Long time followers of Fanboy Confidential will know of our affiliation with the Mayhem film festival, but to those newer to the fold, Mayhem is a four-day festival based in Nottingham, England. Starting life as a Halloween based horror festival, over the last few years the festival directors, Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil, have pushed the event to represent not just horror but all genre cinema that can be considered cult or bizarre.
To reflect this new direction, Mayhem has been moved away from its traditional Halloween slot to earlier in October, which impeded the proceedings not at all; in fact the sense of community spirit and the inclusive atmosphere created but the always jolly organisers and regular attendees was just as welcoming and fun as ever.
The schedule was perhaps more dense than ever this year, with special guests every day; here’s how things went down along some recommendations of films to keep your eye on.
Thursday, October 15
7.00PM: The festival opened with Emelie, a taught film about a babysitter who isn’t all she seems. Uncomfortable and unpredictable, Emelie sidesteps the obvious murderous sitter angle in favour a sitter that makes the kids under her care do some imaginatively weird stuff for reasons you won’t guess.
8.45PM: Especially relevant to us Fanboys and the film most representative of Mayhem’s new focus, next came Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD, a documentary whose title is fairly self-explanatory. Future Shock!, pretty insightful to all but people already well versed in comics history, becomes much more interesting when it focuses on the more troubled eras of the influential British comic, the clear friction between the people behind the scenes adding plenty of drama to a doc that could easily have been rife with self congratulatory back-slapping and self-important mythology making (as it initially veers toward). All comic and sci-fi fans should catch this on its release. This was followed by a Q&A session with director Paul Goodwin, Producer Sean Hogan and brilliant 2000AD artist D’Israeli.
11.30PM: Closing out the first day was Canadian thriller, Rabid Dogs. A remake of Mario Bava’s 1974 film of the same name, this violent tale of hostage taking is exceptional by the fact that it is almost entirely set in a single car.
Friday, October 16
4.15PM: The second day of Mayhem kicked off in a slightly trippy fashion with Crumbs. More delicate and dream-like than your average post-apocalypse, Crumbs can boast the fact that it is Ethiopia’s first science fiction feature film.
6.30PM: Britain’s first horror offering of the fest was Nina Forever. A unique ghost story if ever there was one, Nina Forever examines loss and obsession with the added bonus of a broken, sarcastic ghost and gallons of blood. The likable writer/director team of the Blain Brother were joined by producer, Cassandra Sigsgaard for a spirited Q&A session.
9.00PM: Next came Howl, the second of a British double bill and the first of a creature feature double bill. Weak in writing and character, this werewolves-on-a-train tale, in some way, made up for its shortcomings with slick visuals and excellently thought out werewolves and werewolf mythology, especially in light of its modest budget. Ex-makeup FX artist and Howl director, Paul Hyett was in attendance for a frank and down to Earth Q&A.
11.15PM: Rounding off the creature double bill was mutant wasp extravaganza, Stung. Co-Starring Lance Henricksen and much better than it has any right being, Stung is witty, pacey and gory as all hell. Highly recommended.
Saturday, October 17
12.00PM: The early weekend slots of Mayhem are usually populated with chaotic and fun outings, and this year was no exception; Saturday opening with the live action adaptation of the popular manga, Parasyt. Parasyt: Part 1 (the first of a two part series), takes an oft used Body Snatchers type scenario and totally turns it on its head to make a frenetic, daft, ultra violent and wholly original origin story, that has a teenager talking to and fighting with his conscious and metamorphic right hand. I can’t wait for the follow-up.
2.15PM: Following that gem was and even bigger one, my favourite film of this and perhaps any Mayhem festival that I have yet attended, He Never Died. Starring Henry Rollins as one of the toughest and most singular characters you’ll ever see, He Never Died defies genre by combining crime, horror, comedy and so much more. It’s original to a fault and totally successful in all its intensions to such a degree that its slight story is almost irrelevant, the brilliant characters and occasional left field revelation keeping you wanting more. Be warned though, coming at it blind is the best course of action as anything you learn of it will be to it’s slight detriment. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Seek it out with all due haste then tell your fiends to do the same.
Look out for more in depth reviews of Parasyt and He Never Died on Fanboy Confidential over the next few weeks.
