Grimmfest 2012, Day 1: COMEDOWN Is One Hell Of A Rush

Grimmfest 2012 kicked off in earnest - after the special preview night on Wednesday 4th October - with a gala screening of the world premiere for Comedown, the new film from Mehnaj Huda (Kidulthood) swapping social commentary for stalk-and-slash. To make it a double bill of London-themed splatter, they followed this up with a screening of the horror-comedy Cockneys vs. Zombies, and rounded things off with the first of four advance slots for last year's Some Guy Who Kills People - for which the festival crew are handling the UK release, the first film on their new distribution venture (as Grimm Up North Entertainment).

Having followed Grimmfest for the past few years it was very gratifying seeing their efforts rewarded by a healthy turnout, with Manchester's Dancehouse theatre left with surprisingly few empty seats. Huda's name and Cockneys vs. Zombies may have pulled in some of the increase in numbers - Kidulthood was a fairly big deal over here, riding a wave of telling-it-like-it-is publicity at the time, and we Brits have been eating up increasingly bizarrely-themed gory comedies since Shaun of the Dead opened the floodgates. Either way, the Grimmfest crew handled things fine, with the crowd in festival mood right from the start - wincing aloud at every kill and giving standing ovations to the guests as if they were going out of fashion.

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Comedown was fairly predictable as slashers go - a party of wasted London teenagers climb a derelict tower block to install a pirate radio transmitter, only to find there's someone else in the building who doesn't plan on letting them out alive. No surprises here (with one plot "twist" telegraphed miles in advance) but at the same time Huda manages a real sense of tension, switching deftly between music video theatrics and some surprisingly accomplished use of silence, with some truly horrible kills where the violence mostly stays painfully believable rather than campy crowd-pleasing.

Comedown is admittedly still a case of watching stupid people die - but some solid acting from the young cast means their stupidity feels largely human, plausible, even deserving of empathy. Plus they do get to show a few smarts, no matter if they get a grisly exit. It's also a surprisingly lyrical film, with some memorable ideas and a rough-and-ready eye for London by night that echoes Philip Ridley's brilliant Heartless. Look for a full review soon, but if this makes it into any more festivals before the end of the year (a full UK release is not til January 2013) it's well worth a watch, even if you're not normally that hot for the genre.

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I'm pretty much in agreement with James's impressions of Cockneys vs. Zombies from when it screened at Frightfest. The undead start infecting the East End of London town, just as a hapless gang of would-be bank robbers try to raise the cash to save an old folks' home from the wrecking ball; cue a ceaseless parade of comedy splatter, assault weaponry going off and old people saying "fuck" a lot (among them former Bond girl Honor Blackman and the legendary Alan Ford. Slapdash fan service that never met a cliche it didn't like, with my critic's hat on it's pretty hard to call this a good film.

On the other hand, the production values are surprisingly high, Matthias Hoene's direction is serviceable enough, everyone involved is clearly having the time of their lives (Alan Ford and UK TV actress Michelle Ryan in particular)... and for a one-note joke James Moran's script is often very, very funny. The humour does start to drag over ninety minutes but even a cynic like myself was frequently in hysterics, and the Grimmfest crowd were in love. Unrepentantly daft and ridiculously gory, not many people will remember Cockneys vs. Zombies in five years but while it lasts it's a riot. See it drunk and it'd probably feel like the greatest movie ever made.

I skipped Some Guy Who Kills People this time round - hey, I'd been up since 6 a.m. and my mobile phone battery was nearly out - but I can only reiterate my positive impressions from last year's Grimmfest. The story of a damaged manchild in small-town America trying to balance new love and family responsibilities with plotting the deaths of the jocks who ruined his life, the scintillating, blackly comical script and warm-hearted character development more than make up for workmanlike direction and lo-fi production values. See it at the first opportunity (it's on every day of the festival if you're here!).

Friday 5th sees the newly restored version of Clive Barker's iconic fantasy Nightbreed: the Cabal Cut, Irish alien invasion horror-comedy Grabbers (get drunk to survive!) and US low-budget psychological chiller Devoured. Check back for more impressions not long after, and new reviews of anything not hitherto covered on Twitch as soon as I can supply them.

Grimmfest 2012 runs from the 3rd-7th October 2012 in Manchester, the UK, at the Dancehouse theatre.
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