This report from the Ramaskrik Horror Film Festival of 2016 has taken way too long to finish. My apologies for that. We’re now only a about a month and a half away from the next Ramaskrik, which I’m very much forwards to it! Anyways here is my report from four days dedicated in full to horror films, beers and socializing with other horror fans.
One of the great things about this festival is it’s location. A very small town in the middle of Norway. (Yes, that sounds like “in the middle of nowhere” for a reason.) Oppdal is a picturesque small town surrounded by mountains. A popular skiing resort in winter time, and great for mountain trips in the summer and fall.
Due to its small size the festival gets very social. Audience, producers, directors, actors and the organisers of the festival mingle freely. Pretty much everyone stays at the same hotel. The venue doesn’t have any VIP area, and the evening usually ends up at one of the local bars – either at the hotel or somewhere else.
We (the audience) appreciate this, but it seems like the professionals present do so too. We’re all horror film enthusiasts in the end, and the atmosphere is informal and very inclusive.
Right! Enough chit’chat, on to the report!
Day 1 - Thursday
For me the trip kicks off with the Horror train from Oslo to Oppdal. This year I volunteered to be the host of the trip from Oslo, so I don’t feel I can comment too much on how that experience was. Most of the other travelers were familiar faces from last years trip with a few new ones added.
Also this year we had people from Midtnorsk Fortellerforum (a storytelling society) come on board and tell some macabre stories for us during the trip. This was a great addition! We also had the horror quiz where the winners could gain glory, fortune and prizes when we arrived at the hotel.
…which we did just in time to check in before going to see the opening film – Train to Busan. An action packet and tight zombie film where most of the action is on a train. After all, what could be more appropriate after a five hour train trip from Oslo? A great start of an excellent festival! The director, Sang-ho Yeon was not able to be at the screening himself, but had sent a video message that introduced the film.
Next up was The Autopsy of Jane Doe introduced by the director André Øvredal. Øvredal is best known for his previous film Troll Hunter, and said he wanted to make something completely different this time around. And he definitely did.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe is tight, dark and claustrophobic. Extremely well made, and plays very successfully on suspense and the primal fears of darkness and dead bodies. I found that the story worked really well, and the atmosphere gradually evolves from the mundane everyday attitude of morticians towards pure dread. A film highly recommended!
Due to the travel time from Oslo, two films was all I managed this first day. However, a really strong start on the festival, and I think everyone is smiling as we head back to the hotel bar for some beers. André Øvredal hangs around for the evening, even though he has to get up early to get to the next festival (in Stockholm) already the next day.
Day 2 - Friday
First film for me on friday was 31 by Rob Zombie. I’d read mixed reviews of this film in advance, but wanted to give it a shot. We meet a crew of traveling con artists that get caught up in a game of “31” where they play pawns for the rich to place their bets on. The game is played by letting them loose in a closed off industial labyrinth with hired killers trying to kill them off in more or less imaginative ways.
This is an orgy of violence for the sake of violence itself. Still I think it works. It’s well executed, the setting is interesting, and both the hunters and the prey are interesting characters. Perhaps not a favourite from the festival, but absolutely worth watching if you’re not turned off by this kind of violence.
Red christmas, an australian slasher mixing the festive themes of christmas with the ethical and political dilemmas around abortion, downs syndrome, human selection etc. Quite a few people didn’t like this one, but I found it entertaining. The ethical aspects were present but not dominating, still they added a small touch of uniqueness to what would otherwise be just another slasher film. And legendary Deb Wallace does a good figure as the mother with a dark past.
Seoul Station was next on my agenda. But first we got the norwegian short film The Absence of Eddy Table, a really absurd computer animated story about a guy with a backpack that gets lost in a jungle of strange berries, huge women and snail like creatures that will transform you to a monster by growing a huge mouth in your neck. Voice talent provided by Mike Patton amongst others, this was very enjoyable and a surreal ride!
Seoul Station is an animated prequel to Train to Busan. Made by the same director – Sang-ho Yeon. It’s much slower than Train To Busan, and the fact that it’s animated rather than a real film distracts me a bit. It’s also a tad longwinded. Not a bad movie, but not really needed as a companion to Train to Busan either.
