Monday, 25 October 2010

Trash Cinema @ The New Continental

In my largely forgotten childhood, The Continental (my local pub) was best known for monkey bars, Captain Coconuts and its proximity to a scenic park. Flashforward (Joseph Fiennes style) and I’d be hard pressed to believe that a pub could be transformed into a stage for plays, a cinema for films and an exhibition space for artists. However on a cold rainy night in Preston, seeing was believing.

Chaired by serial blogger and cinephile Robyn Talbot, we were treated to a viewing of Sergio Martino’s 1973 gory Italian exploitation masterpiece Torso. Tables with candles were set out in front of a 14ft high definition screen and with a bar nearby, I haven’t seen a film in a more relaxed and sophisticated setting.

The night was also the national launch of the upcoming ‘Lucio Fulci’s Box of Terror’ set, which for ethical reasons I was not able to win in the raffle but nevertheless I was privy to Torso, a cult horror masterpiece that never skimped on the blood, nudity or murderous and largely inventive set pieces.

The night was capped off with a chance for me to plug Grimm Up North but even without an ulterior motive, it was nice to see film and culture brought to Preston (which is a mere 35 minute train ride away from Manchester I’ll have you know). The north will forever be in the shadow of the south but its endearing that people like Robyn and venues like The New Continental are willing to take a chance and put on a good show.

For more information on all the events The New Continental has coming up visit

JD Douglas-Walton
Writer for Grimm Up North

Monday, 23 August 2010

Steve's Review - Alien Vs Ninja

Grimm Up North Movies: ALIEN VS NINJA (Seiji Chiba)

The title pretty much writes the review. This really is exactly what is says on the box - Ninjas fighting Aliens.

No subtleties of characterisation, no intricate narrative set ups. Just 80 minutes of martial arts mayhem and cartoonish gore; a delirious pop-pulp-trash mash-up, harking back to the much-loved catchpenny monster slugfests of Toho Studio’s golden era. The plot, such as it is, is simple to the point of idiocy. Essentially, it’s the set up of PREDATOR in the landscape of THE WATER MARGIN. Two parties of Ninjas are sent out into a large forest to investigate a mysterious meteorite which has fallen close to a neighbouring, rival Han. Their Feudal Lord fears it might contain something of value that he does not wish his enemies to get hold of. In reality, however, it contains - yeah, you guessed it - alien beasties.

From there on in, it’s one long wire-work-enhanced fight to the death. The Ninjas, clad in black leather armour and sporting rockstar haircuts, look more like members of a Japanese heavy metal band (Except, obviously, for the fat, bald, screaming, cowardly comic relief character, who has to be the world’s most unlikely assassin). The aliens look like men in rubber suits - but let’s face it so does Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, probably because that’s what it was.

However, ALIEN VS NINJA director Seiji Chiba is far less concerned than Scott was with creating a credible alien menace. In fact, he’s less concerned than Edward L. Kahn was in IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE. AVN is all about the ass-kicking. This is cinema as Pro Wrestling. It’s a mindless monster manga come to life and coming to a midnight movie screening near you. And it’s a laugh a minute.

Prepare to choke on your popcorn.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Steve's Review: All About Evil

ALL ABOUT EVIL (Dir: Joshua Grannell)

Why do we love horror movies? What is it that we love about them? What needs do they fulful for us? These are the questions posed by Joshua Grannell’s outrageous feature film debut ALL ABOUT EVIL, which interrogates even as it celebrates the wilder excesses of genre cinema.

The film tells the story of Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne), a mousy librarian, who inherits a grind house cinema specialising in cult b-movies and gory 70s and 80s horror flicks. Haunted by her failure to become the child star her beloved father dreamed she would be, tormented by her cruel and rapacious mother, Deborah is driven over the edge into committing murder. But her crime is caught on camera, and accidentally screened to her cinema audience to rapturous applause. Suddenly, all of Deborah’s dreams of cinematic success start to come true. She is feted as a visionary director; her screenings become the hottest ticket in town. The only problem is the continual need to find new performers to appear in her films. Fortunately, however, Deborah has a lot of rage issues to work out. Enlisting the aid of her embittered elderly projectionist Mr Twigs, degenerate hustler Adrian and psychotic twins Veda and Vera, she quickly builds the ideal crew for her cinematic endeavours, and sets to work. Meanwhile, horror film buff Steven, her biggest fan, longs to get to know her better…

Were I pitching the idea to Hollywood Executives, I’d probably describe it as WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE directed by Hershell Gordon Lewis… And of course they wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about, because the people financing films today have no sense of Cinema History - particularly the less “respectable” parts. ALL ABOUT EVIL, however, is steeped - soaked! - in that bloody history. Grannell is better known as his demonic drag diva alter-ego Peaches Christ, host of San Francisco’s infamous “Midnight Mass” screenings, celebrating all that is camp, gory, and gloriously tacky in cinema past and present. Grannell’s love for the horror genre is evident in every frame of his film. Opening with a beautiful title sequence, incorporating re-imagined versions of dozens of classic B-movie posters, and crammed with visual and verbal in-jokes, arcane allusions and mischievous references galore, this is a cult cineaste’s delight, a multi-layered slice of self-referential meta-cinema, with even the title being a cheeky bit of wordplay on the seminal Joseph L. Mankiewicz / Bette Davis movie ALL ABOUT EVE.

