And so the Fourth and final day of films was upon us
FREAKS OUT (2021) – Dir. Gabriele Mainetti
Set in Italy during WW2, and the owner of the "Mezza Piotta Circus", a Jewish chap named Israel, is (understandably) looking to get out of Europe with the people in his circus freak show, before the Germans come after them. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned and Israel finds himself being arrested and carted off to god knows where, whilst his freaks are taken away for experimentation.
The group, consisting of Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria), an extremely hairy person, with incredible strength, Mario (Giancarlo Martini), a dwarf, who can make his body magnetic, Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), who can control insects and Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), who can conduct electricity and shock people, not relishing the prospect of being enslaved by the Third Reich, decide to use their powers to break out and try and rescue their boss.
A fun filled, action packed romp, which was a kind of bizarre mash-up of Jo-Jo Rabbit, The Greatest Showman and Inglorious Bastards. There was some great action scenes, particular during the end battle as they try to rescue their boss with the aid of a local resistance group and some very clever use of musical cues, if you recognise the songs.
The film was a huge hit with the festival crowd, who laughed and applauded throughout and is definitely one I'll be adding to my Disc collection, when it's released. The film is however in Italian and German, with English subtitles. But don't be put off by that, if like me, you grew up watching Mel Brooks films, you'll have a blast with this.
JETHICA (2022) – Dir. Peter Ohs
Young Elena (Callie Hernandez – Alien Covenant) is heading to her late Grandmothers home in New Mexico, when she has a chance encounter with an old High School friend of hers, Jessica (Ashley Denise Robinson – Hell's Heart) at a filling station out in the desert.
Inviting her to stay with her for a while at her Grandmother's house, we find out that Jessica has been having trouble with an obsessive stalker that's been following her around. But despite assuring her that no one will find her at this remote location, they are both surprised when he turns up there the following day.
But this is no ordinary stalker, it seems that this person's obsession with Jessica extends beyond the mortal realm and calling the cops isn't going to help them. So it's up to Elena to try and find a supernatural solution to their problem, resulting in a series of hilarious miss-haps, when things don't go to plan.
A jet black comedy, that doesn't go in the direction you think it's going to, as the film initially presents itself as a serious drama. But then when the stalker shows up, things take a deadpan comic twist. Indeed, even the film's title “Jethica” is a pun, as the stalker has a slight lisp and struggles to pronounce Jessica's name correctly.
A surprisingly good film, which is definitely worth watching. Just be sure to stick around for the end credits scene.
Visit the Director's website for more on this and his other films http://peteohs.com
THE HARBINGER (2022) – Dir. Andy Mitton
Set during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, when everyone was forced into lockdown, a woman, Monique (Emily Davis), is suffering from debilitating nightmares about a person dressed as a medieval plague doctor, which she believes is due to her social isolation.
Her friend Monique (Gabby Beans), realising how bad her friend's mental health has deteriorated, decides to break social distancing guidelines to visit her. Hoping her presence will help calm her down. But when she too starts experiencing these same nightmares, she realises it may not be social isolation that's the problem.
Enlisting the help of a demonologist, they discover that the person in their nightmares is all too real and they are not the first to have encountered him. But unless they can find a way of stopping the nightmares, this is not going to end well.
Obviously, any film with a plot about nightmares and dream demons is going to draw comparisons with the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, which I think would be grossly unfair here. As Director Andy Mitton, who also directed cult hit The Witch in the Window, has obviously tried to craft something different to those.
The film was certainly well received by the audience but is definitely not one for people who suffer from sleep paralysis.
Incidentally, whilst looking through the IMDB I discovered there is another film of the same name, which was released this same year, which is unrelated. So don't get them confused.
NO LOOKING BACK (2021) – Dir. Kirill Sokolov
Set in Russia, petty criminal Olya (Viktoriya Korotkova) gets out of jail with the intention of re-connecting with her 10 year old daughter, Masha (Sofya Krugova) who's been cared for by the grandmother, Vera (Anna Mikhalkova). But when Vera refuses to let Olya see her, a fight takes place and Olya ends up snatching her.
Enlisting the help of Olya's ex-boyfriend, a corrupt cop named Oleg (Aleksandr Yatsenko), a brutal cross country chase takes place as Vera and Oleg try and snatch Masha back, leading to a series of extremely violent, not to mention hilariously slapstick, confrontations.
Filmed in Russian, with English subtitles, this was kind of like watching a live action cartoon, and was in a much similar vein to the Director's previous film Why Don't You Just Die, which also dealt with an extremely dysfunctional Russian family and was screened at Mayhem back in 2019, which was similarly well received.
Obviously, in the current political climate, screening a Russian film may seem a little controversial, and some festival's had actually pulled this film as a result. However, the decision to leave this in, was I feel the correct one. As the film is not pro-Russian in any way and was highly critical of the authorities, in particular the police, who are portrayed as corrupt and incompetent.
Overall, I felt this was great fun and would make an excellent double-bill with the Director's earlier film.
WATCHER (2022) – Dir. Chloe Okuna
Julia (Maika Monroe – It Follows, The Guest) has moved to Romania, to be with her husband Francis (Karl Glusman – The Neon Demon), who has just moved there after receiving a promotion. Stuck at home with little to do, she is somewhat unnerved by the fact that there may be a serial killer in the neighbourhood, following a series of grisly murders nearby.
So when she notices she is being spied upon by the creepy guy in the tower block across the road (Burn Gorman – Pacific Rim, The Dark Knight Rises), who also appears to be following her around, she begins to wonder if maybe he might be responsible.
But with her husband not believing her and the creepy neighbour complaining that she's been following him around, could he really be stalking her, or has it all been some terrible misunderstanding?
Quite a taught thriller (which should not be confused with the Netflix show of the same name), this was a very impressive debut feature from Director Chloe Okuna, who had previously directed a segment of V/H/S/94.
The film not only dealt in the problems of how do you prove that someone is stalking you, but also looks at the problem of when does eccentric, or social awkward, behaviour cross the line and how far do you risk crossing the line yourself, in order to prove what you're saying?
Needless to say, this was most definitely a hit with the audience.
Watch the trailer on YouTube.
And thus concluded another successful year of screenings at the Mayhem Film Festival. A huge thankyou to Chris Cooke, Steve Sheil and Melissa Gueneau for putting on such a great event and thanks of course to all the staff at the Broadway Arts Cinema hosting it, along with a special thanks to Cherelle Wilks for the Press pass.
For more info about the Mayhem Film Festival and other special events they run, visit the official website at https://www.mayhemfilmfestival.com and subscribe to their social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.