Another year, another Grimmfest Easter event!
And once again, it doesn’t disappoint with its line up of movies!
This year’s Grimmfest Easter is a mix of live and online screenings, taking place across the Easter weekend from the 15th to the 18th of April.
The films on offer this time around include Ego, Cross the Line, Woodland Grey, The Family and more!
We’ve taken a look at four Grimmfest offerings: Post Mortem, Ghosts of the Ozarks, The Cellar and A Pure Place.
Are they any good? Let’s find out!
Hungarian horror movie Post Mortem is set in 1918, during the Spanish Flu epidemic. The story is told through the eyes of Tomás (Victor Klem – Home Guards, Hacktion), a former German soldier who now makes a living in a travelling fair taking pictures of the dead as a final memorial for grieving families. Into his life comes Anna (Fruzsina Hais – Csak színház és más semmi, Berlin Station) who invites him back to her village to take photos of the dead there. Due to the harsh winter, they’ve not been able to bury any of them in the frozen ground, so the bodies are still just waiting to be put to rest. Tomas agrees, but what he finds in the village is far more than he expected, and more than he might be able to deal with.
Post Mortem is the first Hungarian horror I’ve ever seen, and it’s a damn fine effort. It’s a refreshing change from some ghost stories where the main character is left isolated and confused, not sure if he’s imagining things. In this village the inhabitants are entirely aware that their dead are restless, treating the hauntings in the same way you might a grumpy neighbour, or a loudly barking dog – with a world-weary shrug and a “What’re you gonna do about it?” attitude.
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Our two lead actors are sympathetic and believable. Tomás, especially, reacts in much the same way as you would imagine most of us would when presented with the supernatural, and it’s always a pleasure to see supposedly intelligent characters actually making intelligent decisions to move the plot along. The ending, however, is… well. It didn’t entirely work for me, but that’s a personal preference, I suspect.
There are some good scares to be had here, and some genuine moments of dread that will have a lovely cold shiver coursing down your spine. There are some other great little details on display as well, like the way Tomás will lapse back into his native German in moments of stress or excitement. Oh yes, I forgot to mention, this movie is in Hungarian with subtitles, but please don’t let that put you off. Post Mortem is a fun entry into a genre that often feels like it doesn’t have many new stories to tell.
Ghosts of the Ozarks
Ghosts of the Ozarks is another story that doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the titular ghosts. Our main character here is James McCune (Thomas Hobson – Sherman’s Showcase, That Girl Lay Lay), summoned to a little town in the middle of nowhere by his uncle Matthew (Phil Morris – Bravest Warriors, Smallville) to take up the post of town doctor. Arriving at the town after a worrying encounter in the woods, he finds it a warm and welcoming place, where everyone knows who he is and has been waiting eagerly for him. Not only that, there’s none of the racial tensions that seem to plague the rest of the country, his skin colour going unremarked upon.
Settling into his new post as the town doctor, he soon makes friends with a variety of interesting characters, including the blind barman, Torb (Tim Blake Nelson – Old Henry, Watchmen), and hunters Annie (Tara Perry – 12 Hour Shift, Two and a Half Men) and her brother William (Joseph Ruud – Mayor of Kingstown, WWE Smackdown). Of course, as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Things in the town are nowhere near as pastoral and perfect as they appear and soon James finds himself delving deeper into the secrets of the mysterious ghosts that both protect the town and punish transgressors.
The final twist in the tale of this story is one that doesn’t quite land, sad to say. It’s an interesting take, to be sure, and it’s admirable that writers Sean Anthony Davis, Jordan Wayne Long and Tara Perry have attempted to tell a story about racism and greed, disguised as a ghost story. The acting is pretty damn good across the board, with special mention for Tim Blake Nelson as the blinded Torb, who uses sonar clicking to “see” the world, and for Thomas Hobson who imbues James with a sense of innocence and naivety that’s rather charming. There’s also a surprise musical number in the middle that works rather well. You don’t see that in many horror movies.
This is a haunted house movie with a side helping of alchemy, demon summoning, general occult nonsense and mathematics literally being the language of the devil. Well, of one very specific devil anyway. Keira Woods (Elisha Cuthbert – The Girl Next Door, House of Wax) and her family move into an old house that they apparently picked up for a steal at auction. It doesn’t take long for things to go sideways as her daughter suddenly disappears one night when descending the stairs into the titular cellar to check the fusebox.
The disappearance is followed by other strange happenings around the house, and the more Keira investigates, the more mysterious things appear. Why are there equations carved into the floor of the cellar? Why do the doors of the house have Hebrew letters above them? Where do those cellar stairs REALLY go and what is the true purpose of the house? All the questions and more… will be answered fairly categorically, actually.
This is a nicely told story from beginning to end, with a logical escalation of events as things progress. It’s slightly let down by the age-old trope of husband Brian (Eoin Macken – The Forest, Nightflyers) assuming that his wife is merely “overwrought” and stressed out at the disappearance of their daughter, seeing connections and patterns out of desperation rather than anything more logical. Could we perhaps move on past the Victorian-era diagnosis of women as “hysterical”, please?
That minor gripe aside, The Cellar is a well-executed little movie, with a solid soundtrack, some good scares and existential dread and barely a jumpscare to be seen. Writer/director Brendan Muldowney has done a great job, and I look forward to seeing what he brings us next.
A Pure Place
This film sounded promising, and towards the end it does somewhat redeem itself with sudden, brutal acts of violence, but by this point it just doesn’t feel like it’s earned much of a reaction from the viewer. By the time the shocks come along, the audience will probably have been bored to death by a lead actress who is just kind of… there, and a cult leader with all the charisma of a particularly studious accountant. I thought cult leaders were supposed to be magnetic, charming individuals with a certain force of personality. That’s why people follow them. I wouldn’t follow this guy to the shops.
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A Pure Place tells the story of an unnamed cult, run by a man called Fust (Sam Louwyck – Brimstone, Cargo), obsessed with cleanliness, purity and soap. Their world is divided into two. There are Fust’s followers who dress all in white and bathe with soap made by the workers, mostly children, who live in filth and squalor down below, banned from mingling with Fust’s chosen. Things begin to unravel after one of the children, Irina (Greta Bohacek – Suspiria, Tatort), is raised up to join Fust’s followers and act in a play while her brother, Paul (Claude Heinrich – Dark, Berlin Station), is left behind with the others to make soap. As Paul’s anger towards Fust grows, so does Irina’s doubt that everything they’re being told is entirely true.
The biggest sin committed by this film is that it’s simply dull. None of the characters, save for Paul, really have much in the way of charisma. I’m not sure if that was the point, that a kid has more screen presence than all the adults put together, but that’s certainly how it comes across on screen. The ending is also on the less-satisfying side of ambivalent. I won’t go into details, but to say that it’s wildly inappropriate is certainly one way of describing it. It’s a film with a lot of pretensions about the story it’s telling, but ultimately it’s just hollow and empty, sort of like Fust himself.
Tickets for Grimmfest Easter are available now.