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Article – Crystal Palace International Film Festival 2015: Horror & Sci-fi Night

 

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Posted November 17, 2015 by

 
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Crystal Palace International Film Festival 2015: Horror & Sci-fi Night

I had the honour of being invited to this event by the inimitable Anthony Stabley, writer and director of Everlasting, which had its world premiere at the CPIFF on Wednesday 11th November, and what an atmospheric evening it was.

Held in St. John the Evangelist, a beautiful and imposing Gothic revival church nestled in a leafy, residential street near Crystal Palace, the horror and sci-fi screening of this year’s festival was sold-out, and the pews were packed with horror fans, many of them dressed to impress in their best Halloween costumes.

Crystal Palace International Film Festival 2015

Chatting to director and co-founder of the festival, Roberta Gallinari, it wasn’t hard to see what makes CPIFF so special. Resplendent as Anne Boleyn in green velvet gown and with a gaping wound across her neck, Roberta spoke with me about the importance of variety, of setting, of making sure attendees have time and space to fully digest what they’ve seen. It is certainly the most lavish festival of its kind I’ve ever been to. The well-stocked bar, friendly, knowledgeable staff, and sumptuous surroundings made the viewing experience an extremely special one, as did the smell of delicious Sri Lankan cuisine pervading the church, and the comfort breaks between each group of shorts. No numb bums or crossed legs at this festival!

The quality of the featured shorts was extremely high. There was an excellent balance of funny, disturbing, and unexpectedly emotional, and we were even treated to an impromptu Q&A session with James Moran, director of Crazy for You, whose previous credits include Severance, Cockneys vs Zombies, and Doctor Who.

While each film had much to commend it, here are a few of my personal highlights:

Devil Makes Work (Guy Soulsby)

The brilliant Sean Dooley is Lucifer explaining his view of humanity in this seven minute orgy of visual delights. Soulsby’s background in high-end commercials is very apparent in the way he intersperses the sound-bitey monologue with highly polished and jaw-droppingly lush imagery. His depiction of a Sisyphus type character pushing a giant boulder uphill against a hellish backdrop of fire and ash is particularly striking.

The Prey (James Webber)

A fun little British film with a twist in the tale, as a young woman is pursued through the rough part of town following an argument with her boyfriend on their way to a Halloween party. But this girl is not quite as vulnerable as she seems…Plenty of gore and wry humour in this affectionate swipe at traditional monster movies.

Night of the Slasher (Shant Hamassian)

This original take on the slasher movie from the US is remarkable for being shot entirely in one, eleven-minute take. A pretty young girl works her way through a list of horror movie ‘sins’ including ‘dancing in her underwear’, ‘drinking beer’, and ‘having sex’. It’s not entirely clear why she is locked in this seemingly endless danse macabre with her masked attacker, but the wound across her throat and her knife skills suggest it has been going on for some time. Tense, funny, and technically brilliant, this is well worth eleven minutes of anyone’s time.

Crazy for You (James Moran)

crazy for you

Starring Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who’s Rory), and Hannah Tointon (Tara in The Inbetweeners), this is a romantic boy-meets-girl comedy in which the boy just happens to be a serial killer. Smart, funny, and gorgeous to look at thanks to the lovely, candy-coloured production design, the end of this tale is far sweeter and more affecting than it has any right to be. A scrummy confection with the suggestion of a razor blade hidden inside…

Submerged (Darren Mapletoft)

Although we’re told that submariner, Billy, is alone because a teleportation experiment went wrong and vanished the rest of the crew, this doesn’t feel like your typical sci-fi film. Instead the focus is on the very real, claustrophobic horror of watching a man slowly succumb to oxygen deprivation. A towering performance from Darren Bransford as a dead man walking, who wishes only to live to dance with the woman he loves again, makes this a compelling and haunting watch.

Sebastian and Them (Benjamin Bee)

A messed up and ambiguous little story about a man struggling with some kind of psychosis. When his girlfriend and doctor advise him to throw away his childhood toys (the implication being that they are associated with some kind of past trauma), Sebastian reluctantly takes them to the dump. But in the car on the way home, Sebastian discovers that his furry friends won’t be cast aside so easily…Funny, shocking, and disturbing by turns, these playthings make Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko look positively benevolent!

Terry and Brenda (Jamie Hooper)

terry and brenda

Perhaps my favourite offering of the night, Hooper’s mediation on the banality of evil is like an episode of The Royle Family in which Jim and Barbara have been replaced by Fred and Rose West. Debra Baker and Tim Blackwell give fearless performances as a middle-aged couple who go to dark extremes to keep the passion in their relationship alive. This film accomplishes a lot in its fifteen minute run time. The opening scene introduces the characters, their companionship, the intimacy, banter, and comfortable stretches of silence which exist between people who have been together for ages. It also hints at something disquieting lurking beneath the surface of this marriage. After sharing a late night cuppa and a cigarette, Terry takes Brenda upstairs where, after discussing the MOT due on their car, the pair slip into something a little less comfortable than her dowdy dressing gown and his stained vest and pants, and the pace changes considerably.

Hooper uses pitch-black humour to offer a little relief from the unbearable tension, only to hit us with increasingly more twisted and upsetting revelations. I found it interesting that one of the most ‘squirmy’ scenes for the audience seemed to be the frank (and audible) depiction of a fairly vanilla sex act. Perhaps Hooper is forcing us as viewers to confront the fact that there is something strange about the way we are as sickened by seeing unattractive people of a certain age and questionable personal hygiene, having consensual and enthusiastic sex, as we are by extreme violence…

With amazing characterisation, unflinching performances, great dialogue, tight editing, and a real sense of foreboding, Terry and Brenda is as unsettling for its portrayal of true love as it is for its subject matter. They might not be as glamourous as Mickey and Mallory Knox, but Brenda and Terry certainly linger in the memory.

 

Read Similar Articles?…

[Article] – Underwire Film Festival 2015
[Review] – ‘Everlasting’
[Article] – Nathan Silver – Chickentown’s Fassbinder – Vienna International Film Festival 2015

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Katie Young
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