Yet however post-modern the film may be, this is not at the expense of narrative, character and sheer creative chutzpah. Grannell never forgets that first and foremost his film should be fun. ALL ABOUT EVIL’s purpose is above all to entertain, and in this it is a roaring success, both as a fast-paced 80s-style slasher movie thrill-ride, and as a blackly comic parody, with the cast catching the tone perfectly. Natasha Lyonne’s star turn as Deborah is a cunning compendium of filmic femmes fatales, skilfully leaping from Mae West, to Bette Davis, to Joan Crawford (or perhaps Faye Dunaway’s nightmarish caricature thereof in MOMMIE DEAREST), to Queen of the New York Underground Lydia Lunch. The rest of the cast deliver equally well-judged turns. Cult character actor Jack Donner (you name it, he’s been in it!), exudes seedy, gleeful malice as Mr Twigs, and there is a magnificently witchy turn from the Amazonian Julie Caitlin Brown, as Deborah’s vile mother. Ironically, but altogether appropriately, it is the stars most associated with camp who are given the warmest, most sympathetic roles: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark herself, Cassandra Peterson, is effectively cast against type as Steven’s bemused but understanding mother, while John Waters regular Mink Stole brings unexpected humanity and pathos to the role of the elderly spinster chief librarian whose well-meant interference Deborah so resents.

The result is a riotous splatter-satire, which is not afraid to mix laugh-out-loud black comedy with some genuinely queasy moments of violence and gore. The casting nod to the “Pope of Trash” John Waters is entirely fitting. The film’s closest relative is probably Waters’ CECIL B. DEMENTED - another lament for everything that has been lost in this blanded-out world of pre-sold, pre-tested, corporate-sponsored, product-placement-stuffed multiplex fodder. Joshua Grinnell - or is it Peaches Christ? - offers us a chance to enter a world where the carnival barker antics of William Castle, and the blood-drenched excesses of H. G. Lewis, the cartoon bawdiness of Russ Meyer and the huckster genius of Roger Corman, are not forgotten. Where Cinema remains…magic!


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Noel's Review: Amer

Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer is a Belgian, French language movie that I've been lucky enough to see ahead of FrightFest. Going in, I was aware of suggestions that it owed much to the work of directors like Argento, Fulci and Bava and was something of a love letter to the giallo style of horror film making. Of course, this was enough to peak my interest, but I have to say that ultimately I was in no way prepared for what lay in store for me.

Without going in to too much detail on plot, what I can say is that Amer evolves over a very tight 90-minute, three act narrative. In its first section, which is arguably its most heavily inspired by Argento, we follow a young girl exploring the creaking hallways and rooms of her childhood home. As she wanders from one place to another, catching the tail-ends of her parents' conversations and hiding from her terrifying lace-clad grandmother, we're treated to some of the most compelling and engaging cinema I've seen in as long as I can remember. With a light dusting of Guillermo Del Toro, this thrilling exploration of childhood fear and confusion moves comfortably between outright creepiness and mind-bending surrealism.

For the second act, we rejoin our heroine - although this time she is in her teens and outside the confines of her large and imposing family home. However, this new freedom brings with it a level of burgeoning sexuality that regularly seems as if it might explode on the screen at any moment, but manages to be intermittently subdued by moments of tension and the intervening touch of her authoritative mother.

In its final third, we return the house that had such a presence in the film's first half hour, along with the giallo-esque aesthetics that made it so powerful. However, this is not before a beautiful and hazily-paced taxi ride in which the threat of overwhelming desire is ramped up to new heights for its lead, this time a fully-fledged woman in her sexual prime.

In its first five minutes, Amer had me absolutely gripped and I stayed that way for every remaining glorious 85. Sure, in parts it more than a little reminiscent of 1970s European horror, but this is by no means the only trick it has up its sleeve. As a piece of art, this is a film that is as visceral as any I've ever seen. It has a visual style that is surpassed only by its stunning sound design, making every breath, every gasp and every bead of sweat as tangible for the viewer as it is for the characters on screen.

Elegantly paced, infinitely watchable and by far one of the best films I've seen this year, Amer is a film I cannot recommend enough. While the plot will undoubtedly leave some scratching their heads, this is an exercise in arthouse cinema that is as sensually involving as anything else you are likely to see this year - possibly even longer.

- Noel Mellor, Web and Social Marketing Co-ordinator, GRIMM UP NORTH

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Josh's Review: Inception

For a film supposedly ten years in the making, writer and director Christopher Nolan delivers a complex and engaging sci-fi/action film that's original as it is epic.

The premise is complicated but easy to understand, its a heist movie at heart but instead of criminals breaking into in a bank, Leonardo DiCaprio is breaking into people's dreams by the process of extraction. DiCaprio heads up a stellar cast of award winners and Hollywood heavywieghts including the handsome Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine.

DiCaprio is Dominic Cobb, an extractor, who specialises in subconscious security. Aided by his pointman Arthur (Gordon-Levitt), Cobb and Arthur break into a subject's dreams in order to steal their secrets. The film opens with a botched extraction of businessman Saito's (Watanbe) dreams. Saito has an alternative offer and employs Cobb to perform inception. Instead of stealing information, he has to implant information in a subject's mind, a complex and near impossible feat to perform.

After the brief set up, the film settles into its rhythm, exploring Cobb's past, his relationship with his deceased wife Mal (Cotillard) and the nature of subconscious theft. Cobb assembles of crack-team to infiltrate Fischer's (Murphy) dreams and implant the idea that dissolving his father's massive empire is a good idea.

The majority of film deals with the actual inception and the complications that arise from creating a dream, inside a dream, inside a dream. Despite the slightly convoluted nature of dreams, Nolan carefully weaves in layers of philosophy and narrative complexity. Inception is never overly difficult to understand and comprehend which serves it well but it also never reveals the full picture which kept me hooked from start to finish and constantly had me wanting more answers.

