Sunday 23 October 2022

Mayhem Film Festival 2022 Reviews - Day 3 - Saturday 15th Oct

Day 3 of the Mayhem Film Festival proved to be another mixed bag of cult, classic and the extremely bizarre!
UNICORN WARS (2022) Dir – Alberto Vazquez
The first film of  Day 3, Alberto Vazquez's UNICORN WARS, was undoubtedly the most messed up film of the entire festival and wasn't what I expected at all from an animated film, showing cuddly cartoon teddy bears going to war with a bunch of  unicorns in a magical forest.
The story predominantly revolves around 2 bears, brothers Azulin and Gordi, who have just enlisted in the Army and follows them as they go through basic training and onto their first mission. Azulin clearly has narcissistic tendencies, boastful, overly confident and jealous of others that are more successful. In sharp contrast, his brother Gordi just wants to keep his head down and get on with the other teddy bears in his platoon.
The group are subsequently sent into the forest, to locate the whereabouts of another platoon, who haven't reported back and the film quickly descends into an "Apocalypse Now" scenario, as they discover the mangled corpses of the other platoon, and are forced to defend themselves when the unicorns attack their encampment, leading to an exceptionally grisly battle.
A very bizarre anti-war film, showing the dangers of religious zealotry, the “us vs them” mentality that divides so many and the way war can be used to maintain power by unscrupulous military and political leaders.
What was so genuinely shocking about this film, is when I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be tongue in cheek and comical. Instead, the film is played dead straight, and doesn't shy away from gore and violence. Putting it at odds with it's colourful, cuddly style of kids animation that it's presented in. 
The film was in Spanish with English subtitles and was well received by the Mayhem audience. I however didn't care for it much, being way too grim for my liking, which actually left me feeling rather depressed afterwards. It is a very well made film however, but is really one I can only recommend to die hard cult movie fans.
View the Trailer on YouTube.
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VESPER (2022) Dir – Kristina Buozyte, Bruno Samper.
The next film, Sci-Fi drama VESPER, by Writer-Director duo Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves, ABCs of Death 2) was similarly grim, taking place in a world where an ecological disaster has wiped out all edible plant life and animals.
Set in a dystopian future, following the collapse of the worlds eco-system, young Vesper (Raffiella Chapman – The Theory of Everything) ekes out an existence, surviving on handouts that the people in the city give to remote communities, whilst caring for her father (Richard Brake – Game of Thrones) at their remote cabin.
Vesper has a talent for eco-hacking and believes there's a way of making things fertile again, which puts her at odds with her unscrupulous uncle, Jonas (played by prolific British actor Eddie Marsan) who runs a farming colony nearby and is very much in the pocket of the people running the cities.
But when she comes to the aid of a survivor from a crashed airship, Camilla (Rosy McEwan - TV's The Alienist), who may have the answers she's looking for, she finds there is nothing her Uncle Jonas won't do for personal gain, even if it means sacrificing humanity.
Filmed in rural Latvia, this one was a bit of a slow burner, but was never the less, extremely compelling and was actually rather uplifting, despite the bleak subject matter. Showing how humanity continues to strive, as opposed to just giving up, when faced with severe adversity.
It was also interesting seeing Richard Brake, who usually plays a bad guy in genre films, playing a good guy this time and Eddie Marsan, who I've always associated with comic roles, like in The Worlds End, or weak characters, like in Atomic Blonde and Filth, playing a very mean bad guy.
Sci-fi fans should definitely seek this one out.
View the trailer on YouTube.
After Vesper came the annual SHORT FILM SHOWCASE, which I shall be reviewing seperately. Then it was onto the last 2 films of the night, which were being screened as part of the BFI's “Night of the Cat” season.

KURONEKO (1968) Dir – Kaneto Shindo
Following a short break, it was onto the fourth film of the day and the first of 2 cat themed horrors of the evening, with the 1968 Black and White Japanese horror KURONEKO (The Black Cat).
Set in feudal Japan, a group of Samurai warriors on their way back from a battle, decide to pillage a small farm. They subsequently rape and murder the woman and her daughter in law, that are  living there, before setting their home on fire as they leave.
Three years later and the Samurai warriors stationed at the Imperial palace in a nearby town, find themselves being lured into the bamboo groves at the edge of town by a couple of vengeful spirits and their black cat, where they are brutally murdered in an animal like fashion.
The local governor tasks one of his best fighters, Gintoki (Nakamura Kichiemon II), with destroying these demons, given the unrest all the killings have caused. But when Gintoki finds out the spirits in question resemble his late wife and mother, he finds himself in an extremely awkward position.
Not the sort of film I would ordinarily watch, I was again pleasantly surprised by the Mayhem festival's choice of film for this slot, which was an effective ghostly chiller. This particular screening was particularly special, as it featured an additional haunting vocal score over the soundtrack, which was performed live by Nottingham vocalist Yumah, that blended in very nicely with the existing score.

I really ought to check out the film on its own, to see how the original soundtrack compares. But it would be really great if someone could release a version of the film with Yumah's additional soundtrack.
Checkout Vocalist Yumah on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
View the Trailer on YouTube.

SLEEPWALKERS (1992) Dir – Mick Garris
Continuing with the cat theme, came the fourth and final film of the day, Stephen King's SLEEPWALKERS, by Director Mick Garris (Psycho 4, TV's The Stand)
Mother and Son, Mary (Alice Kriege – Star Trek : First Contact) and Charles Brady (Brian Krause – TV's Charmed), who clearly have an “unconventional” relationship, are on the run from the police and move into the small town of Travis, Indiana, where they intend to lay low for a while
Charles attends the local school, where he quickly develops a relationship with young Tanya Robertson (Mädchen Amick – TV's Twin Peaks). But it seems, it's not true love he's really looking for....
It turns out, he and his mother are some sort of energy vampires, who survive by sucking the lifeforce out of young virgins and they've got Tanya in mind as their next victim. But, it seems the local cats don't take kindly to these creatures and as the felines, led by a cat named Clovis (yes, seriously) mass outside, they may regret their decision to move there.
A very odd film, but an extremely enjoyable one, which features a whole slew of guest roles from various horror film icons, including Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, John Landis and even Stephen King himself. Not to mention cameos from Mark Hammil (Star Wars) and Ron Pearlman (Hellboy) amongst others. 
This was a whole lot of fun, boasting some nice gory deaths and was definitely one of the better Stephen King adaptations from the 1990s. Though cat lovers may have a tough time sitting through certain scenes.

View the Trailer on YouTube.
And that was it for Day 3.
For more info about the Mayhem Film Festival and other special events they run, visit the official website at and subscribe to their social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

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