The 12th annual Mayhem Film Fest at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema (13th-16th October), as curated by Their Dark Lordships Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil, was a total triumph, tenebrously topped-and-tailed with spicy squirts of HP (Lovecraft) sauce. The gentlemen of The Duke St Workshop (a noted “Spooktronica Outfit”, Mr Cooke informs me) opened the proceedings in grand style, weaving a mesmerising electro web as Laurence R Harvey declaimed selections from the “Tales Of H. P. Lovecraft” to a projected backdrop of unsettling imagery. Festival closer The Void (directed by festival guests Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski) plundered a grab bag of gory imagery from the glory days of Lucio Fulci and Stuart Gordon in the service of a crowd pleasing concoction that I can best characterise as “Assault On Cthulhu Hospital.”
Interstitial treats included Julia Ducournau’s much-hyped Raw (in which the cannibalism that’s allegedly had previous audience members carried out on stretchers was considerably less appalling to me than the conformity brutally enforced by the anti-heroine’s moronic fellow students) and a UK premiere for The Mo Brothers’ Indonesian actioner Headshot (“The film that puts The Raid In The Shade!”, doncha know.) I’m calling bullshit on Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are The Flesh, which aspires to avant-garde outrage but melts down into a sub-Jodorowsky mess… after which Steven Barker’s The Rezort got things back on track via its winning “Westworld with zombies” formula (Barker introduced the film and later fielded questions from the audience, none of whom had the nerve to point out that his film’s boffo climactic plot revelation had been pinched from Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh!) And so to Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, about which I would simply like to say… !!!!!!!??!
Gabriele Mainetti’s They Call Me Jeeg Robot garlands its familiar Italian cop film narrative with tropes imported from Japanese anime as its lowly-criminal-turned-accidental-superhero protagonist struggles to reconnect with the human race that he’d given up on… a similar tale, differently handled, in Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not A Serial Killer, your basic everyday story of a sociopathic slacker (Max Records… you heard what I said, Max Records!) and his up-and-down relationship with a superannuated serial killer (Christopher Lloyd, no less) that also boasts the most out-of-left-field plot twist in recent memory. O’Brien and writer Christopher Hyde did the Q&A thing, post screening. Carles Torrens’ Pet rang the changes on its basic The Collector storyline with a female captive who’s not what she initially seems… brief outbreaks of torture porn notwithstanding, this one was ultimately undone by the unbelievability of its lead characters (still not sure whether this was attributable to how they were performed or how they were written… possibly all of the above.)
In the face of much ironic / post modern festival content, Sean (The Loved Ones) Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy played things straight, its classic take on demonic possession going down very well indeed with the assembled Mayhem revellers. Don’t Kill It is a sub-Sam Raimi offering from Michael Mendez, whose fiendishly simple plot conceit keeps the violent thrills coming thick and fast. It also boasts a wonderfully self mocking performance from Dolph Lundgren as demon hunter Jebediah Woodley. The narrative of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s much-anticipated return to the J-Horror field, Creepy, unfolds at a leisurely pace as its protagonist drifts gradually and inexorably into the (frankly unfeasible) trap set by his, er, creepy neighbour. I missed much of The Ghoul, so apologies to director Gareth Tunley, yet another of the festival’s star guests.
Mayhem began as a short films festival and honours its roots every year with a collection of the same. This year’s two-hour strand of promising cinematic sketches ranged from Tristan Ofield’s bonsai Sci-fi epic White Lily to the black comedy of Conor McMahon’s Stranger In The Night (not to mention the brown comedy of The Procedure!)
We were further treated to two late night retro screenings, Mario Bava’s Alien-inspiring mini masterpiece Planet Of The Vampires (remastered under the supervision of flavour-of-the-month Nicolas Winding Refn and – lest it be forgot – Lamberto Bava) and a timely, touching projection of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s epochal Blood Feast with a special filmed introduction by The Godfather of Gore himself, so recently lost to us.
Incidental festival delights included the film introductions and knockabout musical-themed goody bag giveaways conducted by the redoubtable Sheil / Cooke double act and the chance to meet some social media friends in the flesh (great to spend a cozy hour or two with @CosiPerversa), coin a few new friendships and renew fond old acquaintances with the likes of David and Eva Reprobate, Carl Severin, the very FAB Harvey Fenton, the hot-rockin’ Morrows, Ewan and Mike from Arrow… big hello to the Shudder crew, too.
‘Twas particularly sweet to be in the team that won the traditional pre-closer quiz (nay, “Flinterrogation”) along with Carl, Eva, charming chanteuse Robyn Taylor and the agreeable dude whose name currently eludes me (sorry!) If I’ve forgotten anything or anybody else… well, I’m getting on a bit now! Still hopefully sprightly enough to make it to Mayhem 2017… see you there?
(Look out for my extended Festival report in an upcoming issue of Dark Side magazine…)