This autumn Whitby's horror fest featured original horror ideas, such as Romania's first-found footage horror ("Be my Cat: A film for Anne"). It was also a good year for great titles, such as the Finnish “Bunny the Killer Thing”, directed by Joonas Makkonen, and “Artichokes Piranha from the Prehistoric Abyss”, directed by Javier Lozano Sanchez. There was also the world's least expected horror subjects, for a lost glove's owner in Canadian “Mitten”.
“The Nesting” (director Quinn Saunders, US 2015) featured Jody, grieving the death of his pregnant girlfriend. When he eventually meets another young lady, his deceased paramour doesn't take it too kindly (cue bloodstained scrawling on walls, smashed possessions etc). The course of true (undead) love ne'er did run smooth, etc. Along lines of similar Brit horror ”Nina Forever”, with the departed returning to try and break up the living couple’s relationship, it played like a gender-reversed, R18 version of romcom "PS I Love You" with more loveletters from the grave. This horror version had replacement scenes of Jody finding creepy notes declaring: ”Now we're nesting., but fortunately there’s is a happy ending with the eventual dead-and-alive ménage a trois.
The festival also boasted many excellent horror-oriented talks, such as "A Lycanthropic Lantern of Fear Show" by Dr David Annwn-Jones, featuring a genuine vintage Salvation Army lantern to tell a tale of childhood sweethearts torn apart... by one of them becoming a werewolf.
One standout feature was “Myling: The Myth Awakens", a Norwegian lo-fi horror featuring four 20 something pals who plan a weekend in a cabin in the woods. One of them, Adrian, is struggling to write his new supernatural novel, which will feature the souls of children who, on being discovered with something "wrong" with them, according to mythology, were taken into the woods to die. These haunted beings were known as Mylings.
The four embark on a weekend of healthy outdoor pursuits of hiking and swimming in nearby lakes, rather than their American fictitious counterparts’ activities of uncontrollable boozing, shagging each other and taking any controlled substances they could lay their hands on, while clad only in their underwear (rather than sensible knitted sweaters).
Director Astrid Thorvaldsen creates a slow build up to the real disturbance of the quartet, as one of the friends mentions that the Mylings are not to be mentioned in front of Sara, who had a miscarriage followed by a breakdown. But Sara seems interested in the mythology of these abandoned children, despite her own tragedy, asking their artist friend to draw pictures of them, and next day recounts some lurid dreams of being lured out of bed by something calling her into the woods, resembling the drawings with distorted pictures of pale, naked humanoids. Are her former problems troubling her again, or is there something in that fresh mountain air causing hallucinations?
The Argentinean thriller “Children of the Night” seems at first glance to be a rural “Village of the Damned”. A young reporter is summoned to a rural children's home simply known as Limbo, where children are suffering from some mysterious ailment. She finds these well-behaved primary school age children live in one of the most well organised orphanages. In their eerily-clean white outfits, the kids not only do the gardening and keep the washing spotless, but are always on hand with a cup of tea or to offer advice on the best wine to accompany dinner. But these mini laundresses and tiny sommeliers have something in common; they're all missing children. As might be suggested from the quote from Dracula, these children of the night aren't making sweet music but instead up to no good behind their perfect behaviour. After the reporter sees one more child go missing, and has one too many perfectly-prepared cups of tea too many, she realises something's up.
“III”, directed by Pavel Khvaleev) focuses on two sisters living in a rural Russian town have their lives destroyed when a mysterious illness strikes their village, causing the locals to heartlessly nail up doors to isolate the sick. One sibling asks to enter the unseen world of her sister's illness, which involves characters named in the credits simply labelled "monster in mill" and "monster in burnt forest". Beautifully shot in multiple photogenic locations, it is however slowly paced and slightly incomprehensible towards the end.
Paul Koudounares gave horror talks on the sex ghosts of the Palermo catacombs in Sicily who existed in the "soft border between life and death", giving it a reputation as one of the most haunted places in world. Another example of the sexualised ghost was Israeli "Dybbuks" who made women become "sexual monsters"; or "demoniality" (copulating with demons), where a married women who turns down a demon's advances suffers domestic evils and haunting as a result.
He also spoke about demonic cats in a witty look at the UK’s Prime Minister cat Humphrey, who was given the impressive title of chief mouser). Apparently the Americans have a ghostly cat called "DC" after the town it haunts. This animal is a harbinger of doom, and always seen just before a disaster takes place, such as the 1900 Texas hurricane.
The shorts were as always, very thought-provoking. "I Am Candy" (Mexico, 2014) focussed on an unusual Halloween when the litter of festive wrappings leads to a stranger in the spare room, but with featured an unusual twist. “Mitten”, a Canadian short about a paranoid search for the owner of a lost pink glove, was almost totally silent apart from five words. “Wurms” sees a couple of hillbillies lose the plot in the middle of woody nowhere, like a less entertaining version of “Dale and Tucker vs Evil”, but without any real punchline. “Something Happened” is a loving pastiche of ‘80s slashers, with crazed killers lurking in the woods, plucky heroes, succinct Southern Sheriffs ("Ah wouldn't worry about yr friend, son - he's prob'ly already dead!"). Not only is there hilariously over-the-top dubbing to homage Giallo, but it's Yorkshire created - what's not to like?
This comedy-gore could not have been more unlike the next short, “The Session”, a French disturbing slice of artistic 1899 life, directed by Edouard de La Poeze. Young photographer Pierre-Louis is summoned to take a portrait of his customer, the glamourous Countess of Castiglione. To capture the mature beauty of this expensively-dressed lady at her best, Pierre-Louis carefully adjusts her pose, dress and finally hair, with an intimacy bordering on flirtation, but something isn't quite right....