The film's gun play and action is well choreographed and always exciting to watch. Coupled with sublime editing, gripping music from Hans Zimmer and superb direction and vision from Nolan, Inception is one of the most interesting and exciting films I've ever seen. It's visually rich and beautifully shot.

Looking back at the film its hard not to slide into sensationalism and hyperbole when trying to describe Inception but the best comparison I can make is to The Matrix (and by extension Ghost in the Shell). I remember the first time I saw The Matrix and the way it drew me in with postmodern questions about the nature of the 'real' and how it candidly boiled down complicated subjects. Inception outstrips The Matrix in terms of narrative fidelity while the philosophy is still there but it isn't so overt and it seems less pretentious for it.

Ultimately Inception is one of the best films I've ever seen and it certainly is the best blend of sci-fi/action out there.

JD Douglas-Walton
Writer & Networker for Grimm Up North.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Josh's Review: Resurrection County

A group of four attractive suburbanite campers travel to the remote, sleepy Southern town of Enoch in search of a peaceful getaway - but things in the South are never so simple, as the group soon find out.

With early references to country bumpkin characters and a postmodern nod to familiar stereotypes, it would seem Resurrection County is primly set up to be just another Texas Chainsaw Massacre clone. However, once the exposition is out of the way and the film settles down, it finds a consistently tense rhythm that highlights the story's true colours.

Although these are mainly the green and brown hues of the southern outback, these soon give way to deep crimson (why, I'm guessing, you can work out for yourself). Things begin to first go awry when leading men Tommy and Sam venture off the trail while quad biking the nearby woodlands and come across a gun-toting redneck that seems a little funny about trespassing strangers. From here the real fun begins as it seems like the whole of Enoch is out to get them.

Although it may sound like a backhanded compliment, one of Resurrection County’s greatest strengths is simply that it reminds you of things you've seen before. This may sound negative, but the discomfort this movie offers from the outset allows you to expect the worst to happen - and it isn’t long before it does.

Once the blood starts spilling and the unhappy campers are fighting for their lives, you soon get a glimpse of why these Southern god-fearing bumpkins are so blood thirsty. One of the film's most endearing qualities, however, is that apart from a slight lull in the second act, it remains solidly built throughout. Direction, editing, music, acting, the brilliant and believable special effects all blend together nicely.

Resurrection County is well worth a watch. You’ll have seen countless films like it but it holds up well in both technical and thematic terms. Beautifully shot, gripping, violent and bloody as hell, the movie even offers a few lines that will make you crack a smile. Check it out.

JD Douglas-Walton

Writer & Networker for Grimm Up North

Monday, 19 July 2010

Noel's Review: Burning Bright

Scheduled to play a Friday morning slot at this year's FrightFest, Burning Bright is an odd little tale that takes a high concept threat and spins it out into a full-length feature.

So what is the high concept at the centre of the movie? Well, basically it's 'girl trapped in house with Bengal tiger' - a premise that I have to admit I've been more than curious to see unfold. But how do we get to this terrifying and dramatic point in the story? Well, read on…

Kelli (Briana Evigan) is a promising young girl with dreams of going to college. She's already been accepted to a high profile institution, but following the recent suicide of her mother she's unwillingly inherited the responsibility of looking after Tom - her autistic younger brother. Having resigned herself to the fact that she can't take proper care of him, she decides to enroll him in a school of his own - but quickly discovers that the money left for his education has been squandered by her stepfather.

Has he drank the thousands of dollars left in his deceased wife's will away? Spent it all on drugs and cheap hookers? Frittered it away at the tables of local casinos in a fit of grief and depression? No, he's arranged a roadside meeting with Meat Loaf to buy a Bengal tiger as part of a wider plan to turn his home into a Safari Ranch - smart.

Anyway, Kelli comes home and challenges her stepfather, who is busy preparing the family home for an incoming storm. Nailing the last of the windows and doors shut, he heads out to a bar, leaving the teenager and her younger brother home alone. At which point, someone mysteriously lets the caged animal into the house and for the next hour we a deadly game of cat and mouse - except the cat is a tiger and the mouse is a hot teenage girl in her pants. Nice.

It’s a great concept that's dealt with pretty admirably by director Carlos Brooks. With only one other such credit to his name (2008's Sundance featured Quid Pro Quo), Brooks does well delivering high tension and intrigue in such a enclosed space. Although the film is not without its faults, there's definitely enjoyment to be had watching a starved tiger stalking two people trapped in a building with all the windows and doors nailed shut - and those who like to shout instructions at the screen during films will have a great time telling Kelli what she should or should not be doing.

The brutal truth of Burning Bright is that it is a problem that is easily fixed. While Kelli is busy dragging her brother from room to room making one failed attempt to escape after another, you quickly see that her time would be much better spent barricaded in one specific place. But once you get over the fact this would make for a pretty dull horror thriller, you should find there's some good old-fashioned harmless fun to be had here.

Noel Mellor
Grimm Up North Online Marketing Co-ordinator

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Simeon's Postcard From Cannes!

I just found the postcard I sent from The Cannes Film Festival back in May, behind the radiator. It reminded me of some of the great movies and gossip we picked up there and so, I thought I should share some of it with you. The truth is - I really don't know how I managed to fit so much text onto one little piece of card!

The sun is shining (intermittently) and the beach is wrecked, must have been some storm! Been doing my bit for GRIMM UP NORTH, but God its hard work - watching all those movies, attending so many exclusive parties, after a while it's tough to keep up! But I've also been doing my fair share of research, checking out the trade mags, looking at reviews and finding market screenings on a whole bunch of horror and associated movies. Can't always get into screenings - as I don't have an expensive Cannes Market badge - but have managed to sneak into most! So what's hot? Well, I have seen a whole bunch of films from all over the world and all, as yet, are unreleased in the UK.

