Flesh, Fire And Beavers – Mayhem Is Coming

The Nottingham Film Festival announces the full 2023 line-up and it looks the strongest yet.

It’s coming up to horror film festival season in the UK, a fascinating phenomenon that has developed over the last couple of decades as events around the country present weekends of previews, retrospectives and premieres. You might question why we regularly pick just one of them to comment on, and the answer is simple (beyond any personal friendship we might have with the organisers). The Mayhem Film Festival actually tells us what they are up to and invites us along to report on it; others don’t. Feel free to rectify that, festival organisers.


This year’s Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham takes place between the 12th and 15th of October and the full schedule has just been announced. Dare I say that it looks to be the most impressive to date? having not seen the films in question, I can’t say for certain that everything (or anything) will be great, but it all looks great. And I say that as someone who is notoriously fussy about these things. Hopefully, we’ll get to run preview reviews of some of these (and, yes, films being shown by other festivals) along the way.

The opening night kicks off with a Filipino-connected double-bill. Paris Zarcilla’s Raging Grace tells the story of a Filipina immigrant working as a carer and has been described as a gothic thriller, while Topakk (Triggered) is a violent martial arts thriller, showing the variety of content that the festival specialises in (not for nothing did it drop the word ‘horror’ from the festival name some years ago).

Day Two. kicks off with Sean Hogan’s new folk horror mini-feature To Fire You Come at Last, with Hogan on hand for a post-screening Q&A, followed by the ‘lost’ Japanese horror movie Door, shot in 1988 but only just released, mixing elements of Italian giallo, home invasion cinema and Japanese pink cinema. Next is Bertrand Mandico’s all-female Conann, a camp collision of fantasy, sex and violence (pictured above). Given the quality of the director’s last film After Blue, we’re very much looking forward to this. The day ends with Joe Lynch’s Lovecraft-based body horror movie Suitable Flesh.

Suitable Flesh

Saturday begins with Mike Cheslik’s Hundreds of Beavers, which feels like the loose cannon of the festival – described as “a no-dialogue live-action cartoon epic in which a drunken applejack salesman must defeat hundreds of beavers to have a chance at being with the woman of his dreams”, it sounds like something trying rather too hard – but we admit that bad memories of the unrelated Zombeavers might be colouring our judgement.

This is followed by science fiction conspiracy thriller Monolith and the traditional  Short Film Showcase, this year featuring 15 films from around the world. The shorts are amongst the most popular attractions of the festival for many – not me, admittedly – and always offer a mix of the weird, the impressive and the bloody awful.

The evening schedule begins with Where The Devil Roams, a carny horror from the Adams family, who will be around later to talk about the film, and Saturday ends with Robert Rodriguez’s 1998 movie The Faculty. This is the ‘classic’ slot and some readers might raise an eyebrow or two at this particular film occupying that slot. Mayhem’s Meli will doubtless be able to explain herself after the screening.

Where the Devil Roams

The final day opens with River from Junta Yamaguchi, director of the mind-bending Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, which promises more of the same trippiness, before the UK premiere of Maniac director Franck Khalfoun’s psycho-thriller Night of the Hunted. This is followed by more folk horror – well, it is the genre du jour -in the form of Ariel Vida’s stoner shocker Trim Season and Thomas Caillet’s body horror sci-fi drama The Animal Kingdom. Things end with Loop Track from director Thomas Sainsbury, which we are assured is ‘surprising’ – in a good way, we hope – as it tells the story of a man who drops out of New Zealand society to explore a new life in the wilderness.

So much for the festival line-up. What’s really the notable thing about Mayhem, and what keeps us going year after year, is the atmosphere, the organisers and the crowd, all of which make this the most agreeable, laid-back and convivial of all events that we’ve encountered. A lot of festivals talk about their ‘family’; Mayhem never does that, but there’s a definite sense of community there. I went alone for the first year or two of the full festival (starting in 2008) and met people who are still my closest friends. It remains a highlight of the year, not for the movies – because God knows, most years I’ve only actually watched a handful and liked even less – but because the entire vibe is so great.

Outside the event itself are the sideshows – this year, like last, being an art show by Rachel Parry that is in a side basement to host cinema the Broadway and features some magnificent genre-related art of all sorts by creatives who should be moving on to bigger things (and, if they lived in London, might be regular Blu-ray cover artists by now). And the Broadway bar – which has had an unpleasant redesign in the last couple of years but remains a great meeting hub to mingle with fellow attendees and guests alike. No need to head to a pub over the road – everything is self-contained. No word on market stalls yet but fingers crossed.

Hundreds of Beavers

Mrs R will possibly never forgive the organisers for reneging on an early plan to show the 1962 classic Night of the Eagle and I’m still gutted that there was no room for Satan Wants You – which I think would’ve spoken to many in the audience  – but you can’t have everything.

Tickets are selling fast – and ticketed seating is compulsory so if you want to sit with chums, best not to hang around. More details here: https://www.mayhemfilmfestival.com/

See you there and don’t be a stranger.

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