It's time for Abertoir, the annual festival of all things horror film related that takes place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre during the appropriately gloomy month of November. Two things have made me decide that the festival deserves coverage here - one being that it seems a little unfair to only cover London and Glasgow Frightfest events when there's so much else going on throughout the UK. The second is that Mrs Probert & I attended Abertoir for the first time last year and it was such a great event, everyone was so friendly, and the selection of films shown was so good that it would be doing everyone a massive disservice for House of Mortal Cinema not to cover this year's festival. Here, then, is the first of my reports from the rain-lashed, mist-cloaked, isolated place in Wales that, for one glorious week in November, is the best place for any horror fan to be.
Carry on Screaming
Abertoir prides itself on having two main movie strands. As well as brand new horror pictures there's the chance to see some much-loved classics on the big screen. And they don't come much more loved than this, a movie from a golden period of British film-making, when both Hammer Films and the Carry Ons were at their peak. Director Gerald Thomas, and screenwriter Talbot Rothwell, along with the usual cast (and Harry H Corbett standing in for Sid James who was persona non grata for this one apparently) expertly carry off the difficult job of spoofing Hammer and Universal, while still making something that's uniquely their own. Some of the jokes are understandably dated now - there probably aren't too many of us who will appreciate composer Eric Rogers' skill at incorporating the theme for Z CARS into his bouncy police theme - but it's still lots of knockabout, silly fun, best watched in an atmosphere just like this. Frying tonight!!!!!
Ghost story upon ghost story upon ghost story in this Japanese film that presents us with strange occurrences in a building that (surprise surprise) is all due to Something Terrible That Happened In The Past. Rather dry opening and middle acts pile backstory upon backstory to the point of everything becoming so convoluted I was hoping this was going to present us with a clever spin on the usual Japanese ghost movie cliches but sadly not. I think everyone else in the room liked this more than I did so please bear that in mind when reading this, as well as the fact that when it comes to movie scares I often prefer a sledgehammer to a flickering a candle flame.
...and here comes the sledgehammer. Directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie are part of Astron 6 (MANBORG, THE EDITOR and other genre delights) and here they give us a feature length horror about a hospital besieged by cultists as mutants attack, weird pregnancies abound and something very strange indeed is going on in the basement that is causing reality to fracture (I think). The storytelling is all a bit confusing & I couldn’t quite tell if that was deliberate or not. The concept and visuals, however, are things of the best monstrous scary nightmares, less Lovecraft inspired and more Clark Ashton Smith. In fact by the end of this one I felt sufficiently weirded out that I didn’t want to go to bed and that in itself means THE VOID deserves praise. When reading this review bear in mind that grotesque mutant former human blob things from other dimensions scare me a lot more than creeping shadows & I am not ashamed of that.
A midnight showing of William Lustig's 1980 sleazy slasher or bed. Bed won.