What I Did On My Holidays – Abertoir 2010

“So”, asked my boss, “going anywhere nice for your holiday?”

“Why yes I am – I’m going to Wales for a 5 day horror festival.”

*Pause*

“Erm….sounds nice…”

Yep, inspired by some of the good folk of Twitter, I found myself travelling to Aberystwyth  last week (via Doncaster and York, never say I don’t know exotic when I see it) to attend Abertoir 2010. I was a horror festival virgin, and ready to have my cherry well and truly popped – and I wasn’t disappointed 🙂

My First Festival Pass. Awww.....

Day 1 – Mexican Cannibals and Tit Swords

After enduring the vagaries of the Welsh train system (I’m sure some of the carriages that “detached” along the way were diverted into the caves of local hillbillies) we arrived in Aberystwyth. We were delighted to find that the previous occupants of our holiday cottage had left us a welcoming present – a DVD of “Sunday Sport’s British MILFs”!

Splendid 🙂

Anyway, to the venue where we were warmly welcomed by Nia and the crew, then as we were too late for the first film (Countess Dracula) we had to find a way to kill an hour or so. Did someone say “bar”? Yes. Yes they did.  …but I digress – on to the films.

We Are What We Are” was an intriguing little film, delving into the lives of a Mexican cannibal family and utilising a slow burning sense of realism. Whilst admittedly by the end I was a little underwhelmed, it certainly drew me in and is one I will watch again when I get a chance.

This was followed by “Dream Home”, which was a real treat! If you’re looking for innovative ways to bring down the price of that flat you’ve had your eye on, and aren’t squeamish about it, this film is your guidebook. Enjoyably violent and innovative in its death scenes, this film also had a heart to it and wasn’t just gore for gore’s sake. Highly recommended, and I believe it’s getting a limited cinema release in the UK, so go see it if you get a chance.

Finally, we had “Mutant Girls Squad”. I guess if you’re a major afficionado of Asian splatter then this would have been the equivalent of a blowjob from an incredibly talented porn star, but for me it was, well, a little over the top. I have no problem with ridiculous gore and silliness, but once you’ve seen the girl with the tit-swords and the one who can produce a chainsaw from her arse, the novelty wears off a little. I’m not saying it was bad, and it had been a long day by this point, but I found it kind of washing over me after half an hour or so. Having said that, it went down well with most of the audience, and if nothing else demonstrated the diversity of the Abertoir programme from the start.

Day 2 – Unnecessary Sex Scenes and Weeing Children

It didn’t take us long to settle into a pattern of missing the first showing or two (damn my penchant for hospitality, wine and exotic cigarettes) so we arrived in time for “Iron Doors” in 3D. This was my first 3D film (seeing as I live on an island with no proper cinema…) so I was intrigued, but the 3D was minimal to be honest, though the occasional subtitles leapt out! This was one that promised a little more than it delivered, had a slightly pants ending, but did at least have the decency to crowbar in a sex scene where no sex scene should be 🙂

This was followed by “The Violent Kind”, which was really good. Batshit crazy at times, a highly enjoyable blend of bikers, blood, and “What the fuck?” moments. Another that I will definitely seek out again when possible, and a film that deserves a wider audience.

After a break to visit Marco’s World of Chips:

Mmmm....Suspicious looking sausages and chips.... *drools*

it was time for “Djinns”. I was really looking forward to this, but I fear someone slipped a sleeping draught into one of the three large glasses of wine I had in the bar beforehand, as I seemed to rest my eyes a little too much during the latter parts of the film. This shouldn’t be taken as a critique however, as I was enjoying it before the sandman popped a cap in my arse.

Finally, it was time for the Midnight Mystery Grindhouse film, which to my enormous delight turned out to be Troll 2, which I’d never seen.

Sheer fucking brilliance! This is a film I have heard so much about, and it didn’t disappoint. Hats off to the Abertoir audience for being (mostly) entertaining throughout as well – a great communal experience, I couldn’t have asked for a better time and place to see this masterpiece / piece of shit (delete as applicable) …and if you haven’t seen it, this is where the “weeing children” reference comes into play 🙂

Day 3 – Fake Skeletons, Caravan Parks, and The Lovely Wendy

So, having missed the first two films (got to stick to the pattern) we arrived for “Amer”. This has been getting massive festival buzz as a modern homage to “giallo” (despite giallo films still being made…) and, to be fair, was an adventurous and ambitious piece. Can’t deny the love that has gone into it, and the opening section meant I could forgive the nagging feeling of style over substance, but it lost its way in the middle. It came touted as a film that you’ll either love or hate, but I found it a little “meh” in the end. Worth seeing, don’t get me wrong, but not a life changer.