Pick of the bunch - CHATROOM. Hideo Nakata, famous for RINGU (RINGU not PINGU), tries his hand at a British movie. Not really horror, more thriller as the movie blends the beautifully visualised virtual world of the internet chat room with the real world, following a band of friends seamlessly from one plane to the other. Aaron Johnson (fresh from his success in KICK ASS and still only 19) plays the messed up lead, who's hatred of his own life leads him to destroy others through the virtual world. Nice concept!

THE SILENT HOUSE is definitely worth looking out for. An 83 minute one take wonder from Uruguay. You have to see it to believe it and its stylish and scary too! Plot logic leads a little to be desired but putting that aside, it's a hell of an achievement on a real low budget.

KABOOM, the latest crazy conspiracy filled bi-sexual romp from prolific US director Gregg Arraki caught my eye. It's quirky and really quite enjoyable, even scary at times. Definitely worth a watch.

BEDEVILLED, seemed to just call out to me from the trade mags and when I charmed my way into a private screening, I wasn't disappointed. A very dark Korean movie about a city girl going home to an insular isolated island society and finding her sister's husband is the most abusive, twisted man you could imagine. Needless to say the film ends in VERY bloody revenge. The film builds and builds and when the inevitable violent retribution (don't underestimate the graphic nature of this, either) finally comes, you find yourself empathising with every visceral murder. Extreme!

GOSSIP. Seems everyone was talking about A SERBIAN FILM and I was warned by its sales company, that it wasn't for the squeamish, it's apparently very extreme in its content. Haven't yet seen it but its reputation goes before it. I'm guessing it might well screen at FRIGHTFEST this August (Turns out our Simeon was right, clever boy - Noel).

SHADOW. A Italian horror from rock star Frederico Zampaglione. A real mix of sub genres in this piece, verging from psychological twists of the JACOB'S LADDER variety, through to clear homage's to the grand guignol of classic Argento - really quite fun, but a little schizoid in tone.

PROWL, is one of the '8 films to die for' strand, which you may well of heard of. We screened DREAD and THE GRAVES from last year's lineup. This year they are actually producing their own movies, rather than just picking up existing movies and PROWL is one of them. I was particularly interested in this film, as it was edited by Celia Haining, who also cut my own movie SPLINTERED. As the second film from MANHUNT director Patrik Syversen, PROWL isn't bad but is a little slow to build. Set in the states and shot, I think, in Eastern Europe, it kinda shows! Still, it holds some great action scenes as our heroin finds herself at the mercy of a pack of wild vampires holed up in a disused factory. Nicely edited, I might add, but then I'm biased!

Sooooo… what else, what else? Well, I missed THE PACK, French zombie movie, which was due to be screened on the outdoor beach screen but didn't happen. But caught Greek Zombie movie EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES, which has been picked up for Edinburgh, it's kinda crazy, funny and scary at the same time. If a Zombie film can be camp, then, I think this is it. It's even got Billy Zane in it! Overall, this has some nice action scenes, pretty high production values and nasty deaths to keep you entertained - along with unfathomable logic and mystifying plot. Could just become a cult classic!

I've got a feeling I posted a second card from Cannes, but not entirely sure. The combination of being drunk or hung over tends to blur the mind. But if I find it folks, you'll be the first to know.

That's it for now.

Simeon halligan
Festival Director

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

You Really Don’t Want To See That! - The Unfilmable Novels of Jim Thompson

This year, at Grimm Up North, we will be looking directly at the transition from page to screen, with a series of discussions, seminars and screenings in association with the Manchester Literature Festival. We’ll be seeing how accurately that transition can be made, what is lost and what is gained in the process. We’ll be looking at genre writers who have made the move onto the big screen, considering why some have had more success there than others, looking at what translates well, and what doesn’t.

It might seem a strange observation for a film programmer to make, but there are certain things which really do defy the art of film. There are books that are genuinely unfilmable. There are images which should remain on the printed page.

Fear not, Grimmfans, I am not getting all morally self-righteous here. I am not advocating censorship, nor would I ever. The first rule of cinema is Show Not Tell. And this goes double for horror cinema, where the purpose is to expose an audience to its fears - to everything that sickens, appals and traumatises.

And yet there are some horrors best left to the written word - not because they are too much to bear, but because they simply do not translate to the screen. I found myself thinking this during a recent viewing of Michael Winterbottom’s film version of Jim Thompson’s classic hardboiled noir novel THE KILLER INSIDE ME.

James Myers Thompson (1906 - 1977), the “Dimestore Dostoyevsky”, is cited by Stephen King and Harlan Ellison as their favourite crime writer. Stanley Kubrick described this particular novel as “probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered”. But significantly, though Kubrick collaborated with Thompson on a couple of screenplays, he never even attempted to film any of his books. He knew better than to try. Nevertheless there have been various noble efforts to capture Thompson‘s worldview on screen, most notably Sam Peckinpah in THE GETAWAY, and Stephen Frears in THE GRIFTERS. But none really comes close to the original books.

And now there is Winterbottom’s KILLER INSIDE ME. The film of course generated acres of press controversy over its graphic depiction of violence against women, with defenders claiming this was true to the book, and detractors claiming the director was glamourising the violence. This is a very minor illustration of the difficulty of translating words on the page into images onscreen. It is one thing for Thompson to talk of a woman’s face being pounded to “stew meat, hamburger”. It is another to show it. But, hell, we’re hardened horror fans, here, right? We can cope with a few shocking images of violence? Of course we can.

