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Catching up with Mayhem Film Festival as the Cult Cinema Weekend Returns To Broadway

6 October 21 interview: Jamie Morris

Mayhem Film Festival returns from beyond the grave this month with a gloriously gory line-up of contemporary cult cinema – Screen co-Editor Jamie Morris speaks to programmers Steven Sheil, Chris Cooke and Melissa Gueneau about what they’re most looking forward to...

According to co-founder Steven Sheil, plans for what shape this year’s Mayhem would take were being deliberated right up until the last minute, following 2020’s one-film-a-day Skeleton Edition. “What's been quite weird about this year is just having to continually play it by ear,” Steven says. “But once we saw things like football matches going on with tens of thousands of people, we started thinking cinemas – where people are still socially distanced – must be workable as well.”

“It’s a feat,” muses Chris Cooke, the other half of Mayhem’s dastardly duo. “It’ll be good to be back as part of a community, but it's also rather daunting. However, Broadway is a great venue, so I'm really looking forward to the return of the atmosphere of Mayhem.”

This year’s festival boasts one of its most diverse programmes to date, and begins on Thursday 14 October with the offbeat documentary Alien on Stage. “We very rarely do documentaries, but this one's so up our alley,” raves Steven. “It's about a group of Dorset bus drivers who put on a stage adaptation of Alien. It's very funny and very heartwarming – not what you'd usually expect from Mayhem.”

Other upcoming highlights include underwater fright-fest The Deep House, Alan Moore’s The Show, three South Korean thrillers, and feature-length animation The Spine of Night. “It’s like an insane psychedelic trip into realms of ancient fantasy and magic,” teases Chris of the hand-drawn nightmare. “And gore. Plenty of gore.”

Mayhem 2021 will also include a preview of the much-anticipated Swedish horror movie Lamb, which festival manager Melissa Gueneau insists is a must-watch. “It follows this couple on a farm and their lamb, and it's best not to know too much about it,” she says, cautious not to give anything away. “It's very beautiful and very quiet, but unnerving as it goes along.”

What's quite different in Nottingham – and always has been – is that there is more of a sense of community and of people helping each other out, and we’ve always had that with Mayhem

The element of surprise that comes with films like this is why the in-person cinematic experience is so crucial to Mayhem, say the programmers. “One of the great things about the films that we show is that they can be quite visceral experiences,” Steven explains. “People can respond to them with screams, jumps, gasps or laughs. The films almost demand a physical response, and that's a really good thing to enjoy in a cinema with a bunch of other people.”

Chris echoes the sentiment: “The festival experience is about sharing – sharing the experience, sharing views on films, catching up with each other and being really inclusive and welcoming to new viewers.”

“The Mayhem audience is very open-minded,” Melissa adds. “They’re very happy to watch pretty much anything that you put in front of them and make up their own mind on what they think about it.”

The crew suggest that it’s the enthusiasm of the Nottingham film community as a whole that allows spaces like Mayhem to thrive. “What's quite different in Nottingham – and always has been – is that there is more of a sense of community and of people helping each other out, and we’ve always had that with Mayhem,” Steven asserts. “That sense of community is really unique in Nottingham, and I think it's much stronger than in a lot of other places.”

Mayhem Film Festival is taking place between Thursday 14 October - Sunday 17 October at Broadway. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Mayhem website

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