4.15PM: Saturday evening is always reserved for Mayhem’s point of origin, their programme of Scary Shorts, short horror films both local and international filmmakers. This year saw human experimentation, eerie shadow puppets, surgical revenge, cow allegory and a crow hand.
7.30PM: As an homage to the great Christopher Lee Mayhem present the truly unique, The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula – Live. Supplied by the vaults of Hammer Horror, this unfilmed script was given life for the first time anywhere in the world by being performed, radio play style, by a cast of talented voice actors, live on stage. A genuine privilege and treat for all present.
10.30PM: Drawing Saturday to a close was the only retrospective of the festival, the 1989 oddity, Society, presented in glorious 35mm.
Sunday, October 18
12.00PM: The last day began with another barrel of fun, New Zealand’s latest accomplished horror/comedy, Deathgasm. Clearly influenced by early Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright, Deathgasm, a tongue-in-cheek, heavy metal inspired Satanist flick, gallops by at a breakneck pace and throwing in oodles of splatter, though it’s perhaps less funny than it thinks it is; still a huge amount of fun though.
1.45PM: There were no laughs at all to be found in the next film, German Angst, the only anthology of the 2015 line-up. Each section of this three part, German produced (though sometimes English in language) anthology was almost stereotypically straight-faced in its presentation of horror. The first part, made by Nekromantik’s Jorg Buttgereit, was, if not totally pointless, then most certainly rubbish. Thankfully the next two parts were much better, the first being a tale of thugs victimising a deaf/mute couple which really got under my skin, and the second being a story of freaky sexual experimentation presented like a creepy Lovecraftian short story.
4.15PM: By far the most popular film of the event (if filled seats are to be the judge), was the poe-faced The Witch (AKA The VVitch). This simple tale of a lone colonial family being harassed by the unseen presence of a nearby witch is incredibly atmospheric but glum to the point of potential suicide. It could have held the unseen presence thing too stringently and been something of a let down, but thankfully it doesn’t pussy-out and serves up a damn chilling conclusion.
6.45PM: Bizarre cinema doesn’t even come close to describing Steve Oram’s AAAAAAAAH! (always spelled with eight As). Playing out as a Kitchen-sink drama combined with a nature documentary, AAAAAAAAH!, written and directed by the co-star of Sightseers, tells a story of family dominance in a world identical to our own, other than the fact that all the people act and communicate like apes. There’s no dialogue, just grunts and body language, nevertheless its story unravels logically and it’s very funny to boot. It’s perhaps just a single view deal but a worthwhile one, if just for the experience. Steve Oram was a great guest who seemed genuinely thankful to everyone who turned out to his self-funded opus.
8.30PM: Another longstanding Mayhem tradition came next with The Flinterrogation, the most bastard hard horror quiz you’ll likely ever try,
9.30PM: Bringing the festival to a close was The Invitation. A slow burning, paranoia inducing film, The Invitation centres around a dinner party of old friends that’s aim may or may not be far more sinister than the weirdo hosts of the event. Satisfying come it’s climax and certainly one to recommend, this was a most worthy conclusion to the event.
I have to admit that I didn’t go into this year’s Mayhem with my usual high anticipation due to the fact that, on first inspection, the line-up seemed fairly underwhelming. In future I’ll know better than to doubt the selection choices of the organisers, who this year supplied films whose good/bad divide was even smaller than the average year, which on the whole are remarkably low anyway. All but a few films where just my cup of tea, adding up to so much more than their respective blurbs could ever suggest or that a trailer could ever do justice to.
The kind of films Mayhem now champion will most likely never see a broad cinematic release precisely because they don’t conform to a simple blurb or obvious trailer, which, to my mind, makes Mayhem more important than it has ever been. These kind of films deserve more grandeur and appreciation than just dumping them onto Netflix will ever achieve, and I’m proud to be part of (even simply as an attendee) something so lovingly put together and executed, by people who give a shit about cinema in all its forms.
I’ve never been shy about proclaiming Mayhem the best horror festival in the world; film diversity precludes that title from being applied anymore, but, with this year’s film selections and events as evidence, it can rightly be described as the world’s best festival of weird-genre cinema. May it be proud.