But this is not my bone of contention. Where I think the film actually falls down is in failing to understand how dependent the novel’s success is on its entirely interior perspective of events. THE KILLER INSIDE ME is a first person narrative by a paranoid schizophrenic, and it is the worldview of this narrator, Sherriff Lou Ford that unifies what is actually a rather ramshackle and rambling plot. So dominant is Ford’s voice in the book, that I was convinced that the film had added all of the messy unconvincing scenes towards the end. It was a real shock to go back to the original text and discover that the film was following the book verbatim. The narrative failings were Thompson’s, not Winterbottom’s. And yet the novel succeeds where the film does not, because the narrative is less important to Thompson than the narrator. This is a study of Lou Ford’s gradual exposure and mental collapse. Once events are exteriorised, objectified, separated from the perspective of Ford himself, all we are left with is a series of loosely connected events and a melodramatic conclusion. What works on the page does not work onscreen.

And this is one of Thompson’s more straightforward, least grotesque novels. His is a world of political and social corruption, dominated entirely by baser instincts and emotions, and peopled by psychotics, sociopaths, paranoids, hysterics, self-loathing neurotics and oedipal wrecks. The only half-way decent human being in this world is the huckster-lawyer, Isidore Kossmeyer, one of Thompson’s very few recurring characters, who for all of his liberal values and championing of the underdog is more than half-charlatan. Written quickly, even carelessly at times, Thompson’s novels start in a recognisable hardboiled pulp-exploitation world of randy bellboys, womanising travelling salesmen, bank robbers on the run and hitmen on a job, and end up somewhere truly nightmarish. Functional, meat-and-potatoes pulp prose suddenly grows floridly poetic, wryly satiric, or startlingly experimental. Narratives break down just as effectively as their narrators. The novels eat themselves alive, perform their own literary deconstruction. They implode or explode as messily and spectacularly as their protagonists and narrators. Thus, Frank Dillon’s account of events in A HELL OF A WOMAN becomes ever more unreliable, and self-deceiving, until it finally splits right down the middle. In SAVAGE NIGHT, Charlie Bigger, the undersized hitman, increasingly beset by feelings of inadequacy and his own shrinking influence, ends by describing his own gory dismemberment as the thematic and metaphoric suddenly becomes horrifically literal. Thompson’s novels bleed into one another. A situation one character finds himself in at the close of one book may be a stepping off point for a whole new novel about an entirely different set of characters. Partly, this is the result of a pulp writer’s instinct for getting as much mileage as possible out of an idea, but more importantly it reflects Thompson’s seeming need to take every idea to its darkest, most troubling place. And then find a different approach in a different novel that will enable him to go even further with it.

Thompson has been an inspiration for several generations of literary extremists, in a variety of genres, as well as in supposedly more “serious” fiction, and whether it be through adaptation, or appropriation of theme, his influence dominates contemporary noir and crime cinema, from Quentin Tarantino to John Dahl. But nothing onscreen could ever come close to the horrors Thompson left between the pages of his 20-odd grubby paperback originals.


Monday, 12 July 2010

Noel's Review: Frozen

Having had the chance to meet Frozen writer/director Adam Green (alongside his close friend, Wrong Turn 2 helm Joe Lynch), it's clear to see how the director has fashioned such a cult following with genre fans.

At last year's FrightFest, the pair were almost omnipotent and seemed to be reveling in getting down to some serious fun and frolics with everyone and anyone around. Their homage to An American Werewolf in London was a festival highlight and their presence was enough to make me - and probably many others - seek out their work when I got home.

Green will return to the Leicester Square event in August this year with the UK premier of his sequel to the 2006 rural hack-a-thon Hatchet that made his name - although I must admit that, having now seen the original, this isn't one I'm champing at the bit to catch. However, the premise of Frozen, which is set to be launched by Momentum in September, is one that is well capable of sparking curiosity.

Where Hatchet was set to the misty backdrop of a New Orleans swamp, Frozen uses a desolate ski resort to inflict terror on its trio of victims. Three teenagers - one of whom is bizarrely named Joe Lynch - manage to scam a late night trip down the mountain having bribed the chairlift operator. When a mix up at the controls sees them stranded in the chair, the gang must face the fact that due to the harsh conditions and real possibility they'll be stuck there for days, they are going to have to take action - or die.

It’s a great high concept premise that's backed by some pretty engaging performances and, for the most part, provides some pretty enjoyable fare. The relationship between the three leads, a young couple and a male best friend who feels he is being squeezed out, is enough to give the simple narrative a little extra drama. The introduction of an extra threat in the second act could be deemed unnecessary by those looking for a deeper, more contemplative piece of film. However, it's not really enough to derail what is a pretty entertaining 94 minutes.

Some slightly odd dramatic choices involving the female lead allow the music to swell to a score that is a little reminiscent of Michael Giachinno's work on Lost - which makes for some pretty strange moments. Here, I felt myself questioning whether I was witnessing a directorial misstep, but feel it may have more to do with Green's own sense of humour. But all in all, these are mild criticisms for a film that - while not achieving its full conceptual potential - is well worth your time.

Noel Mellor
Grimm Up North Online Marketing Co-ordinator

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Fear

(I only posted this picture to prove how hip I am because I know a song by Lilly Allen)

The beauty of horror films comes from throwing the audience into a world that is so vile and disgusting, so far removed from normal life that you can’t help but sit, stare, clench your teeth and stick it out.
This provides the basis for this blog post. I’ve picked out some choice moments from cinema (and video games) that have stuck with me for all the wrong reasons. These aren’t the scariest films or games ever to be produced but they have certainly had a lasting effect on me.

The first is The Fly (Cronenberg 1986). It’s worth pointing out that I feel physically sick even thinking about this film. I hate any kind of body transformation, mutilation, transmogrification or any combination of the previous. So it’s safe to say that the story of an eccentric scientist (have you ever met a scientist that wasn’t eccentric?) who, through a failed experiment, begins to morph into a fly.

