It’s Grimmfest time again! Running from the 6th – 9th October 2022, this is our third year reviewing films from Manchester’s premier horror film festival. Once again, we’ve checked out the trailers and picked a selection of different movies from the many that are on offer. Sadly, this year there’s been nothing in our selection that quite reached the heights of previous years where we’ve had movies like the superlatively disturbing Sleepless Beauty, the surprisingly entertaining Rent-a-Pal or the gloriously violent Vicious Fun. That’s not to say it’s all bad, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Time to look at each movie in turn.
Malibu Horror Story
A team of paranormal investigators investigate a sacred Native American cave for clues from beyond the grave, as they try to solve the disappearance of four apparently clean-cut local teens. The premise sounded good, but the end result is one of the most painfully average, paint-by-numbers ghost stories I’ve ever seen, with wooden and uninteresting characters and cheap-looking effects removing almost all the threat from the supernatural forces out to murder the main cast. Also, why is it that these paranormal investigators always seem REALLY surprised when they encounter something paranormal?
At least with Grave Encounters our lead characters were aware that what they were doing was more just to make money than really communicate with the dead. In fact, go and watch Grave Encounters instead of this. It’s a far creepier time.
Set in a horrible, post-apocalyptic world of fungus and mud, populated with horrible people being horrible to each other, this is the story of Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) who ekes out a living while also trying to support her paralysed father who can only communicate through a floating recon drone. When she finds the survivor of a crash, her world is turned on its head and, to borrow a cliché, nothing will be the same again. Vesper is a visually impressive film, with some truly creepy fungus effects and some nifty odd living, organic tech. The story raises a lot of questions and only answers some of them.
If you’re interested in a cut-and-dried, fully explained story than this maybe isn’t the film for you. Slow and meandering, but still fascinating in its own way, it stars genre stalwart Richard Brake as Vesper’s father, who spends the entire movie in bed, and Eddie Marsden as A post-apocalyptic gang boss a la Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. A lot less silver paint and monster trucks, though.
This is definitely the best of our choices this year but also the one we can say the least about in terms of the plot. This is definitely a film where you want to go in knowing as little as possible. What we can say is that this is a horrible, rather than a horror, movie.
Holy Shit! is the story of mansion owner (Horst, played by Gedeon Burkhard) who will NOT wait to have his building demolished, no matter who tries to stop him. Even if it costs the lives of the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time architect (Frank, played by Thomas Niehaus), a meddling government official more interested in owls (Dörte, played by Friederike Kempter), and anyone else who gets in the way.
Set almost entirely within the confines of a portaloo, the film may or may not also include a woman in hard hat and overalls performing a striptease while fondling dynamite as well as a double, double, double fake-out ending.
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Argentinian horror Pussycake is one of those films that has “future cult classic” written all over it. The film opens with what appears to be a kid messing about with a miniature stargate which, a la Doom, seems to connect to a hell dimension of screaming and inverted pentagrams rather than planets populated with people with alien worms living in their bellies. Nasty things come through the portal and the stage is set for our main cast, an all-female band called Pussycake, to blunder into a town where things have gone very, very wrong.
There’s some great imagery here, from the heads on the beach to the puking zombies to the strange, cyborg figure who shows up to kick ass and chew bubble-gum, except he hasn’t got a mouth. Also, as seems to always happen in these films, none of the main cast has ever seen a zombie movie, with decisions that will probably leave any seasoned horror fan screaming at their TV. Seriously, are zombie movies just not a thing inside horror movies? Pussycake is funny, messy, gory, slimy and dripping with blood and entrails.
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This one had potential, but once again the end product didn’t live up to the promise of the trailer. Another black comedy about a washed up “cult-buster” (Dale Domazar, played by Ry Barrett) who is recruited by a stereotypical “Karen” (Kallie Jones, played by Liv Collins) to save her husband from a cult masquerading as a male wellness clinic. It leans hard into the cringey humour, and it’s very self-aware of who it’s parodying, with more than a nod and wink towards characters like Dog the Bounty Hunter.
All in all, it’s just cringe-inducing rather than genuinely funny. It never seems to really push as hard as it could have with the whole Karen aspect of it, just assuming that “lol, the internet” is going to be enough to carry a lot of the references. It really needed to push that, especially as the Karen is the person we’re meant to be empathising with, as much as there’s anyone in this film that the audience is meant to give their sympathies to. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s not a very good one either.
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This is another Thai monster movie and what can be said is that it wastes NO time when it comes to getting to the monster. Three minutes in and there it is front and centre, looking like Godzilla had a baby with The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Seventeen minutes in, and it’s openly attacking villagers and now the police are involved. This movie doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting to the action. Sadly, this is where the praise for this film ends. Thanks to some poor editing choices, the film feels disjointed, with events not seeming to have a great deal of connection. There’s no real effort to establish a meaningful connection with any of the characters to draw you into the story.
The only people even given names are the family we meet at the start of the film. The Inspector is just “Inspector”. The commander is just “Commander”. There’s even a pair of scientist-type characters who show up, and I’m pretty certain the film didn’t even bother to give them names. The soundtrack tries to do some of the heavy lifting, but it’s not enough. In one scene there was terribly sad music that says the audience should be sad, but we know so little about the characters as anything more than fodder for the monster that it just falls flat. Thailand is capable of making some great films, but in this attempt at a Kaijui-alike, their ambition has outstretched their ability.
Grimmfest ran from 6th-9th October 2022.