Fourth feature of the day was the Italian Giallo homage Francesca. This was also a film that divided the audience a bit. I loved it, but others found it too much a pastiche of it’s genre.
The atmosphere is set right away, by a catchy prog-rock soundtrack, over saturated colours and even the proper typefaces from the 70’s in the title sequence. The plot is admittedly thin, and you have to enjoy the aestethics of the film and the genre for this to be worthwhile. On one level it felt more like a long music video than a feature film.
Francesca was preceeded by the short film Tunnelen (The Tunnel) again by André Øvredal (who also had The Autopsy of Jane Doe on the festival.)
This is dystopian futurism, and we follow a family on their way home from a day by the sea. On their way back into the city they have to pass though a tunnel, and while everybody assures eachother there’s no danger in passing the tunnel we sense that they’re just not showing their fear. Based on a short story by Alice Glaser, this is again masterfully executed by Øvredal and not the least by the actors. Very nice!
After this I team up with a couple of friends for a food break. Even though that means missing The Rezort which I had planned to see in this spot. Head and stomach found it wiser to eat though, so off we went for a bloody beef!
Back at the venue I went for Pet. But first the hilarious short film Death Metal from Chris McInroy. A metal head with less than average guitar skills is given a new guitar by his dad. The new guitar has some secrets though, and some rules that need to be followed. Needless to say they’re not, and things take off differently than our guitar hero expects. Very funny and lots and lots of blood!
Pet was a film I liked very much. It starts off as more of a quirky romance than a horror film, but it takes a different turn after about 20 minutes or so. Then it takes different and unexpected turns several more times.
This was a film that managed to surprise me in a good way. The actors do a great job, and the story is twisted but somewhat realistic. This is not a film that aims to be scary, but it does tell an interesting story that’s way darker than what I first thought. Very much recommended!
Last film for the day, and the one that it seems the entire day has built up to, is The Greasy Strangler!
Jim Hosking’s debut feature film is sleasy, greasy, and a hell of a lot of fun! Don’t expect a deep story, or for that matter a conventional film in any way. This is as if someone put all the sleaziest parts of John Waters films, the acting talent of a low budget Troma film, mixed them all with bucketloads of grease and added disco! If that sounds great, this is your film! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Three people from Spectrevision, the production company behind the film had come over from Los Angeles to Oppdal for the occation. They were really funny people with lot’s of stories from the shooting of the film and other hilarious anecdotes. The Q&A after the film had to be broken off because thay had so many stories to tell. We all went to Spisbar, a nearby pub for beers and to let the films of the day sink in. Most of us went to bed when the bar closed…
Day 3 - Saturday
Saturday starts early! First with a Horror breakfast, where author Jørgen Brekke reads a couple of horror short stories.
The first is Gulebjørn (Yellowteddy,) one of his own stories. Since we hade some time left, he also read The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe. Both stories are very enjoyable, but he clearly had not practiced reading the second story, so that felt a bit stuttering. His own story worked much better. Still a great start.
First film on my schedule for saturday was Ouija - The origin of evil, one of the more commercial films on the fetival.
But first the short film Closet Space by David F Sandberg. I’ve been following this promising director and the shorts he’s made with his wife since I first came accross the original short Lights Out. I haven’t been able to catch his full length version of Lights Out yet, but his shorts are allways refreshing and innovative. If you don’t know his films, do check out his channel on Vimeo or YouTube.
As for Ouija, I found it to be really good. It builds up nicely and is extremely well made. Also the young actress playing the gifted child does a very good job! All in all a very enjoyable movie.
Next up was the mexican production The Similars (Los Parecidos). It was very different than what I expected from the liner notes. A highly original film, and with a story that manages to surprise at many levels. I liked it a lot, while it could proabably have worked just as well with a shorter running time.
The Norwegian short Hunden (The Dog) was screened just before The Similars. A quietly told drama from the norwegian countryside. Very well executed, the minimal dialogue accentuates the quietness of the countryside. While the twist at the end is not really that surprising it comes with a great punchline. Definitely worth watching!
