2023 marks my fifth year of Celluloid Screams retrospectives and despite having to weather Storm Babet this year’s festival was still terrifyingly stellar.
This year attendees saw another beautiful horror gallery (from Vice Press), an array of merchandise stalls from Arrow Video, Fab Press, Last Shirt on The Left, Killer Kultpins, FunkeeJunkeeMunkee and more, and themed food from Showroom Cinema. We also had filmmaker masterclasses, live Turbo Kid commentary from filmmakers François Simard and Yoann-Karl Whissell, plus a special 35mm grindhouse experience.
So how did the films stack up? Here are my ratings and reviews of every film at the festival in 25 words or less. Accompanied by some recommendations for short films I saw.
Where The Devil Roams: Beautiful imagery and good performances, though it would have benefited from being a short film (2.5 / 5).
The Origin: A slow, clunky Stone Age survival adventure made passable by a tense third act. Although the explanation behind the stalking force is anticlimactic (2.5 / 5).
The Chapel: The film’s central relationships and exploration of how children process death are interesting however it spins its wheels a lot before the climax (2.5 / 5).
Pandemonium: This anthology has a fantastic introduction and a standout segment involving a mother and bullied daughter. It’s failed by an excessive ending and confused theming (2.5 / 5).
Freaked: Freaked has glorious effects work but goes for quantity over quality regarding jokes and its plot feels too throwaway (3 / 5).
What You Wish For: Suspenseful cannibal cooking, global south exploitation allegory voted the festival’s best film. Foiled by some bad “lying” performances and convenient plotting (3 / 5).
It’s A Wonderful Knife: Mostly a predictable slasher riff on It’s A Wonderful Life enlivened by Justin Long’s, Jane Widdop’s, Jess McLeod’s, and Katherine Isabelle’s great performances (3 / 5).
Lady Terminator: Our grindhouse screening and the festival’s best theatrical experience. Bloody, fast-paced, unintentionally funny and so playfully poor taste it’s hard to get angry (3 / 5).
#Manhole: A gripping simple premise quickly becomes so overcomplicated it detracts from the drama. Thankfully Yûto Nakajima’s performance and the over-the-top ending make #Manhole watchable (3 / 5).
All You Need Is Blood: A fun amalgamation of other ideas explored during the festival. Unfortunately, it suffers from an uneven tone and trying to do too much (3 / 5).
Hellbound: Hellraiser II: Introduces great new characters and features excellent effects work but it lacks the original’s impact due to the peeling away of the villains’ mystery (3 / 5).
Turbo Kid: This slight coming-of-age story has a lovely central relationship, charming effects, and Michael Ironside is gloriously villainous. The live commentary was wonderful (3 / 5).
T Blockers: Packed with an envigorating liberatory message and affectionate characterisation (Sophie is among 2023’s best characters). The horror elements just needed better incorporation (3 / 5).
Falling Stars: The characters make this work. Everyone feels so genuine you get completely swept up in their journey and the tension is built masterfully (3.5 / 5).
Killer Klowns From Outer Space: The schlocky genre affection radiates off the screen. Consistently funny with outstanding effects (3.5 / 5).
We Are Zombies: A zombie genre reinvigoration that loses its way by the end but has enough guffaws (insensitive moments aside) and guts to satisfy genre fans (3.5 / 5).
Loop Track: Thomas Sainsbury’s anxious performance and a masterful balance of serious and comedic tones make Loop Track an effective paranoid ride (3.5 / 5).
Stopmotion: A well-made nightmare about the creative process that features tremendous animation and a fierce performance from Aisling Franciosi (4 / 5).
Now here are the best short films.
Award Winner: You’re Not Home is a disturbingly real look at racism and the asylum system’s inadequacy. The 1st place jury prize winner.
Celluloid Screams 2023 continued the high standards expected by attendees. The new additions were definitely welcome and the programming was as amazing as ever. Showing that come rain or shine Celluloid Screams will always give genre fans what they need.