Next, “House on Haunted Hill” (original) with added Emergo! This was great fun, and really summed up the spirit and traditions of Abertoir. Not sure I’d actually seen it before, but if I had I can assure you I’d never seen it with a fake skeleton passing above my head at a key moment 🙂

From here, the day descended into drunkenness. Zombina and the Skeletons supported The Damned in The Great Hall, and both were excellent (particularly The Damned, who unquestionably still know how to put on a fucking great gig) but it gets hazy from here on in. I know we went to the famed “Inn on the Pier” (Aberystwyth’s only 24 hour bar and pizza house…), and I know I spent some time chatting to the aforementioned lovely Wendy as I have a text message on my phone from her consisting of the phrase “Do you fancy a shag?”, but luckily (I think) the big head was thinking more prominently than the little one, as I didn’t allow myself to be seduced by her smooth talk 🙂

Anyway, I am reliably informed that we proceeded to get lost in the caravan park that was 50 yards from our cottage, then various ne’er-do-wells joined us (as was becoming the habit) until somewhere around 5am. This is where the Abertoir Daily Programmes came in handy, as they published tweets from the previous day. At somewhere around 3am, I sent one that said “Best. Holiday. Ever. :)”

Despite all the sambuca, I didn't have sex with this little tease

Day 4 – Belgian Vampires, Spooky Theatre, and The Comedic Value of Satan

 
 
 
 

Breakfast, Part 1

 

 

Breakfast, Part 2 😉

Saturday began with a bacon sandwich, a hangover, and a determination to get stuck right back in goddammit! First up was a talk on vampires by the author Gavin Baddeley, which was very interesting and exposed the bloodthirsty sons of bitches as being British in origin – typical!

This was followed by the Belgian “documentary” “Vampires”, which was possibly my favourite film of the festival. Taking the “mockumentary” style (yes that’s a hateful term, but it gets the message across) this was a sharp,  intelligent film, with an excellent dark vein of humour running through it from the start. I really hope this gets attention beyond the festival circuit. If you get a chance to see this film, I implore you to do so.

Next, “Exorcismus”. This will undoubtedly be labelled the turkey of the festival, but I felt it got a but of a raw deal. Admittedly at times it was somewhat laughable, and the final, painfully lingering scene is an example of when editing should be used, but it wasn’t without merit. The slight twist on the standard exorcism plot was decent, and I’ve seen many, many worse performances. …oh, and a note to certain members of the audience who seemed to think it was still participation night – the secret to good comedy is timing. …and being funny.

This was followed by a live theatre performance of two M.R. James ghost stories by candlelight in the theatre, which was highly enjoyable and another example of the diversity of Abertoir. Any festival can just throw films at you until your eyes bleed, but Abertoir gives you live theatre to make you mess your trousers. Marvellous 🙂

Finally, it was the remake of “I Spit On Your Grave”. This wasn’t half bad, looked great cinematography wise (whether this is a good thing considering the original is open to debate) and with decent performances. It’s probably an unnecessary film, but had that nastiness to it that made it valid in my opinion. No classic, quite sleazy, and a little too “cheer at the kills!” by the end, but worth a look.

Day 5 – Piano Music, Goodbyes, and Elf Genitals

 The final day (sob) started with a real Abertoir experience – The Cat and the Canary (1928) with a live piano accompaniment of an original score from hugely talented pianist and composer Paul Shallcross, who also gave an entertaining introduction to the film. After a few minutes, I almost forgot he was there and playing, as the score fitted the visuals perfectly. Top stuff 🙂 …though if I had a cat who looked like the villain in this, it would probably precipitate a trip to the vets and a long, peaceful sleep. For the cat.

More chips meant I missed Robin Hardy introducing and talking about a preview of The Wicker Tree, but we were back in time for the festival closer, “Rare Exports”. This was a real crowd pleaser, and should play well in cinemas in the run up to Christmas. Very accessible, this tale of the true Santa and his minions will appeal to adults and twisted e.g. sensible children alike. It also featured a performance from a child actor who I didn’t want to kick in the face, which should really be a quote for the poster. I don’t want to give spoilers so won’t say any more, except that this is where the elf genitals came into play…

If you've been bad, he'll show you his willy

…and that was it. All over (after a closing ceremony where people won free stuff, but I didn’t so bah!) and a final trip to the Inn on the Pier. No Wendy this time, but a chance to say goodbye to the good people who gave me the best 5 days I have had for a good while. Guys and girls, I salute you like I have never saluted anyone before, and will see you all next year without a doubt.

Abertoir – you’d be a fool to miss it 🙂

 

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