Grimmfest Special: Sinister, American Mary, Comedown and Cockneys Vs. Zombies
With Grimmfest well underway, here are Tom’s thoughts on the films he’s seen so far
On Wednesday evening I travelled to Stockport for Grimm’s special preview night and I wasn’t disappointed with what was in store – apart from not winning the raffle – I really wanted that Universal Monsters blu-ray set! First up was a special preview of the latest supernatural thriller Sinister starring Ethan Hawke followed by the gruesome body horror of American Mary featuring Katharine Isabelle, most famously known for her role in Ginger Snaps.
Thursday saw Grimmfest returning to its rightful home at Manchester Dancehouse and I was there to catch Menhaj Huda’s urban horror Comedown, set in an abandoned tower block and the frightfully funny Cockneys Vs Zombies featuring none other than the legendary Alan Ford. Cast and crew from both films were there to share their views with a receptive audience and the festival has already given us an early contender for the standout film of the event.
Ethan Hawke is Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer still living off the successes of his first novel, desperate to rekindle the fame that came with it no matter the consequences, even if that means relocating his family to a house where murders have taken place. As he delves beneath the surface of the crime and unearths a box of old super 8 films in the attic, Ellison unwittingly puts his family at great risk as he gets nearer to revealing the true identity of the killer.
This found footage documents the murder victim’s last moments alive and these sequences stand out as some of the creepiest parts of the film, with the usual barrage of jump shocks proving mostly ineffective. Scott Derrickson’s direction is slick and stylish with the eerie and unsettling gothic imagery setting the tone for a suitably macabre horror. Not quite as effective as last year’s surprise hit Insidious, but this will certainly keep horror fans happy in the run up to halloween
Taking body horror in a new direction, American Mary charts the rise of a student surgeon who embarks on a wicked spree of revenge follwing the unwanted attention of her mentor. Mary takes body mutilation to a whole new level, providing the usual services demanded of her alternative clients such as splitting tongues into two and genital piercings along with torturing those who cross her path in some of the most extreme ways imaginable.
Katherine Isabelle is excellent as Mary, her transformation from an innocent student to a destructive personality is believable and when the freakshow gets going, her devious approach to surgery leads to some very squeamish scenes that would make David Cronenberg proud
Taking the slasher film in a new direction, Comedown pitches a gang of urban hoodlums against a mysterious killer, think Kidulthood by way of Friday the 13th, and sets the events in a deserted towerblock to crank up the tension. There are solid performances from an impressive young cast and a number of death scenes that will have gore hounds screaming in delight.
During the Q & A the director confessed his love for genre films and explained the script’s original appeal was due to it’s fresh twist on a tried and tested horror blueprint. Menhaj Huda certainly sets out to break new ground and whilst it is not wholly convincing as a game changer, Comedown is still a solid entry into the horror genre.
Cockneys Vs Zombies
The director of Cockney Vs Zombies, Matthias Hoene, is a man with very big kahunas. Films with ‘vs.’ in the title are usually ridiculous B-movies with few, if any, redeeming factors, and I can see how easy it could be for people to dismiss this exceptional horror comedy purely on the basis of its name. However, those who do would be missing out on a standout zombie film that proves there is still life in the shuffling corpses of the undead.
This zombie apocalypse is unleased on a pair of brothers and their resourceful friends as they undertake a bank robbery with the intention of raising money for their grandfather’s soon to be demolished care home. The police soon become the last of their worries as they escape into a world under threat from the living dead, and try to valiantly take back the
James Moran, the writer behind the hilarious screenplay, said that he only had one person in mind when casting Ray Maguire, the valiant grandfather who rallies his friends around him to defend their care home from the imminent zombie invasion, and Alan Ford is spectacular as the cockney geezer fighting off old age and reanimated corpses.
The gore hounds will be satisfied with the gruesome deaths that befall any zombies which cross the path of Ray Maguire, and there are some hilarious scenes that almost put Cockneys Vs Zombies right up there with Shaun of the Dead. This is a film whose review deserves an article to itself, and I will bring that to you in the coming weeks, but for now, take it from me that Cockneys Vs Zombies is an unmissable comedy.