The horror

 

If you make a dash for the Irish Film Institute in Dublin, you can catch three days and 28 films from this year’s Horrorthon programme. Dare you miss Aliens or Play Misty for Me on the big screen? Dare you miss TARA BRADY's essential 10 picks?

THE DEAD

(d. Howard J Ford, Jonathan Ford, 2010)

When the last evacuation plane out of war-torn, plague-infected West Africa crashes, a US engineer is forced into an alliance with an African soldier searching for his son. Terrific performances, the reddened landscape of Burkina Faso and a flair for Grand Guignol have made the Ford Brothers’ unexpectedly textured zombie road movie a smash on the international festival circuit. Imagine Romero’s undead on holiday with The Wild Bunch. That good.

AKIRA

(d. Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988)

Can Neo-Tokyo survive a nefarious secret military project and the next evolution of mankind? In a better world, Otomo’s cyberpunk masterpiece would never leave cinemas. Almost 25 years after its initial release, the animation looks innovative and the telekinetic biker battles seem to blaze across the screen.

SNOWTOWN

(d. Justin Kurzel, 2011)

In 2004, three men were convicted following the discovery of eight dismembered bodies in Snowtown in south Australia. The killings form the spine of this discombobulating coming-of-age tale. Lucas Pittaway looks convincingly traumatised as 16-year-old Jamie who falls under the spell of John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), a self-styled vigilante determined to rid the neighbourhood of junkies and homosexuals. Grimy social realism and gurgling torture scenes place director Justin Kurzel’s startling debut midway between Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killerand last year’s Animal Kingdom.

TROLL 2

(d. Drake Floyd, 1990)

There are no trolls in Troll 2;the title was just a marketing gimmick. What kind of film attempts to court punters by masquerading as a sequel to Trollyou may ask? Why, only one of the worst films ever made, bad enough, indeed, to have inspired Best Worst Movie,a documentary investigating how it all came to pass. You’ve seen the You Tube highlights package, you’ve gasped at the 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, now witness the atrocity in all its terrible splendour.

A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE

(d. Adam Wingard, 2011)

Delicate dental hygienist Sarah (Amy Seimetz) isn’t sure if she’s ready for a relationship with the nice guy from Alcoholics Anonymous. But once her ex-boyfriend (AJ Bowen) – a convicted serial killer – escapes from prison, the decision may no longer be hers to make. Don’t let the shaky handheld camera fool you: this gripping indie horror couldn’t be more polished. Devious chronology, subtle performances and a monstrous plot twist distinguish writer-director Adam Wingard’s menacing debut from the genre pack.

THE VICTIM

(Michael Biehn, 2011)

Michael Biehn and his producer wife Jennifer Blanc Biehn will be on hand to present the actor’s proudly sleazy directorial debut. Season ticket-holders can also look forward to seeing the couple survive a nuclear attack in The Divide. Michael, meanwhile, pops up in a little movie called Aliens; check out the spanking new 25th anniversary 70mm print closing the festival on Monday night. (see interview, right)

BURNT OFFERINGS

(d. Dan Curtis, 1976)

We adore this seminal horror about a spooky house with self-rejuvenating powers. Karen Black and Oliver Reed are the doomed tenants in a film that’s frequently noted for its influence on The Shining. Bette Davis, playing their chain-smoking aunt, is the building’s first casualty. The saturated 1970s fug and creepy music box score is freaky, but Buster Meredith and Eileen Heckart, the demonic building’s sibling caretakers, are seven new kinds of creepy.

THE DARK CRYSTAL

(d. Jim Henson, Frank Oz, 1982)

All good children deserve Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s Saturn award-winning fantasy epic. The heartrending tale of Jen, the last of the elflings, and his quest to heal a dying planet with magical quartz was a hit with critics and picked up a Saturn award when first released. But even Henson’s groundbreaking animatronics couldn’t quite compete with Spielberg’s ET, released the same year. See it before the new Muppetsfilm hits and marvel. Interested parties take note: Flash Gordonis also screening as part of Horrothon’s family-friendly morning programme.

SAINT

(d. Dick Maas, 2010)

In 1492 a village of maggoty Dutch peasants decide they’ve had enough of the marauding Bishop Niklas’s demands for gold, silver, wheat, virgins, servants, fur and wax to be yielded up at every full moon. They revolt and burn the tyrant, only for him to reappear on December 5th, 1968 to children who imagine he’s bringing presents. Fools. Fast forward 32 years and santy’s in Amsterdam where everyone is on the naughty list. As long-time admirers of the killer santas of Black Christmasand Silent Night, Deadly Night,we’re loving this new evil folkloric santa subgenre.

BLOW OUT

(d. Brian De Palma, 1981)

Can lowly sound technician John Travolta protect the incomparable Nancy Allen from the Liberty Bell killer (John Lithgow) and a shadowy political cabal? Arriving between Dressed to Killand Scarface, this post-Watergate thriller belongs to that happy period when Brian De Palma was the world's greatest director.

Better than Antonioni's Blow Outor Coppola's The Conversation.There. We've said it. Who could sit through this 30th anniversary screening and argue otherwise? Nobody. That's who.


The Horrorthon Film Festival is at the IFI until Monday: for full programme details see irishfilm.ie/horrorthon2011/