Cell Adore Film Festival – Sunday Selection

Unmade

Written and directed by Steven Sheil, a woman visits a spiritualist healer for one final conversation with her dead husband. Starring: Olivia Newton and Jean Day.

Unmade boils down to two extremely different but smoothly blending elements. The first being its minimalistic aesthetic style, on opening you have the stark contrast between the paleness of the leads’ skin and the dark palette of the costumes and set. It’s a great start to create a ghostly atmosphere before it even reveals its true intentions. The style is very consistent throughout which works extremely well to then shift the focus onto the story.

Steven Sheil’s writing is the star of the show here, what initially gives the impression of a story that’s been done before, suddenly presents an unexpected turn of events. What then unfolds is a superb new take on the use of a séance, seeking a similar yet much different kind of closure. It’s a satisfying and well-written story, the only thing that’s potentially missing is a score to elevate or intensify its atmosphere and round out the experience.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10


The Party

Directed by Hugh Mann Adamson and Haley Muraleedharan, and written by Joe Willis, Emma’s little girl is autistic and doesn’t get invited to parties often, Emma been supporting her daughter so she can go to Jed’s party. Starring: Jennifer Bulcock, Lindsey Fawcett and Martin Vose.

The Party has an immensely bright hue, almost as if it wants to feed into the children’s party theme right from the get-go. However, considering it’s actually going for a brutal, heartfelt honesty, it might have served the story better to tone things down and go for more clarity than softness. Emma’s (Jennifer Bulcock) monologue is the strongest element to this film, it’s full of highly relevant truths about how parents need to adapt to a child’s needs and not just their own children, but their friends and schoolmates.

It points at how awareness of disability is growing but while someone may know of a disorder or disability, it doesn’t mean that they’re going sympathise enough or be considerate enough to adjust their behaviour or perspective. It also points to how dismissive people can still be, bringing to mind how necessary of a watch The Reason I Jump is. Although the language used in its final line doesn’t quite fit with the grace of its pertinent dialogue. It also feels slightly too stiff and structured, it lacks a natural, more casual edge that the tone tries to imply. However, in spite of a few weaknesses, it has an extremely relevant message and wisely chooses a format to portray that this is an everyday issue.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10 


Round My Way

Directed by Keeley Lane and written by Kat Rose-Martin, following a paper girl on her daily route and the vibrant personalities she meets on her way. Starring: Ruby-May Martinwood, Nohail Nazir Mohammed, Jim Findley, Kat Rose-Martin and Ruth Evans.

This short film strikes the note of bringing to life poetry, translating it into a visual medium. The tone and patter feel very much structured like that of a poem rather than a natural flow which has its advantages and disadvantages. As a message about community, it hits the right chord but trying to interpret it as a drama doesn’t really work. It can tend to come across as insincere, the performances are also quite wooden as they adhere to the restrictive format of the dialogue.

As time goes on the tone starts to feel more adept at an educational or commercial edge, especially for a younger audience. It doesn’t feel as though it would have a wide appeal. It’s visually well done, the quality has a superb clarity and there’s a great depth to the colour. However, this type of highly structured, poetry-esque dialogue is difficult to pull off without a powerful message and Round My Way sadly doesn’t quite reach that level of emotion.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10 


Conspiracy Party

Written and directed by H. Nelson Tracey, co-written by stars Jake Collins and Cole Sadler, a guy invites a girl he’s recently started dating to his friend Ozzy’s apartment for a party. Unbeknownst to him, it’s a “Conspiracy Party”. Also starring: Tom Assam-Miller, Hannah McDonald, Jessica Lynn Kincaid, Chase Cargill, Elizabeth Mae Alan, Trevor Stevens and Heston Horwin.

Whereas twenty or more years ago a concept like this may have seemed entirely outlandish, we’ve reached a point where it actually feels as though someone out there could be having a party like this. The tone and atmosphere it builds is exactly what you’d expect, it’s silly and playful, self-aware and doesn’t go too far down the rabbit hole. It’s also on the cheesy side, particularly the acting.

It touches upon all the classic conspiracies, which is one of the elements that walks it down a predictable route. It’s missing an element to make it stand out, something individual to its style or an unexpected turn to its story. It’s a fun idea but the execution needed more fleshing out to leave more of a lasting impression.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10 


Wildbird

Written and directed by Patrick Hopkins, Alice (Alice Orr-Ewing) is on edge, she’s desperate, on the verge of self-destruction when she finds her way into a room full of strangers where she slowly, reluctantly starts to pour her heart out.