I originally watched this a few years ago on TV, I knew a little about the film so I thought why not? Despite being repulsed from start to finish, I stuck it out and god was that a mistake.

The worst bit? Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) vomiting on his food so he can eat it.
I’m desperately struggling to think about sweets and kittens in order to get The Fly out of my head. Maybe my next pick will help.

Super Mario Bros. (1993) (according to Wikipedia, no less than three people directed this film so that goes some way to describing what a mess this is). Anyway you’re probably rolling around on the floor laughing (or whatever the kids are doing nowadays) but bear with me.

Bob Hoskins has publicly said that it’s the worst thing he’s done, not the worst film he’s done, but the worst thing he’s done. Hoskins stars opposite the ‘great’ John Leguizamo so you know you’re off to a winner. Anyway I could rant about this all day...

I saw this film as a sweet innocent child way back at Christmas, many years ago. I distinctly remember eating a bowl of spaghetti hoops while watching it. The scene that haunts me so much? When Princess Daisy’s Dad (at this point, a giant ball of snot) comes down a pipe. He’s just a ball of goo, he has bits flaking off him, it looks like sick, it reminds me of being sick and it makes me sick! It’s also safe to say that I’ve never actually eaten spaghetti hoops since.

And finally a video game. Resident Evil (the first one). I’ve never been a big Playstation guy and thus I’ve missed out on a lot of classics. A few years ago I got my hands on a PS2 and decided to catch up on what I’d missed. I borrowed the original Resident Evil from a friend and decided to play it. I’m good at games, I don’t like survival horror but I’m good at games, so what’s the problem?

Well I put in the game, watched the opening cutscenes, walked into the mansion (very slowly) and when the zombie dog jumped through the window... I turned it off and I haven’t touched it since.

JD Douglas-Walton

Writer & Networker for Grimm Up North

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Review: The Inhabited Island

The Inhabited Island

2008 Directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk

This a sci-fi action adventure from Russia in two parts, set in the distant future where mankind has harnessed the abilities of the human body giving them superior strength and intellect. They use these abilities to travel vast distances throughout the galaxies. When a young space traveller named 'Maksim' crash lands on an unknown world he finds the local inhabitants at war with one another. Ignorant of Maksim's home world (Earth), the indigenous people are largely a more technically advanced race, but have yet to experience space travel themselves. Maksim's crash landing on the planet has destroyed his ship, leaving him stranded with no hope of rescue. In an attempt to integrate himself into this new society he chooses to join the army, propelling him on an epic adventure in which he must try to uncover the secrets the planet holds and attempt to overthrow the governing rulers known as 'The Unknown Fathers.'

This film is brilliant! It takes the form of two films - each roughly around two hours long - and reminds me of a cross between Riddick and Lord of the Rings. The budget of roughly $36 million seems to have been well spent with some impressively picturesque landscapes and equally impressive CGI. The Inhabited Island puts Night and Day Watch (the only other Russian films I remember enjoying) to shame. The sheer epic grandeur of this film coupled with it's beautiful cinematography makes it a must see.


Jez Blackmore

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Noel's Movie Review: Slice

One of the glorious things about being involved in Grimm Up North is you can fully indulge all of your cinematic desires in films that you may otherwise have never gotten around to seeing. Often these movies will be deep within the horror genre, while others will toe the line with this and anything from sci-fi, comedy, drama and thriller.

Slice is a film that does just that, borrowing from both police procedural slashers like Seven and unrelenting coming of age tales like Slumdog Millionaire. Like Slumdog, director Kongkiat Khomsiri's story takes place in the present but recalls a past fraught with childish mischief and the cruelty of the adult world. But here, the modern day is unconcerned with romance and joy, but instead focuses on bringing a brutal serial killer to justice.

The story follows Tai, an incarcerated ex-cop who has been released and charged with the task of tracking down the murderer, who has taken to removing the genitals of his victims, cramming them where the sun don't shine and often disposing of them in a large red suitcase. It seems some of the behavior of the killer links to Tai's childhood friend Nut and when this link grows stronger it becomes clear he will have to look back at the troubled childhood they spent together if he is ever to see his criminal record wiped clean and be reunited with his wife.

Early on, Slice sets out its stall by appearing as traditional an eastern take on a western thriller as you would expect. Scenes are beautifully crafted and there is an element of suspense that hangs over a plot that, while certainly familiar, delivers plenty of shocks, kills and crime scene investigations.

However, at some point roughly halfway through, I became very aware that what I was watching was not the template for a US remake featuring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd, but instead had shifted towards being an incredibly engaging coming of age drama. The story of Tai and Nut's background becomes such a huge part of the narrative that it threatens to run away with the film, only to be brought in to a spine-shattering climax that literally made me exclaim "No, fucking, way" at the top of my voice despite watching the movie alone.

Slice is an absolute gem of a movie that, while shifting slightly uncomfortably between genres occasionally, is nothing short of breathtaking. The beautiful golden locations of some of the flashbacks serve as a stark companion to the grittier neons of the modern street scenes. But this really just gives you more to watch.
Hailing from Thailand and without a release date in many countries, it's difficult to say when Slice will make it to cinemas or store shelves in the UK, but with a thoroughly absorbing story and a mind-blowing last act, you would do well to make a note of its name.

Noel Mellor

Grimm Up North is going to FrightFest!

The final line-up of films has been announced for this year's annual Frightfest horror movie festival in London and once again the team has put together a whole host of terrifying treats.