Another mexican film, The Untamed (La Región Salvaje) was again quite an original one. Alejandra is left alone to care for her child after her husband is taken to prison. By means of a female patient of her brother who is a nurse, she is introduced to a mysterious creature in a cabin which gives intense sexual pleasure.
It works well on some levels, but not quite as well on others. It feels a bit long. It’s not really much of a horror film, but neither does it work as a science fiction. Still the parts that work is well worth it, and the story is interresting and fairly original.
As with last years outdoor screening of Villmark II, Ramaskrik had organised a special screening this year too. This time it was the train/werewolf flick Howl that was screened in an old train car at the Oppdal train station.
While the film was far from the highlight of the festival, and a train car really does not lend itself that well to watching movies, the overal experience was great! It was a fun thing to do, and the setting did help the film in my opinion.
As for the film itself? It falls for the classic mistakes of revealing the monster too soon, too often, and too much. Outside of the action it really didn’t have much of a story to tell, and the characters seemed too stereotypical to be interesting.
Back at Oppdal Kulturhus I go for Night of the Living Deb, with the somewhat similarly named Dawn of the Deaf as the pre-film short. As the organisers explained, they were placed together for their tounge-in-cheek names, not their content. The short was light on the horror elements, but had an interesting twist that leads well into it at the end.
Night of the Living Deb was rollercoster of a zombie-romance-apocalypse. Somewhat in the style of Shaun of the Dead, but with a woman as the leading role and a romantic backstory to drive the film. In other words, quite different. This was a refreshing and at times hilarious mix that makes this film really stand out among the rest. Highly recommended!
After a short break with an aborted quiz (due to the quiz being longer than the break!) I was ready for the last film of the day: Scare Campaign.
A TV crew needs to spice up their horror reality concept to stand a chance at attracting viewers against the competition from underground internet snuff crews. This is a film that could go both ways, but it twists around a few times in interesting ways. I enjoyed it a lot, and recommend that you check it out!
Before Scare Campaign though, we were presented the short film Invaders. A couple of guys argues about what masks to wear for a home invasion. They’ve picked out a nice house where a family is gathered for their thanksgiving dinner. Thing’s don’t go as planned…
Day 4 - Sunday
All good things must come to an end, and so also this edition of Ramaskrik! Up way too early again judging by the beer-bill from yesterday. But hey, the breakfast at the hotel is really good so off we go!
I got to see two films before heading back to the train station for the ride home. The first one, The Windmill Massacre was a very enjoyable piece from the land of windmills – the Netherlands. I think I enjoyed this for two reasons, it really captures the Dutch friendly pragmatism in a good way, and it had a good story.
We meet a number of random people that happen to meet on a guided tour to view some of the old Dutch windmills. The tour bus breaks down at some desolate place, and as things unfold it may seem that the collection of people weren’t as random as we first thought.
I really liked the way the story unfolds in this film. Also the director, Nick Jongerius was present and talked about the film and answered questions after the screening.
I was unsure if I was going to be able to finish the next film before having to run off to catch the train home. Luckily other people are better at calculating in their head than I am, so we went for it and finished the festival with Don’t Breathe.
Again a fairly commercial film which has been hyped quite a bit in advance. I liked it though! It’s intense and well played. It doesn’t really hold any surprises, but is an enjoyable film nonetheless. Sometimes the simple recipe is all that is needed.
Before Don’t Breathe we got the short film The Procedure. This short film really defies any attempt to describe it. Just watch it! It’s a must see, and it can not be unseen!
A really great festival has come to an end. Again I’ve enjoyed every moment. A lot of films were seen, quite a few beers were drunk and people were met, talks were had and opinions were shared. All in all a great time!
The organizers did an amazing job, both with the selection of films and organizing the event itself. At least from a visitors perspective everything was super smooth from start to finish. The hotel had again done an amazing job decorating and preparing for the event, and as far as I could see it was only smiles and happy faces the entire weekend.
16 feature films and 9 shorts was what I managed to see this time around. As allways there was too many films that I did not get to see due to timing or clashes with other films, but that’s only to be expected with a program as tight and as well put together as it was on this festival.
See you in October!