Mayhem Festival carried a distinctly ‘experimental’ theme yesterday with screenings of the paranormal investigator opus The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, Ian Clark’s medical shocker Guinea Pigs and a tribute to the late Ken Russell with a showing of his psychedelic Altered States.
In Andrew Spencer’s The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, the titular parapsychologist is followed by a documentary camera crew as he investigates a series of local hauntings while simultaneously being haunted by his own past. Harking back to the classic ghost story of M. R James, Eddie Brewer is a quietly haunting (sorry) character study, based loosely on the true life parapsychologist Maurice Grosse who investigated the case of the Enfield Poltergeist.
Ian Brooker brings a quiet dignity to the role of the dedicated but disparaged Eddie, who becomes gradually unravelled during the course of his investigation. Andrew Spencer’s solid direction combines mock-documentary and ‘fourth wall’ drama that gives Eddie Brewer the feel of Most Haunted meets The Stone Tapes, and invokes the work of Nigel Kneale in its sense of slowly mounting dread.
Ian Clark’s Guinea Pigs also invokes the best of British television sci-fi/horror but more in the tradition of Survivors. A group of human guinea pigs are locked away in the confines of a medical establishment and given Pro-9, a mysterious new drug, only for the clinical trial to rapidly descend into a nightmare of murder and psychosis.
Combining a claustrophobic setting with body horror Guinea Pigs plugs into paranoia about the pharmaceuticals industry in a big way. Like Eddie Brewer, Guinea Pigs leaves you with the distinct feeling that this might just all be true. Director Clark expertly cranks up the tension as the trial volunteers struggle with their distrust of each other - and themselves - as one by one they succumb to the effects of the drug which turns them into homicidal crazies. Combining elements of classic invasion-metamorphosis narratives like Blue Sunshine and The Thing (and sharing the claustrophobic feel of the latter), think Big Brother orchestrated by early David Cronenberg and you get something close to Guinea Pigs.
For details of the weekend’s screenings visit https://www.starburstmagazine.com/6045