Of course, tickets and festival passes sold like hot cakes when they went onsale this weekend and your loveable Grimm Up North! blogger, podcaster and all-round gorehound (me) will be there once again to check out what sinister slices of cinematic filth have been lined up. I'll be reporting back here, writing on my own blog and reviewing on Eat Sleep Live Film over the course of the five-day festival. Plus, as I'll be attending with 35mm Heroes co-hosts Jordan McGrath and Ian Loring (Cinerama), you can expect plenty of audio and video coverage to boot.

So, the tickets are booked, the hotel sorted and the train taken care of and in just under eight weeks time I'll be heading to the Empire Cinema in London's Leicester Square. But what are the movies lined up this year that I'm most looking forward too? Well, read on and you'll see!

The festival kicks off proper on Thursday 26th August in the Main Empire screen at 6.30pm with the latest offering from Adam Green. As one half of the event's unofficial mascots (the other being Wrong Turn 2 helm Joe Lynch), it's hardly a surprise the slasher sequel gets its World Premiere here - but it should definitely get things kicked off with a bang. The rest of the evening promises typically rural terror in Primal and a modern take on Hammer in Dead Cert. The latter features Danny Dyer, but the synopsis sounds pretty interesting so hopefully that will cancel out my general disdain for the one-note mockney monkey. A cast list that also includes Jayson Fleming, Craig Fairbrass and Dexter Fletcher would suggest we can expect Buffy meets Lock Stock here - so this could be well worth a watch.

With the Discovery Screen open for business on Friday, there are some tempting options to be had. But with the day devoted to genre legend Tobe Hooper in the Main Screen it could well be an easy decision for many. First up is a screening of his lost debut Eggshells, a psychedelic sci-fi oddity that leads up to an interview with the man himself and a showing of his 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The rest of the night has Brit crime thriller Isle of Dogs, the mysteriously titled F and an Aussie flick that promises to be somewhere between Halloween and No Country For Old Men - Red Hill. The last of the night's fun in the Main Screen is high-concept slash sockey fest Aliens Vs Ninja, which has to be better than the Paul WS Anderson film it sounds like an offshoot of. Meanwhile, during Eggshells, I plan to be over in Discovery checking out an odd little curio by the name of Burning Bright, the story of what happens when your house gets invaded by a Bengal Tiger.

Saturday pits The Cottage director Paul Andrew Williams' latest Cherry Tree Lane against Switchblade Romance cinematographer Maxime Alexandre's Christoipher Roth - with the latter just tweaking my interest that little bit more. But then my attention falls back to the Main where we have a few premieres, including a European one for the remake of I Spit On Your Grave, the latest remake of a 70s genre classic - which I will have my fingers (and legs) firmly crossed for. One other that seems of particular interest that night is Monsters, a post-apocalyptic feature that seems to take at least some cues from District 9.

An early start again with The Pack and Higanjima: Escape From Vampire Island on the Sunday followed by a quiz and a Short Film Showcase and then we head for a triple whammy of film's I'm hugely excited for. First up is We Are What We Are, the story of modern day cannibalism in the context of a family drama, then slightly lighter fare in teen cult flick Kaboom and finally, the one that is set to have tongues seriously wagging should the Daily Mail ever find out about it - A Serbian Movie. If you don't already know about this, you should check out the early buzz. If it is as shocking as some would seem to suggest, it may be one not to miss.

As the last day of the festival, Monday brings with it my most eagerly anticipated film bar none. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape documents what is, for me, one of the most fascinating periods in modern film history and one which I have read, watched and written a great deal about. Running at only 60 minutes, it may not be that long, but a celebrity panel discussion afterwards promises much interesting debate.

Elsewhere, the Discovery Screen will offer the opportunity to check out some of the films that have already been screened and perhaps missed, but it will really be a case of juggling these with the likes of The Dead, Bedevilled and Red White & Blue in the Main before settling in for the UK premiere of the Eli Roth produced The Last Excorcism, with the one and only 'Bear Jew' in attendance to take questions from the audience.

All in all, it promises to be a great finish to a fantastic five days of horror. Frightfest is now a well-established showcase event in the UK movie festival calendar and I am thrilled to be going for only the second time. Watch this space to get an exclusive insight into everything that goes down and which cinematic gems you'll need to keep those eyes peeled for!

Noel Mellor
Grimm Up North Online Marketing Co-ordinator

Monday, 5 July 2010

Blood Games

Video games are big business. In the last ten years, the industry has grown up. Games receive Hollywood film budgets and make Hollywood film profits. Halo 3, GTA IV and Modern Warfare 2 are just three examples of releases that rival films in terms of profit and marketing hype.

Video games are also prime fodder for film adaptations. Just ask the devil himself Uwe Boll (pictured above) whose responsible for such ‘cinematic’ ‘gold’ as Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead and many, many, many more. But for every film by The Master of Error (thanks Imdb), there’s something like Silent Hill, which despite its flaws and Sean Bean’s ‘American’ accent, managed to capture the atmosphere of what makes the Silent Hill games so unnerving to play. Resident Evil is another good example. It blew the game’s fiction out of the water but it gave people what they wanted, lots of zombies in confined spaces and Michelle Rodriguez dying (can’t just be me!)

Now since this is Grimm I’ve tried to keep it topical and pick out a few horror films that would make excellent if not questionable video games.

My first pitch is for Final Destination the Video Game!
Imagine: Mouse Trap (the board game) and The Sims.

As the omnipotent Grim Reaper your mission is to kill people through increasingly bizarre and elaborate methods. Like The Sims, you’ll have a house and you have set up an array of domino-style ‘accidents’ that ultimately end up with someone getting killed in a humorous and gruesome way. Take the action outside and play with the freeway from Final Destination 2 or the theme park from 3. The fun never ends because you can never escape death!

