The Mayhem Horror Festival cracked on at a wicked pace at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema yesterday with killer sushi, bad dads, ghostly kids, Israeli psychos and a raft of scary shorts.
Dead Sushi (dir. Noboru Iguchi), from the creator of Mutant Girls Squad, combined martial arts, flesh-eating food, and sushi recipes in a delirious horror comedy about killer sushi attacking the guests of a Japanese hotel, in which the beleaguered staff, led by apprentice chef Keiko, must battle to save the day. Combining the social satire of Juzo Itami (Tampopo) with the slapstick sensibility of early Peter Jackson, Dead Sushi has to be seen to be believed. It’s outlandish fun, if a little overlong, “it needs fifteen minutes chopping out”, one of the lovely Broadway staff remarked and she’s right. Dead Sushi has yet to find a UK distributor and I reckon the BBFC will have trouble with some of it – especially the nunchucks made of squid – so try to catch this one at a festival if you can.
Jennifer Lynch’s Chained is a sombre but brilliant study of twisted parental values and bad fatherhood. A serial killer murders a boy’s mother and decides to raise him as his own in the hope he will follow in his footsteps. As the emotionally damaged killer Vincent D’Onofrio delivers a performance so brutally honest, it is impossible to view the character simply as a monster, which makes the film all the more upsetting. Chained is a film that will stay with you, but it is a gut wrenching piece of work, so be warned.
Joe Ahearne’s BBC adaptation of James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall seemed rather tame in comparison, but its spooky atmosphere gets under the skin nonetheless. Fans of British ghost stories will find much to enjoy in this three-part drama which screens this Autumn.
Rabies carries the distinction of being Israel’s first horror film, and it is a bold piece of work that proves it is still possible to take a camera into the woods and produce something fresh. The title is a bit misleading: Rabies isn’t a virus movie, but a study of how violence spreads through a group of tourists when they veer off the beaten track and come up against a serial killer. Rabies touches on familiar horror tropes and character types but is altogether more serious and realistic than the average backwoods horror - more Deliverance than Wrong Turn.
A programme of short films can often be a challenging (i.e. tedious) prospect but the Scary Shorts at Mayhem this year were, without exception, well, exceptional. Reese Sheersmith put in a strong performance as a serial killer caught short by an unexpected visitor (The Woman’s Pollyana McIntosh no less) in Him Indoors.
Arachnophobes would do well to avoid Loom, a German computer-generated study of spiders doing their thing in microscopic detail.
The Captured Bird was executively produced by Guillermo Del Torro and this fairytale of a young girl’s visit to a weird stately home that is filled with terror and awe, has the master’s stamp all over it. A little more story wouldn’t have gone amiss though.
O’Risco proves that sometimes you should think twice before drawing the line, and does so in a perfectly entertaining two minutes.
Familiar is a powerful and clever study of the angst of middle age, as a man’s dream of leaving his wife is thwarted by her unexpected pregnancy. He begins to suspect that his increasingly negative impulses are not his own, and the ‘familiar’ of the title takes on new meaning. Richard Powell’s perfectly judged combination of psychological anguish and body horror would not be out of place in a Masters of Horror-type TV slot.
Ethereal Chrysalis defies description. The organisers of Mayhem thought it perhaps the strangest film they had ever seen, and it certainly had a visionary quality about it in a William Blake sort of way. The audience loved it though.
Exit, by contrast, was an intriguing if slightly talky adaptation of a Harry Farjeon short story in which a parlour trick ensures the disappearance of an unwanted guest at a Christmas party.
If giant Snails are your thing, you are sure to love Cargols!, a delightful Spanish monster movie that manages to deliver everything that many Hollywood blockbusters like Godzilla fail to – namely laughs, thrills and a good story – in a mere 17 minutes. Here is one short film that is crying out to be a feature.
Sunday’s Mayhem includes Manborg, The Shining, American Mary and the European premiere of Steven Sheil’s Dead Mine. For more details: www.mayhemhorrorfest.co.uk