Celluloid Screams is a multiday film festival held in Sheffield yearly since 2009. From the friday night to the wee hours of Monday morning. A few hundred people cram into the largest screen of the Showroom Cinema for films, shorts, Q&A’s, beer and popcorn. Both myself, Mark and Mike fancied trying the festival for the first time instead of attending the FrightFest allnighter which is held the same weekend. So over the last weekend of October we all crashed together in the flat, watched movies, headed to the showroom for the festival and somehow managed to break a sofa….
The showroom is a great little independent cinema in the centre of sheffield, coupled with a decent bar and restaurant it has been screening offbeat, art house and classic cinema for the last 20 years. As it is a retrofit into a older building, which has then been expanded it has a few weird bottlenecks, especially leading to the downstairs screen where the festival was held. The cinema allows itself to be taken over for the event so a handful of stalls set themselves up in the foyer (including poster artist Graham Humphreys, a record shop and Arrow Video). A horror art exhibition adorns the walls around the cinema displaying prints for sale for the duration of the event, making a change from the usual slew of upcoming film posters. Its a great setup, especially with the large bar allowing a great congregating place – especially when a custom brewed Thornbridge ‘festival’ beer is on tap.
The only weird part was the ticketing.
Everyone attending is handed an envelope containing 15 individual tickets for the event, one for each film, similar to buying all the films separately. You were required to leave the auditorium between films, even if the break was only 10-15 minutes. The cinema is unreserved even with an event pass, which means when you have a weekend pass you required a coat or sweatshirt to try and ensure your seat was reserved for the next film. It was somewhat annoying not have a guaranteed reserved place like some festivals, but we got used to the system (and the honour system of seats pretty quickly (us northerners are quite honest folk).
A festival as good as all the trimmings are, needs a strong film lineup to be any good. For smaller festivals like Grimm Fest (Manchester) and Celluloid Screams, after the larger festivals (London, Edinburgh, FrightFest) have taken their pick they have only 2 choices for their programme – whats been left, or to screen films that have already been seen at previous uk festivals.
Of all the films screening over the weekend, I had seen 2. Both at FrightFest that August – Starry Eyes (which wasn’t my cup of tea). and Dead Snow 2- Red or Dead (take a wild guess). Most of the bill was new to me and I was excited that as the festival was a single screen I wasn’t required to read up and then make choices about what to watch. The weekend was all laid out in front of me and all I needed to do was show up on time (and stay awake).
Some of the highlights of the films screened over the weekend were –
Creep proved what can be possible now that technology has moved on to a stage where cheap digital cameras can be used in film production and you no longer need expensive labs, film development or a steenbeck to make a movie. Creep has 2 leads, 1 camera and a hell of a good idea. Granted for the first maybe 30 minutes (like a lot of edited found footage movies) it doesn’t seem like its going anywhere fast, and you may wonder what the hell you’re watching. But the characters in the film will help you maintain interest as it moves swiftly into a superb and unnerving third act.
What We Do In The Shadows was summed up perfectly by a friend as Spinal Tap with Vampires. I don’t really need to say much more than that. I laughed my ass off for 90 minutes as werewolves argued the plusses of wearing stretchy pants for a full moon and how vampires don’t do the dishes.
There was a heavy comedy horror vibe to the festival this year and Suburban Gothic was another perfect example of that. A son becoming bankrupt returns home only to find himself able to contact the dead. It was funny as hell, if a little light on the scares and horror elements – it was definitely a comedy horror instead of a horror comedy ( I know what I mean!) . It was hard to choose between this and What We Do in the Shadows as the best of the festival for me. I really liked it.
Why Dead Snow 2 has been so delayed in coming to these shores I have no idea, its brash funny as hell and a real improvement on the (already pretty good) first Dead Snow. It has a tank! and Cossak Zombies fighting the Nazis!! Granted it lags a little in the climatic battle, but the other 90% of the movie is just superb. just superb (yeah, i repeated myself for emphasis – sometimes thats how I roll).
The Festival for some reason has a overnight section, so while the films run Friday till late, 11am – midnight Saturday and startup again 11am sunday morning – you can also spend all Saturday night to Sunday morning in the cinema as well.
A 4 film bill of Bride of Reanimator, Maximium Overdrive, Night of the Creeps and Killer Clowns awaited at midnight on Saturday following a screening of Brian Yuzna’s Society. Months previous when we booked our tickers it sounded like a bit of a hardcore – but fun idea. At midnight on Saturday when what was about to happen loomed in front of us, we started to change our minds. The attractive thoughts of the bed, and (now broken) sofa loomed before our eyes and we called it quits halfway through the night. We skipped out after Maximum Overdrive at 4am, from reports only 10 people remained by the start of Killer Clowns. The overnight was too much for us, but it certainly had its fans.
The secret movie is somewhat of a tradition with Celluloid Screams, starting with a surprise screening of a then relatively unknown Paranormal Activity. The unknown film is announced only a few minutes prior to the lights going down. In previous years Almost Human and Citadel have filled the spot, but nothing has had a similar impact as to the one created by Paranormal Activity the first year. This year was unfortunately no exception – Asmodexia a exorcism movie that afforded me to grab an hour or so kip (apparently….I thought I just blinked), while the others slaved through the awful film.
One of the things I really liked about the festival was the selection of shorts screening over the weekend. Unlike Frightfest which has relegated its short films into a showcase. Celluloid Screams screened 1 or 2 shorts before the start of each feature, which I prefer as a setup. I love watching shorts as you get so see some really great ideas, and if you don’t like it – you’ve only wasted 5 maybe 10 minutes. The only downer was the 28 minute ‘Night Satan’ which for some inexplicable reason was programmed at 2am before Maximum Overdrive. One of the real highlights of the shorts was Timothy, a spanish short featuring a murderous seven foot high pink cartoon rabbit attacking a childs babysitter. Dead Hearts was another which stood out, mainly as it featured a kung fu kicking octogenarian. The last I want to mention is Jigsaw, which had one of the best payoffs in the shorts – Im not going to say more. Find it!! watch it!!
The Festival didn’t have the ‘family’ feel that Frightfest has, maybe as I knew less people in the first year. But it was certainly a friendly and welcoming environment to enjoy a bunch of movies. The one thing I noticed that was strange was the unwillingness of the audience in wanting to ask questions when it was thrown out to the crowd, and the questions asked were not as good as Ive come to expect at festivals.
We all enjoyed the festival, a lot. There was a bunch of really great films we hadn’t seen, and one REALLY great one we all already had (Dead Snow 2!!). Next year hopefully we are going again, just this time without breaking another sofa.