Would you buy it? No? Then how about....

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Stylish Adventures of Leatherface.
Imagine: Being the most stylish serial killer in Texas!

Playing the often misunderstood titular hero and armed with a chainsaw, you travel around Texas looking for people to chop up. The aim of the game is not to cause terror and bloodshed but to collect peoples’ faces to graft together the best human mask possible. Go online and share your mask with your friends. Use in the in-depth character customisation to create the most stylish Leatherface possible. Exclusive to the Wii and compatible with Wii Motion Plus for 1:1 chainsaw precision!

I have presented two terrible ideas for video games but my final idea is actually something tangible, something I could see working.

The Descent: The Video Game
Imagine: Resident Evil meets Alan Wake.

Survival horror at its best. Dive head first into the claustrophobic, dark and ominous caves of the Appalachian Mountains. Armed with only a pickaxe and a flare you have to navigate caves and escape from the vicious and deadly crawlers.

Now I’m no Uwe Boll but I could see some of those ideas working, or is it just me?

JD Douglas-Walton

Friday, 2 July 2010

Introduction to Destruction

Dearest undead, bloodthirsty, deranged and alike, I’m Josh, the new guy.

I’ve been summoned from the unholy depths of grammatical hell to provide my two fleshy cents on Grimm. Despite Grimm’s roaring success last year, I imagine there’ll be many Grimm virgins out there, such pure vessels that have yet to be soiled by Manchester’s one and only horror film festival. So I’m taking it upon myself to give you a little background and tell you what Grimm is all about and what you can expect.
It begins with a question.....

What is “Grimm”?
Grimm is an autonomous, self aware machine.
Grimm is a blood thirsty beast whose hunger will never be satisfied.
Grimm is the creaking floorboard the heavy breathing down the back of your neck and yes we’re right behind you!

Grimm Up North 2 promises to be more even more grotesque, more heart pounding and more terrifying than last year. This isn’t Jaws: The Revenge or a direct to DVD sequel. Grimm 2 is a blockbuster built from the Tarantino School of Excess™.

Leading up to the festival proper we’ll be delivering you breaking film news and previews, all in preparation for this Halloween where Grimm will bring you the best blood soaked premieres from local filmmakers to international gems. On top of that we’ll have a smattering of special guests, Q + As from leading industry professionals, live events and previews of the gaming industry’s latest and greatest.
Gallons of blood are being poured into providing you with the very best coverage of the only horror and sci-fi festival that can satisfy your unrelenting taste for flesh. There’ll be blogs, podcasts, and videos and of course the film set to take the horror world by storm, Splintered.

If you prefer to join our horde of undead followers then Twitter, Facebook and our newsletter will surely suffice.

Keep your eyeballs peeled and remember: evil never dies, the blood can never be washed away and you can never, never escape.

JD Douglas-Walton

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Lets get horror back on telly! A letter to the BBC.

Hello Grimm Folks!

Today I noticed a tweet from @cyberschizoid regarding a campaign to get classic horror double bills back on the BBC. I was genuinely enthused at the idea of seeing some legendary and some pretty much forgotten movies on national TV and astounded at the blog post that showed how things used to be.

I would encourage you all to take a moment to sign the petition and/or get onboard the Facebook campaign - come on folks, this is actually worth doing!

Oh, and if you can't be bothered, you can always cut and paste the email I sent below to Points Of View and The Radio Times, I have also noted down the addresses for you!


Hello BBC,

My attention has been directed towards a campaign which I believe is very worthwhile and is being spearheaded online with a petition and twitter campaign.

As you will see, this relates to bringing classic horror movies from the likes of Hammer and Amicus back to the beeb - something I feel could be hugely beneficial for people who have never had the chance to revel in this part of our national cultural heritage.

Obviously, I realise taking over BBC 1 or 2 late on a Saturday night is way beyond impossible, but I seriously think (even if its just a season) horror double bills would be a great addition to, say, BBC 4 on a late evening slot.

I am a licence fee payer who feels that there is currently nothing for me on your weekend primetime schedules. I have no interest in ballroom dancing, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dr Who or Casualty/Holby, but I don't feel the need to complain about this as they are all part of a broad remit that I understand you have to serve - and the truth is they are all bloody popular.

However, I do feel that a part of our British cinematic culture has been allowed to fall off the face of the planet and in a world where "horror" has become less theatrical and engaging, it would be great to educate the "SAW" generation that there is much more to the genre than just heads being chopped off.

I hope this campaign - and indeed my email - gets the attention it deserves, please consider reinstating this great slice of British history to the place it truly deserves.

Noel Mellor

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Grimm Up North 2 - We're back!!

After a fantastic first year, the Grimm Up North! team have reconvened and as previously announced are currently mad busy putting together a bigger, better, scarier festival for 2010!

At the moment the crew are trawling through screeners of some of the latest and most exciting horror, sci-fi and fantasy movies to make sure we bring you the absolute cream of the crop when Grimmfest 2010 arrives in Manchester this Halloween.

In addition to all this, we will be amping up the ways in which you can interact with us and plan a number of things designed to give you more to read, watch and listen to both during, before and after the event itself.

This means more Podcasts and opportunities to connect and win through our Email, Facebook and Twitter channels. But for the first time we will also be introducing Video Podcasts, available on our YouTube Channel and a blog where you will be able to keep up with what some of the festival organisers are watching (which may include some clues as to what will be playing at the festival!!)

So, if you want to keep up with all this, the blog posts will soon start appearing here with some entries from your own 'Brothers Grimm' Simeon Halligan, Steve Balshaw and me, Noel Mellor - watch this space!!!

Noel Mellor