Review

Sheffield’s Horror Film Fest Celluloid Screams 2016

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Sheffield’s annual Celluloid Screams film festival returned to The Showroom this October for it’s eighth instalment to showcase the best in new and classic horror. Terrifying, sweaty, confusing, and often completely out of touch with reality, this pre-Halloween fever-dream returned to deliver the goriest, spookiest, and downright bizarrest films that have graced international screens this year.

The festival opened with a showing of The Void. This stylish modern take on the 1980s creature feature found it’s plot sometimes in the middle of the road but excelled with it’s cinematography. This kicked off a night of films connected by the theme of monstrous pregnancies and culminating with the UK premier of Cat Sick Blues attended by the film’s lead actress Shian Denovan.

The weekend that followed was a testament to the depth and breadth of the horror genre worldwide. Kurosawa’s Creepy brought us a masterfully crafted study of suspense archetypal to Japanese horror. Kevin Smith’s horror parody Yoga Hosers managed to bring us Nazi sausages (yes, you read that correctly) whilst still managing to be far from Johnny Depp’s strangest acting role to date. The horror all-nighter had a Werewolves vs Vampires theme, allowing us to revel in the nostalgia of offerings such as An American Werewolf in London and From Dusk Till Dawn from, well…err… dusk til dawn.

The horror shorts on offer throughout the festival well-balanced natures both unsettling and hillarious. Largely resembling horror fan art lovingly made and well executed, it will be interesting to see which resurface as feature length instalments.

The festival wasn’t just about the films either, with an end of festival party, range of fan art on display, and themed drinks and food in the Showroom bar. My highlight of the peripheries were the virtual reality experiences. For the seasoned horror fan who finds it tough to find a real shock in cinema anymore, Virtual Reality is definitely a medium to explore. The short experiences on offer here gave us just a taste of the amplification of adrenaline experience we could easily find ourselves experiencing on a much grander cinematic scale in the very near future.

The festival’s closing gala saw this year’s secret showing The Autopsy of Jane Doe crowned winner of the audience award. This ‘guess the sub-genre’ horror cloaks itself with the facade of a typical American fright fest whilst giving you few clues as to what kind of supernatural adversary our heroes are facing for a vast portion of the film. Brought to you by the director of the acclaimed Troll Hunter, this film is well crafted in synchronising the physical deconstruction of the title corpse with the construction and revelation of key plot points.

The weekend’s film selection drew to a close with the highly anticipated French art-house film Raw. The reputation of this cannibal coming-of-age story far preceded it with stories of audience members at the Toronto International Film festival suffering seizures and fainting spells upon its showing. Although the special effects are viscerally realistic and graphic, it appeared our steel forged Sheffielders were made of sterner stuff and everyone managed to sit though the closing film EMT free.

Ultimately, Celluloid Screams is something for the horror fans who are tired and weary of big budget cheap scare horrors with sequels building up to what feels like decimal figures. This isn’t a place where you’ll find Paranormal Activity 26 sandwiched between Insidious 12 and Saw 163. Instead, it’s a place where each film offers questions as to what exactly it means to be a horror film. You’ll be treated to attempt after attempt to bend the genre, destroy generic tropes, and ward off twists you’ll figure out in the opening credits. It’s a festival that seeks to find the art in horror that feels often all to abandoned over high-grossing Hollywood tried and tested formulas. Although I cant say I missed any sleep after watching any of the films, it almost felt as if the humour in the selection were as large a part of the package as the terror itself. The sea of gasps and giggles working together to ultimately build a warm sense of comradery in the crowd that assures you that you’re loving something amongst those who love it too.

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