Wildbird is set out like a theatre piece, almost a one woman show, focusing on a monologue, the presence of other people plays a part but all eyes are on Alice (Orr-Ewing). The performance by Alice Orr-Ewing is well done, it’s sad and heartfelt without delving too darkly or intensely, it retains a relatable edge. She holds a compelling presence, and with her dialogue taking up almost the entirety of the short, it holds your attention extremely well.

There’s a quality to its style which feels slightly reminiscent of Aleem Khan’s After Love. It has an intriguing air which lands somewhere between curious and mysterious. It’s sharply shot and has a strong focus, as well as having subtle editing work which nicely helps it keep moving forward. The only real downside is the comedy element, you can see it coming and it undermines the sincerity of Alice’s story. The tone of the monologue and its comedic turn don’t blend together smoothly, the former is simply too well done to then be accented by an easy laugh. Ignoring that one weak point, it’s a well shot, acted, edited and written short film.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10 


The Grim Truth

Written and directed by Sam Comrie and co-written by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Eileen Wilson, with killing season drawing to a close, a documentary crew tails the Grim Reaper and his cold-blooded colleagues. Starring: Jonathan Whittington, Rachel Lanning, Beth Walker, Ian J. France, Adan Osborne, Harry Pearson, Sam Torr and Oscar Barnes.

The idea of a documentary following the grim reaper and his fellow monsters is a great concept and the way that it’s explored here shows a love of horror, mockumentaries and, more surprisingly, mumblecore. Although the success of its style will depend on your sense of humour. For those who have one to match it will likely work well but in a wider sense, its comedy might not be able to strike a strong or consistent enough tone. It takes the usual darkness associated with these characters and pushes them firmly into the everyday. You can see the intention to use that deep contrast but again, it will likely work better for some than others.

Its workplace setting is somewhat too humble, it doesn’t lean in to creating a charm for the characters. It restricts the typically menacing characteristics of these iconic figures, particularly the Grim Reaper. He has an odd balance of overt confidence and awkwardness which doesn’t quite work. The romance element it then brings through however could work well given a larger focus, akin to the tone of the What We Do in the Shadows series, but it sadly feels secondary and slightly rushed. You can easily see the intention and it’s a good concept but it pulled things a little too down to earth and lost the potential devilish charm.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10 


You can catch all these shorts this Sunday 31st October showing at Cell Adore Film Festival 
& you can grab your tickets here


Cell Adore Film Festival – Saturday Selection

Leonardo

Written and directed by Anthony Hett, how do you respectfully dispose of your beloved dead pet when you have no way of burying them? Starring: Donna Coulling, Laura Hanna and Abigail Hamilton.

One of this film’s strengths can be seen from the very second it opens, using minimal angles and editing to let its story speak for itself. It walks far into fly on the wall territory, almost giving you the perspective of being part of the conversation rather than simply observing. The editing (by Aideen Johnston), uses a light hand, only stepping in when needed, giving a little bit of movement.

Its other key strength is how down to earth, relatable and sympathetic it is. Firstly, it’s always nice to hear some northern voices, with such a large portion of British film typically centred around London and the south. Anthony Hett’s writing capitalises on natural conversation, letting the humour come out smoothly and not feeling forced in any way. Everything about the film, except perhaps replacing the turtle with another type of pet, feels like something that could happen to any average British person.

The mother-daughter relationship that Donna Coulling, Laura Hanna portray feels perfectly convincing and many will be able to see their own familial relationships within it. Leonardo is sweet, funny, grounded and compassionate.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10


Pizzaman

Written and directed by Rosalie Kicks and Katie McBrown, an elderly couple seeks revenge on a pizza restaurant. Starring: Julie Chapin, Randall Gort, Jenna Kuerzi, Krystle Ann Griffin and Carleigh Spence.

The tone that Rosalie Kicks and Katie McBrown capture here feels like a quintessential example of American indie horror with a taste for the weird. It’s over the top, exaggerated, colourful and full of energy. It could be compared to the atmosphere of The Greasy Strangler in its absurdity, just without the utterly disgusting element, thankfully in this case they’re trying to make you laugh not feel nauseous. Which is exactly what it does, it’s silly and hugely entertaining because it lets go of any convention and runs with it. It doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to throw too much at its viewers, there’s just the right amount going on so that it moves at a smooth, flowing pace.

