HMZ Film attends Mayhem Film Festival: Reviews of The Borderlands, The Machine, Kiss of The Damned and The Demon’s Rook

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On Saturday 2nd November, HMZ Film covered the Mayhem film festival in Nottingham’s Broadway cinema. An incredibly eclectic and diverse line up made for a rip-roaring descent into the shadowy realms of the macabre. Here is a round- up of the highlights of the day with mini-reviews of each entirely unique film.

12:00pm The Demon’s Rook

Daylight rating

Plot: A young Roscoe is lured into a demon’s lair and raised by the creature before escaping as an adult. His escape triggers three evil demons to pursue him: one who can possess the mind, another who can transform man into beast and third who can command an army of the dead.

James Sizemore  has created a harrowing, ultra-violent and insane head trip which pays tribute to Italian splatter cinema prevalent in the 1980’s. A gore-laden homage toDimwos9 the works of Lucio Fulci, The Demon’s Rook transpires as a cryptic assimilation of demonic mythology and satanic ritual.  The entirely hand-made special effects are sensational in every aspect and are the undoubted legacy of this low budget labour of love; each demon has a unique and distinctly horrifying appearance. There are 46 on screen deaths which make for a gut wrenching tour de force, although not entirely to the purist’s taste, the gore hound will be in his/her element. The concept of a child being raised by a magically literate demon is a fascinating one which merited further exploration. Sadly, more time is allocated to depicting the mutilation of innocent victims. Backed by a pulsating score, The Demon’s Rook will certainly attract a loyal following and is sure to become a revered midnight movie

Click here for my interview with director of The Demon’s Rook earlier this year


2:00pm Kiss of the Damnedkiss of the damned

iron man 3 rating

Plot: Female vampire, Djuna, falls in love with a mortal partner. Life is blissful until Djuna’s younger sister, Mimi, arrives to threaten her happiness and the entire vampire community.

Xen Cassavete’s depiction of the vampire community is ultra-stylish and overtly sexy, the transcendental romanticism between star-crossed lovers (mortal and vampire) frames this expressionistic art house horror film. When Djuna and Paolo’s lustful existence is intruded by Djuna’s younger sister Mimi, the entire community is put in danger by her selfish antics. The vampire is wealthy yet the species existence is muted, a creature of the night and driven by the need to feed. Mimi’s character is the most intriguing and captures the mindlessness of youth perfectly, an impulsive being who terrorizes the existence of her sister’s happiness. Although a little overburdened with scenes of a sexual nature, Cassavete surprises this with much overlooked take on vampirism.


4:00pm The Borderlands (followed by a Q+A with director Elliot Goldner, producer Jennifer Handorf and lead actors Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy)

Maam rating 2Borderlands

Plot: A pair of Vatican investigators are tasked with an exploration into an isolated country church where supernatural occurences are said to have taken place. With doubts circling over the authenticity of the claims, events take a startling turn for the worse…

The Borderlands is a game changer. Elliot Goldner shifts through the gears as action ranges from the utterly hilarious to the devastatingly terrifying. Underpinned by an important religious subtext, The Borderlands has reinvigorated the found footage sub-genre. Fine lead performances from Robin Hill (Down Terrace, Kill List) and Gordon Kennedy ground proceedings with a gritty realism. The tonal shift is expertly built into the church investigation; the setting is inherently creepy which lends itself to the deeply haunting and often startling moments of shock. The memorable ending is bold and will send shockwaves through the genre. A must see.

An interesting Q+A took place after the screening where we discussed the decision process of choosing found footage, the haunting location, the memorable ending of the film along with the religious connotations of The Borderlands. The film will deservedly be released in cinemas in 2014.


8:00pm The Machine (followed by a Q+A with director Caradog James and producer John Giwa-Amu)

iron man 3 rating

Plot: Set in the future in a world on the brink of war, Britain are developing a unique and powerful weapon called ‘The Machine’. With programming proving to be difficult, lead scientist Vincent develops a machine with a difference… it has a conscience.

The Machine Q+ABritish independent film-making at its best, The Machine is a visceral blend of scintillating special effects and heart rendering emotion. The Machine is a rare breed of sci-fi which tackles important spiritual questions on the sanctity of life whilst ensuring the action dazzles in equal measure. Top drawer performances from the moral scientist Toby Stephens and the graceful Caity Lotz in her twin role as science expert/machine. Drawing inspiration from classics such as the Blade Runner, Caradog James has risen above making the stereotypical homage and has crafted an intense thrill ride. This is Britain’s answer to Spielberg’s ‘AI’ and a film which will take audiences by storm in March 2014 when it is released in cinemas.

An insightful Q+A followed the screening where the filmmakers discussed the challenges in developing an independent film, the brilliant special effects and the plans for a cinematic release in 2014.