London After Midnight: Abertoir Horror Festival Review
We managed to survive our trip to Wales for the Abertoir Festival in spite of the all-consuming fog that threatened to swallow us up on what turned out to be a quite perilous journey home in the wee hours of Monday morning. As delighted as we were to return from Aberystwyth, and leave behind the horrendous weather we had endured over the previous five days, we were sad that the festival had come to an end – our time there had been filled with great horror films, fantastic special guests, informative talks, and wonderful company. Gareth Bailey had clearly tried to organise a very ambitious festival this year – and I’m pleased to say he succeeded. The fourth Abertoir festival was bigger and better than ever!
The festival, which ran from the 4th to the 8th of November, had many great films, which I’ll be reviewing separately over the coming weeks. One of my favourites was THE DESCENT PART 2, and I was delighted to meet the Director Jon Harris, who was there to introduce the film. There was also a very interesting question and answer session after the screening. Harris spoke of how odd it was to film in polystyrene sets that were tiny and looked unreal; it made it very difficult to direct because a lot of vision and imagination was needed – at the moment of shooting, a lot of it looked plain ridiculous!
Harris also praised his cast for doing an amazing job of looking scared, given the fact they were, in effect, being confronted by ‘stupid bald guys wearing nothing but a thong and KY Jelly!’ He added that the men who played the crawlers were freezing cold because they were pretty much wearing nothing but the aforementioned thong and KY Jelly. Fortunately, they were cast from a dance school, so their on-screen movements work very well.
Abertoir had a great werewolf-themed evening, which kicked off with a rare opportunity to see the AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1982) on the big screen. Following this was an interesting and informative talk called ‘Werewolf Hunting for Fun and Profit’ by author, journalist, and occult expert Gavin Baddeley. Gavin is currently promoting numerous projects, including his books ‘The Gospel of Filth: A Bible of Decadence and Darkness,’ which is available for pre-order, and his recent release ‘Saucy Jack: The Elusive Ripper (Devils Histories)’
Other special guests included the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis, who was there to introduce his newest film THE UH-OH SHOW – those of us at Abertoir were the very first to see this as it was fresh from the cutting room, and not quite finished! As well as introducing his film, Lewis also offered a low-budget film making master class.
Doug Bradley (AKA Pinhead from Hellraiser) was also at Abertoir, to introduce the second in his Spinechiller series: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-tale Heart. He gave a presentation on film make-up and masks called ‘The Man in the Mask’. I spoke to him about ‘The Tell-tale Heart,’ and he was a lovely guy who was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Again we had an opportunity to see a classic film on the big screen with an afternoon screening of HELLRAISER.
The Carlsberg Short Film Festival gave us the chance to watch and judge a lot of great (if a little weird!) shorts, including the winning film WHEELCHAIR WEREWOLF which was pure genius!
Tony Hickson’s NASTY SPLURTY BRAINS was one of the short films entered, and Tony was there for the full five days which meant I got to spend a lot of time talking to him; we’d met at another festival earlier in the month and it was nice to see a familiar face.
Abertoir also had a special performance of A Night at the Grand-Guignol. Anyone with a love of amateur dramatics would enjoy this. Although I confess that this is not quite my cup of blood, it was clear that the majority of the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
Gareth Bailey worked relentlessly to ensure that events ran smoothly, and the result was a very well-orchestrated and friendly festival. His special guests spoke of how well he’d looked after them and how he had spent the time to make them feel welcome. On top of looking after the guests and organising the festival, Gaz also worked as the projectionist for a lot of the screenings. I think the guy must have almost lost his mind trying to keep it all together, though honestly he seemed quite sane – until the day he turned up dressed as a pimp – but that’s another story!
Kudos to the Film Agency for Wales for helping Gaz to make this happen.