Screams galore as festival terror takes a firm grip

Still from Before Dawn, featuring its director, Dominic Brunt.
Still from Before Dawn, featuring its director, Dominic Brunt.

IF you thought horror films were just men with chainsaws, teenage girls with spinning heads and masked serial killers, then think again.

This weekend at Sheffield’s horror festival, Celluloid Screams, the genre comes in many guises.

Organiser Rob Nevitt explains: “There are so many types of horror film and we like to have a broad range in the festival.”

This year at the festival there are medical horror films, zombie films, relationship-based horror films and - of course - the classic supernatural horror films.

“The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is a traditional supernatural horror - it’s about a guy whose mother leaves him a house in her will and intends on him staying there. The house was previously used as the HQ for a cult dedicated to the worship of angels and the mother is trying to make contact with him. It’s very much like a Seventies horror.”

Nevitt’s expansion of the horror genre is such that he’s even had debates with some of the producers of films he’s included in the feature.

“There’s a lot of expectation surrounding Sightseers and the director was wondering whether it can be justified as a horror film but I said ‘It’s a film about a couple bumping off a load of people - of course it’s a horror film’.”

Nevitt’s passion for horror films is uncontainable. “It still gets me excited putting this festival together. We’re in our fourth year now and finally it’s starting to look like I’ve always thought it was.”

As part of the festival, numerous directors - including Sheffield’s Rob Speranza - will be taking part in question and answer sessions with the audience.

“Rob’s film, Entity, is being screened so that will be good as he’s only based next door.”

There’s also a huge Latin contingency in this year’s festival, with films from Argentina and Chile.

But much closer to home is Dominic Brunt’s - aka Paddy from Emmerdale - horror debut, Before Dawn.

“It’s about a couple in turmoil who go away to try and resolve their relationship issues. The parts are played by Dominic and his wife, who’s also an actress, and they retreat to the countryside. But in the wider world something is kicking off.”

The full version of Clive Barker’s 1990 chiller, Nightbreed, is being shown. The turbulent production of Nightbreed is the stuff of movie legend, and the film released was a far cry from Barker’s original novella, with many significant scenes excised by the film’s producers.

Presumed lost for more than 20 years, the footage surfaced in the form of two separate workprints and has been integrated with scenes from the original theatrical version to create The Cabal Cut – a fully fleshed-out monster epic that captures Clive Barker’s original vision in vivid detail.

Restoration director Russell Cherrington is coming to Celluloid Screams with cast members Simon Bamford, Nick Vince and Hugh Ross to take part in a Q&A session after the screening. And then there’s Resolution which, even for horror guru Nevitt, is a strange one. “Resolution is honestly one of the weirdest films I have ever seen. It’s very much like an early David Lynch film in terms of its tone. It’s about two friends, one of whom is an addict living in the sticks. The other friend receives a video of the drug addict freaking out and shooting things so he tells his wife that he’s going to visit this friend and clean him up. He handcuffs the addict to a pipe in a cabin in an attempt to get him off the drugs but what transpires is that the friend never sent the video in the first place.” From this point - according to Nevitt - the plot gets stranger and stranger.

“It’s an interesting film and an interesting title too - it draws on the idea of ‘resolution’ in the screen sense, as in pixilation, but it also touches on the idea of resolution in folklore, where a story has to have a point to it.”

And to those who are more used to watching a horror film at home, Nevitt believes the auditorium creates an atmosphere that cannot be replicated in the living room. “Horror really comes to life when you have all those people there and the fact people can ask the directors questions about the films afterwards really adds to it too.” And then, in Celluloid Screams tradition, there’s the Secret Film. “I am really excited about the Secret Film but it is very, very scary. It was made reasonably locally for just £75 as well.” But beyond that, Nevitt’s giving nothing away. Not until this weekend anyway, when a packed-out Showroom Cinema will see hundreds of horror fans grasping the edge of their seats.