Mayhem Horror Film Festival Preview: What I'm Looking Forward To

    As an American transplanted abroad, it has occurred to me that we take Halloween and its traditions rather more seriously than the British often do. Full trick-or-treat regalia was mandatory in all suburbs, as were outdoor decorations in orange and black, plastic skeletons, big bowls of sweets, and jack o'lanterns brimming with candy. As one might imagine, without all that wonderful nostalgic tradition, I'm left a little bit wanting when it gets to that time of the year. As such, I can't imagine anything more in the proper spirit than spending Halloween weekend scared senseless, watching horror movies.

    This upcoming Halloween weekend in Nottingham - Thursday Oct 31st to Sunday November 3rd -  The Broadway Cinema's annual Mayhem Horror Film Festival is once again in full swing, with a large variety of modern, classic, cult, and exploitation films from the horror genre. They range from Hollywood silents to 70's Ozploitation to the past year's most subversive, original, and terrifying new releases. From the modern giallo The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears to 70's New York slasher homage, the tongue-in-cheek Discopath, this year's flavourings seem to be referential to horror's long, colourful history, while remaining firmly in the present in terms of genre revisionism, sly self-awareness, and occasional camp. I should be covering most of Mayhem this year and below, in summary, are a few of the screenings I'm most looking forward to.

        Nicolas Roeg's Puffball + Don't Look Now with In-Person Director Q+A  [Thurs. Oct. 31]

     If Mayhem had 'gala' screenings, these would fit the bill. The legendary British director Nicolas Roeg, of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Performance (1970) fame, will be appearing in person to do a Q+A at both films. He will be in attendance for his 2007 film, Puffball, starring Donald Sutherland, Kelly Reilly, and Rita Tushingham. His classic Don't Look Now, a gothic, Venetian-set story of grief and the many monsters it breeds, is being screened, for further dramatic effect, at St. Mary's Church in Nottingham's Lace Market. It should be a fascinating evening, with Roeg discussing both his most recent and his most enduring entries into the horror canon.


                           The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (2013) 

   At its release at Toronto International Film Festival, critics called Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet's second feature a bafflingly surreal, hyper-violent ode to Dario Argento's glory days, and I for one am very much looking forward to seeing it.  Set around the mysterious disappearance of a man's wife and the various histories of the tenants where she last lived, the film is said to be less plot-driven than a series of symbolic impressions - many have called it an impressive homage to Italian giallo.


                                                              Discopath (2013) 

  French director Renaud Gauthier pays sleazy, self-aware tribute to 1970's slasher films via the route of the well-loved disco clubs of seedy New York, perhaps with oblique reference to several nihilistic films from the period, like Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The story centres around a shy young man with severe psychosis who becomes entangled in the joyous underworld of disco; his murderous urges reach frenzied heights as he discovers the bacchanalian nightlife. For me - an enormous lover of '70s New York, its cinema, and with a huge weakness for disco to boot - this is must-see.


                                                     Wake in Fright (1971) 

      An unmissable opportunity to see on the big screen - one of the foremost films of the Australian New Wave and its associated exploitation genre, known as Ozploitation. For the uninitiated, a guide can be found in the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation. In it, directors like Quentin Tarantino champion the savagery, the 'poor taste', the joie de vivre and the gruesome horror of Ozploitation. But Wake in Fright is not lurid; it is believable, and deeply human. Taking place in a rural Outback town, a schoolteacher grows increasingly desperate and savage as a series of unhappy incidents befall him. The outcome is a brutal, uniquely Australian, and apparently involves kangaroos.

                                                     The Unknown (1927) 

    To wind down the weekend, one of the final Sunday night screenings at Mayhem will be the MGM silent horror, The Unknown. Starring Joan Crawford and horror icon Lon Chaney, the plot revolves around a bizarre cast of carnival folk and a runaway murderer. Excitingly, the film will be shown with a live musical accompaniment from the Nottingham-based 8MM Orchestra. From Tod Browning, director of Freaks (1932) and Dracula (1931), it is sure to be a fascinating pre-sound anticipation of his later, classic works.

    Individual screening tickets along with day passes are available now on The Broadway's website. You'll almost certainly be hearing back from me on the last weekend of October with a full report of the festival and reviews of the films being shown.


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