Monday, 16 May 2011

Greetings Grimmlins from the Cote D’azure.

Just grabbing a little moment between film screenings, drinks receptions and meetings (It’s a hard life but someone’s gotta do it!) to report on what I’ve seen so far here in Cannes 2011. What’s wonderful about coming to the Cannes film market is that I can discover new horror and scifi movies, often before they’ve even been picked up for distribution in the UK. The trick is to predict which ones are going to get UK films fans buzzing when released and secure them for premiere screenings at GRIMM UP NORTH. Never an easy prediction but our aim, as always to bring the best new movies to Manchester from all round the world. Stuff you won’t have seen yet cos it’s brand spanking new or stuff you are unlikely to see in your local multiplex cos it’s not a US studio picture.

So, what and who have I seen so far? If your into US independent horror movies, you are likely to know of AFTERDARK FILMS, who over the last few years have been running a horror label called ‘8 films to die for’. Originally they picked up completed films and distributed them in the US. They have expanded quickly and now they are producing their own genre features which are being distributed in the UK by G2 pictures. You may have noticed movies like HUSK and PROWL which are now out on DVD in the UK. I caught PROWL here last year, the film was directed by Norwegian Patrik Syversen who’s first feature, MANHUNT got strong international recognition. PROWL was edited by our very own Celia Haining (Who cut our movie SPLINTERED). PROWL is a strong visceral  vampire piece, well worth a look BUT I caught one of their other movies, 51 on Saturday. As the name suggests its about Area 51. It’s essentially a low budget monster movie which traps a bunch of military types inside a contained bunker with an alien threat. Very low budget, cardboard performances (Even Bruce Boxlighter from TRON) tries his best with wooden dialogue but fails. The concept is fine but the direction is pretty poor. Having worked as a production designer for years,  I was particularly aware of the shoddy sets! The prosthetics and alien effects are probably the best element. It’s essentially a low budget riff on ALIENS.

Ironically, as soon as I came out of the movie I was summoned to dinner and found myself sitting next to Courtney Solomon, the man behind AFTERDARK FILMS!!! Cannes is strange like that! I asked Courtney about the movie and tried not to be to negative about it, bigging up PROWL instead! He explained that 51 has been produced primarily for the Scyfy channel, which explains why its production values are very TV! While there Courtney showed us a trailer for a new apocalyptic zombie movie that he’s producing, which looks awesome! So watch this space for more on that.

Sunday brought a whole bunch of interesting and varied horror movies as well as a few chance meetings with well known UK horror filmmakers. First up DARK SOULS from Norway, directed by two French men Mathieu Peteul and Cesar Ducasse. An interesting movie which is best described as a mix of DRILLER KILLER and THE STUFF. What starts out as a serial killer hunt evolves into an oil industry conspiracy thriller, in which comatosed drilled victims begin to puke up oily bile and come on like zombies. The plot doesn’t bare close inspection but it runs a fine line between uncomfortable, scary and funny! Certainly worth a watch. The film has screened at a few UK festival and hasn’t yet gained a UK release so we may look to screen at Grimm!

The latest from US (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) maestro Ti West, THE INNKEEPERS was a spooky supernatural affair, with a cameo from Kelly McGillis. Like his previous HOUSE OF THE DEVIL it’s a slow burner with bags of atmosphere and a sense of directorial confidence. I really liked HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, which came on like a total seventies pastiche, even down to the title sequence. THE INNKEEPERS, although set in present day, also feels like it could have been made a few decades ago. It’s contained and low budget but it’s assured and gripping. Not a gorefest, more a gradual build of supernatural suspense which I admire. Not sure when its released in the UK but I’m keen to bring it to GRIMM this year!

Next up THE DEVILS ROCK a New Zealand movie from director Paul Campion, set on the Channel Islands on the brink of the D-Day landings, two NZ commandos are sent on a mission to destroy a German bunker on a small island only to find that Hitler’s SS have been busy summoning something horribly demonic from ancient local text (Apparently, witches were rife on the channel islands in the middle ages!). Again a very contained movie with limited cast and locations but despite this it’s an interesting ride. The film relies somewhat on its two central performances, a kiwi commando and an SS officer and their struggle for supremacy, while the real threat comes from the demon that, with echoes of SOLARIS, has the ability to take on human form in the image of victims loved ones.

Very good gore effects and creature design from WETA workshop.  Nice concept, strong performances, limited budget.

To top all that, I also bumped into Marc Price, director of the hugely popular ultra low budget zombie movie COLIN, who’s currently prepping his WW2 monster movie THUNDER CHILD. At the same event I managed to grab JAKE WEST, cult director of brit horror flicks such as DOGHOUSE. Jake has kindly agreed to come to GRIMM UP NORTH later this year as our special guest (Work permitting).

That’s about it for now. But watch this space for more over the next few days. I’ll be reporting on movies such as new BRIT horror KILL LIST and the latest from the totally cool Soska Sisters, makers of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK!!