We’re well into October now and along with all the great scare attractions to be visited, this month brings one of my favourite horror events of the year: Sheffield’s annual horror film festival Celluloid Screams. Based at the Showroom Cinema in the heart of Sheffield and co-programmed by HorrorBox’s own creator Polly, Celluloid Screams promises its guests three days of the best in classic and contemporary horror. This year’s edition marks the festival’s 10th birthday and to celebrate, guests have been treated to an extra night of the best horror films with the festival’s usual Friday to Sunday schedule being extended to include Thursday as well. This year will be my fifth year of attending the festival in full and the line-up promises to be an exciting one with some greatly anticipated films making the list. Following the festival this year I’ll be bringing you my top five films not to be missed and the highlights of the weekend. Now to prepare myself for this week’s fun I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and share with you my top five films from the festival so far.
2014 – What We Do in the Shadows
Taking the top spot is this incredibly funny vampire comedy written and directed by the wonderfully talented Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. It follows the lives of four vampires sharing a house in Wellington, New Zealand and chronicles their days struggling with house chores, fatal sunlight accidents, finding the right outfit for a night on the town and keeping up with modern life. At the festival, this screening was an undeniable favourite amongst the packed audience. I watched the film with genuine tears of laughter streaming down my face and this is a film that I’ve watched again and again since. This year’s festival sees the premiere of brand new spin-off show Wellington Paranormal, including a Q&A with its stars: officers Minogue and O’Leary. I for one can’t wait!
2014 – Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead
Coming in second is another horror comedy but this time it’s Nazi zombies stealing the show. In Tommy Wirkola’s sequel to the 2009 original Dead Snow (Død snø) we see survivor Martin continuing to have the worst day of his life. If resurrecting a horde of Nazi zombies, being forced to take a chainsaw to your own arm and accidentally killing your girlfriend wasn’t enough, Martin now has to lead a ragtag bunch of zombie slayers in an epic battle against Hitler’s still loyal soldiers. This film closed the festival in 2014 and was a riot from start to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much laughter in a horror screening. This sequel saw the action, gore and comedy taken to all new heights and in my opinion outshines its predecessor. It will always hold a special place in festival regulars’ hearts as it started the now legendary group karaoke rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.
2017 – The Endless
In third we have last year’s remarkable film from festival favourites Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson. The Endless re-introduced us to the weird and wonderful world we first encountered with the duo’s 2012 film Resolution. This mind-bending story sees Moorhead and Benson playing brothers who revisit the isolated new age cult they escaped a decade earlier. Now seeking closure and an explanation for the strange phenomena surrounding the camp and its youthful inhabitants, the brothers must unravel the intricately interwoven mysteries before it’s too late. This film benefits from great writing and direction and was gripping from start to finish. The filmmaking duo have some exciting new projects in the works that I’m definitely keeping an eye out for.
2015 – The Witch
In 2015 my fourth film arrived under guard from the watchful representatives of Universal Pictures and from the outset it felt like we were about to experience something special. Robert Eggers’ The Witch did not disappoint. Set in the backdrop of 1630’s New England, this hauntingly beautiful film weaves a chilling tale of a family’s struggle to endure against failing crops, bleak wilderness and a malevolent evil just waiting to prey on their suspicions and weaknesses. The sense of terror increases as the devoutly Catholic family begins to unravel and mysteriously disappear. The score in this film was particularly unsettling and helped to create an electric atmosphere in the cinema that ensured we never forgot the name Black Philip.
2017 – Mayhem
Rounding out my top five is Joe Lynch’s delightfully violent and bloody Mayhem. Horror fans will note its similarity to the Belko Experiment which saw a theatrical release in the same year but while the Belko Experiment’s darker, more serious tone sees its characters lost in the manipulations of men, the events in Mayhem are less predictable, more enjoyable and ultimately: absolutely hilarious. Steven Yeun of Walking Dead fame plays a young workaholic lawyer fired after being framed by a vindictive co-worker. In the process of being escorted off the premises, the building is quarantined due to the outbreak of a virus that causes all those infected to act out their most outrageous and violent impulses. What would you do to clear your name and get your job back? Now he must survive the working day amongst these cut-throat, corporate sharks. I loved this film, it’s a treat for anyone who’s ever worked in an office environment and daydreamed about the potential uses of that trusty stapler.