Aberystwyth’s international horror festival celebrated its 13th year with a blood-splattered slasher theme, featuring genre classic such as My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night and of course Friday the 13th, as well as a special guest appearance from filmmaker Sean S. Cunningham.
But the festival also showcased a host of brand-new horror movies demonstrating how rich and diverse the genre can be.
One of Abertoir’s more hyped films following its busy festival season, Assassination Nation doesn’t disappoint.
Modern day Salem, Massachusetts descends into assault rifle-armed anarchy when half the town’s phones are hacked, leaking the population’s dirty laundry and darkest secrets for all to see. Falsely accused of the hack, Lily (Odessa Young) and her three best friends Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) must defend themselves from a braying mob of gun-totin’, slut-shamin’, slogan-chantin’ townsfolk.
Like Heathers for the Trump era, Assassination Nation is bold, brash and boasts coal-black comedy on a thick slice of all-American satire. Marrying searing social commentary with visceral violence, the film is a timely reminder of the pressures young people are under in the digital age, and a powerful call-to-arms for young women in the face of shameless hatred.
Lola is an ambitious camgirl with a flair for the dramatic, but her online world is turned upside down when she finds her livelihood taken over by a digital doppelgänger.
Cam is a confident debut feature from director Daniel Goldhaber, while Isa Mazzei’s script crackles with tension and creeping dread as the story twists into a pulsating climax. It’s a visually seductive and gripping trip that features a magnetic lead performance from Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale), while offering an honest and unashamed look into life as a sex worker.
In India during the first half of the 20th Century, the bastard son of a village lord becomes obsessed with a mythical treasure guarded by a demon god that folk dare not speak of. As he grows into manhood, becoming a husband and a father, his shadowy secrets and insatiable greed begin to consume both his family and his soul.
The film is reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s rich and sinister fictions, with its crumbling castles, sumptuous cinematography and a wicked knack for gore. Epic in scope and gothic in style, Tumbbad is fantasy horror on a grand scale, with a dark heart at its rotting core.
BLUE MY MIND
Raw meets The Shape of Water in this coming-of-age body horror, the feature debut of Swiss writer-director Lisa Brühlmann.
After moving to the suburbs of Zürich with her distant parents, 15-year-old Mia (Luna Wedler) suffers the standard teenage disillusionment. But as her body changes and she tries to numb the growing pains with sex, drugs and shoplifting, Mia begins to suspect something fishy is going on.
While not the first film to explore a monstrous metaphor for puberty, Blue My Mind leans more heavily on the emotional and mental effects of Mia’s gradual transformation, offering a sensitive insight into the issues many young women face. The film is anchored by a brave and engaging lead performance from Wedler, while an unhurried narrative pace, punctuated by some truly disturbing scenes, builds to a breath-taking and beautiful finale.
The debut feature of South African filmmaker Jerome Pikwane is one of the hidden gems of this year’s festival.
Busi (Petronella Tshuma), a young woman haunted by the demons of her past, desperately tries to make a new life for herself with a cleaning job at a Johannesburg hospital. When she meets a young girl stalked by a supernatural force, Busi must face her deepest fears to save her.
A modern take on a traditional tale, this Zulu-language ghost story should be of interest to fans of The Babadook and Under the Shadow. While the story might occasionally meander, The Tokoloshe brews an intoxicating atmosphere with haunting scenes shot with striking cinematography.
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD
A one-shot zombie movie turns into something else entirely in this postmodern horror comedy masterpiece.
From humble beginnings in its native Japan, One Cut of the Dead has now taken the international festival circuit by storm, and deserves to earn cult status in future years. Writer-director Shin’ichirô Ueda chucks buckets of blood and other bodily fluids at his script’s wicked wit, before soothing your aching funny bone with a surprisingly emotional and uplifting climax. The element of surprise is one of the film’s greatest assets, so we’ll keep this review brief, but One Cut of the Dead is the finest and funniest comedy horror since Shaun…
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