It is absurd in itself that anyone would hate pizza but the choice of motivation for their hatred is right on the money. Every piece fits so succinctly, moving in a satisfying way then adding a little extra cheese on top with its final note. Julie Chapin and Randall Gort give great performances, mixing the curmudgeon edge of old age with a relenting hatred which is a lot of fun to watch. It’s a bundle of delightful madness.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10


Devour

Written and directed by star Michaela Barton, love is possessive, love is obsessive, love is consuming, love is sweet. A young woman craves her lover, and soon this hunger becomes overwhelming. Also starring: Kelly MacArthur.

With its ultra close shots and nostalgic style, Devour quickly dives into a tone of intimacy and affection. There’s a huge vein of sentimentality but at the same time it feels unusually cold. Where you’d imagine a warmth of love, the short shots instead create a vampiric mystery. There’s also a quality to it that feels like an exploration of curiosity.

Its overall idea works better with prior knowledge going in, that extra context can help round out the atmosphere. It’s important with micro shorts to keep it simple, there’s only so much you can fit into a minute or so, and this film feels aware of that. It boils down a larger emotionally driven story to the bones while keeping a portion of its potential emotion. The pieces work but it’s held back slightly from making more of an impression, missing out on that heat from its romantic theme.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10


Pressure Play

Written and directed by Eric Bizzarri, co-written by Tavish Gudgeon, Fraser is a shy and introverted only child, but he speaks volumes on the court through his passion for basketball. Fraser has a chance to prove himself when the coach catches him practicing after school hours. Starring: Emidio Lopes, Andrew Bee, Rachel Peters, Cameron Stewart, Quinn Bennett, Jolly Amoako and Bryan Piitz.

Telling a story of a teen with high hopes to make the team, impress their family and friends and get closer to their dream, is never going to be entirely original. It’s a tale that has graced many a film and sadly Pressure Play doesn’t have much to add. The story plays out exactly as you’d expect, there are vague hints at something deeper but sadly the conventional plot takes the lead. It’s a shame it didn’t use more of its runtime to explore LGBTQ issues in high school sports or how verbally abusive coaches don’t have a place in schools. With the language it gives its coach character, it’s a shame it’s not more outwardly condemned.

The direction is a varying level of success, there’s some good closer shots which are nicely edited together. However, there are also a number of shots which feel poorly framed, to not get the full picture. Sadly, this story feels one-dimensional, it’s lacking a suspense or energy to drive it forward, and doesn’t have anything unique enough to balance that out. Although it can’t be denied that Emidio Lopes and Cameron Stewart make a strong leading pair, it would have served the film well to tell more of their story.

Verdict: ✯✯ | 4/10


Farewell She Goes

Directed by Sophie King and written by Claire Tailyour and the film’s stars Isabella Speaight and Cat White, two young women sneak away from their strict stately home existence to lay their pet canary to rest.

With this film’s location choice comes a huge production value, it’s absolutely stunning and atmospheric, and King makes the most of that. It takes in the beauty of its location without losing the sincere warmth and personal nature of its story. It’s certainly unusual to walk into what becomes a touching metaphor for abortion and learning to let go when it’s the right thing to do. However it feels as though it’s a choice which is played out fairly simply, it’s a tough topic and the short doesn’t quite tap into that harshness.

However, the chemistry between Isabella Speaight and Cat White is highly enjoyable to watch. Their friendship is sweet, understanding and kind, it’s only a shame it doesn’t have the added bonus of a queer edge which is a staple of period cinema. The costume work is also strong, pushing the high visual quality even further. The whole concept is a great idea, it simply needed to lean into its honesty to do a bigger justice to the words of its final frames.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10


The Thing That Ate the Birds

Written and directed by Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair, on the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. Starring: Eoin Slattery, Rebecca Palmer, Lewis Mackinnon and James Swanton.

Gitsham and Mair, along with James Oldham’s cinematography, start out on strong footing with a haunting clarity which is beloved by dark British horror of today. Hitting both the striking and disturbing qualities in a violent image. Their direction is strong throughout, it’s highly atmospheric and suspenseful. It plays the beauty of nature against the unnatural and bloody. The timing of the editing (by James Taggart) also adds an extra punch.

However it feels ultimately let down by its story, it’s too simple to match the style of its direction. It falls into a domestic drama which distracts from the suspense and fear. It follows a path that circles back to where it began and it’s not quite sufficient to play to the same level as the visual. There’s definitely a great deal of potential and talent here, but it ultimately doesn’t manage to reach the full extent of those possibilities.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10


You can catch all these shorts this Saturday 30th October showing at Cell Adore Film Festival & you can grab your tickets here