My second day at LIFF29 saw me take in twice as many films as the first, with four films under my belt at the close of play. Three of these were films that made up the 9th Day Of The Dead event that takes place within the festival, an entire day of horror films shown in the Victoria Room of the Town Hall, giving day two a distinctly spooky and supernatural flavour.
The Hallow, a supernatural horror out of Ireland that has its basis in Irish folklore and mythology. It proved to be a fairly straightforward supernatural horror which, whilst perhaps bringing little new to the horror genre, delivered what it had to offer in an entertaining fashion. The production values rivalled anything Hollywood has put out in the horror genre in recent yeats, and as the feature debut for director Corin Hardy, it marks him out for potentially good things in the future.
Next was Crumbs, my one excursion away from Day Of The Dead at Vue in The Light. Set in a post-apocalyptic Ethiopia, the film feels closer to a quest narrative more than anything else, but with added pop culture references including an ancient warrior's amulet that is actually a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure, and a religious shrine to basketball player Michael Jordan. A film that I had been looking forward to based on its synopsis on the LIFF website, Crumbs managed to do the only thing I didn't think it would: it left me completely undecided as to what I thought of it. I wanted to like it, and I'd almost certainly feel more content if I had ended up hating it, but the film left me completely uncertain as to my feelings about it, with much of the film having little impact either way. As there is another showing on Monday 9th that I could potentially catch, Crumbs may yet achieve the honour of being the first film I see twice during the same LIFF.
It was back to Day Of The Dead at the Town Hall for the remainder of the day with horror comedy Therapy For A Vampire becoming my third film. With What We Do In The Shadows being the most successful humorous vampire film for some time, and clearly still fresh in the minds of many (I heard a few people mention it by name having seen it at last year's Day Of The Dead), Therapy For A Vampire perhaps had an unfair comparison set up against it before it had even started. That said, whilst an amusing and easy watch, this certainly never felt like anything especially memorable. The tone reminded me most of all of Ghost Graduation which I saw at LIFF27 in 2013, however, which is no bad thing.
The Witch, the Day Of The Dead closer and my last film of the day too. Set in 17th Century New England, The Witch is probably more accurately described as a period drama with a supernatural undercurrent and occasional horror elements, rather than an outright horror movie. I'll say more when I come to review it, but it's one that I enjoyed a great deal.
The Witch's impact felt lessened somewhat during its festival screening for two reasons. Firstly, it was shown at the end of what is essentially a day-long horror marathon, with the issues coming from the aforementioned genre technicalities. Secondly, and much more damagingly in my eyes, was the way in which the LIFF staff continually made reference to The Witch being terrifying, with the phrase "the scariest film of the year" used at least a few times whilst I was in the auditorium throughout the day. Subsequently, the film quickly became overhyped, with the initial reaction on Twitter being one of the film being hurt by unnecessary hyperbole. Perhaps not surprising when you're speaking to a room full of horror fans, many of whom have probably seen films considered to be some of the scariest ever made. As the ever-eloquent @sleepykev summed it up in his post-The Witch tweet: "The pre-screening hype needs to be curbed... We're already there. Overselling just sets folk up for disappointment". Take note for future years, LIFF staff.
The 29th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-19th November 2015 at venues around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.