two Knights on a quest to christen a small pagan village hidden deep in the mountains was brilliant from start to finish. Ashley Carter

Girl on the Third Floor
Director: Travis Stevens
A haunted house story which uses the repair of a dilapidated building in the suburbs as a metaphor for attempting to fix up a relationship which is on the rocks after a mid-life crisis. It featured ex-Wrestler CM Punk (who looks like Ted Raimi on steroids), a good sense of humour and a ghost which is all mouth, like, literally. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe the fact that it is never really scary, never really gory (despite what we can see online, or maybe it is just my tolerance threshold?) and that the message fells flat eventually. A nice first directing effort from Travis Stevens, not painful to watch but quite disappointing. I’m still wondering if it's the horror genre that has aged a lot, or just me. Fabrice Gagos


Colour Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley
There are apparently two ways to adapt a Lovecraft story successfully for the big screen: either you let Stuart Gordon produce absolute nonsense, or, as Colour Out of Space shows us, you let Nicholas Cage produce absolute nonsense. Guillermo Del Toro should think about it. But let’s not exaggerate, this Colour Out of Space isn't only driven by Nic Cage (who actually has merely a supporting role), but is indeed a brilliant adaptation of one of the most famous short stories from bleak old HP. Richard Stanley has managed to maintain a fragile balance between sticking to the original material, creating a particular mood and not taking the whole thing too seriously. The result is a quite unique old school SF-horror film.  Probably my favourite film of the festival, along with Door Lock. Fabrice Gagos

The Pool
Director: Ping Lumpraploeng
Mayhem have shown some goofy films over the years, but The Pool is right up there with the best of them. And I mean that as no insult, because sometimes a healthy dose of ridiculousness is just what is needed amidst the vampires, cannibals and half-pig-men. The concept is simple: a dude is trapped in an empty swimming pool with a mildly irritating alligator and a highly useless girlfriend. As expected, just about everything that could go wrong, does. As dumb as it was, it was also bloody entertaining and hilarious, whether it meant to be or not. #RIPLucky Ashley Carter

She Never Died
Director: Audrey Cummings
Lacey is an immortal flesh eater with a particular craving for snuff movie directors. She Never Died looks like another action film shot in Eastern Europe, and in some scenes you half expect that fat drunken otter Steven Seagal to come and save the day. But She Never Died is actually much smarter than it initially looks. The mythology it’s building (alongside its “companion” prequel He Never Died starring Henry Rollins) added with a relaxed sense of humour make it a really enjoyable horror comedy that seems open to the suggestion of a franchise or TV series. It has the nice blend of never taking itself too seriously and simply aiming to entertain, which it does efficiently. Fabrice Gagos


The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil
Won-Tae Lee
Another standout film in what was an incredibly strong year for Mayhem. This Korean crime action thriller paired a hotshot young cop with a ruthless gangster in a bid to catch a super-creepy serial killer. The action was kinetic, the set pieces were masterfully executed and the action was non-stop. I can’t wait to watch it again. Ashley Carter

Vampire’s Kiss
Director: Robert Bierman
Where in the sweet name of Christ do you even begin with this one. I flippantly commented on the LeftLion Film Podcast rundown of Mayhem 2019 that I was happy that I didn’t have to review this 1989 film, forgetting that I, in fact, did. Whether you see it as a master class in meme-machine overacting or an adroitly crafted allegory for the way we deal with mental health problems, one thing is for sure: there is only one Nicolas Cage. Quite possibly the most Mayhem-y film in Mayhem’s history.

Bullets of Justice.
Director: Valeri Milev
Take a Ryuhei Kitamura film, mix it with some fucked up misanthropic propaganda and add an ounce of Danny Trejo as a selling point, and you may just end up with Bullets of Justice. Or not. The recipe isn't quite perfected just yet. This post-apocalyptic story in which half-human, half-pig mutants take over the earth, and our only hope is a super soldier obsessed by his own moustache-bearing stepsister is fairly difficult to justify. So much so that the film itself fails to do so, ending with a  somewhat disappointing plot twist. But who cares? Bullet of Justice is an enjoyable, twisted feature packed with some pretty clever ideas which will probably make it a cult Z-movie sometime soon. Fabrice Gagos


Door Lock
Director: Kwon Lee
Korean cinema has delivered some cult films in the past, but quickly became somewhat overhyped. But Door Lock has that same little something that made me love Korean movies almost twenty years ago with Park Chan Wook's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and the cult thriller Memories of Murder. A type of cinema that manages to be quiet, almost meditative, yet profoundly brutal at the same time. And above all, a type of cinema that frontally adressess some of the darkest side of Korean society. Door Lock manages to do just that while telling a universally frightening story set around the theme of intrusion smartly supported by a sober mise en scéne, and nice performances from a talented cast. Fabrice Gagos

Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Have you always wanted to build a perfect nuclear family and buy a nice small house in the suburbs? Watch Vivarium first. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots deliver strong performances in a devious feature supported by an eerie artistic direction that will haunt you for a while. It might just make you think twice about living the dream. Fabrice Gagos

Come to Daddy
Director: Ant Timpson
As the mascot of the festival (who even had his own beer named after him - nice pale ale by the way), Elijah Wood plays a son visiting his old man after thirty years without any contact. But, the reunion will soon turn into something far more sinister than he expected. Saying that Come to Daddy takes the dysfunctional relationship to a new level is an understatement. Sadly, I found that it was a bit too much. Or, to be fair, I didn't buy this over-the-top story. Still, the performances of Stephen McHattie and Michael Smiley alongside an artsy direction, and most of all, Wood’s moustache, deliver a pleasant film to watch, albeit a quite forgettable. Maybe I just wanted to like it too much. Fabrice Gagos

Mayhem Film Festival took place at Broadway Cinema between Thursday 10 - Sunday 14 October

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