Forbidden Worlds: The Big Scream II

Described as "Bristol’s biggest repertory genre film festival", Forbidden Worlds returned for a Halloween celebration with The Big Scream II. Set across two nights at Bristol Aquarium's former IMAX cinema, this off-shoot of May's main event gives the opportunity for cult films that found their audience on VHS and DVD to be shown on the biggest screen in the South West.

Opening the festival was 1986's Night of the Creeps, a strong choice courtesy of Jim'll Paint It - who provides astounding artwork for the festival courtesy of his Microsoft Paint mastery. Preceding the feature was a recorded intro from writer/director Fred Dekker, discussing what fueled his love for film and the process which led this love-letter to 1950's B-Movies being his feature directorial debut.

Combining an axe-wielding escapee from a mental institution, parasitic alien slugs, a killer sense of humour, and zombies, this entertaining blend effectively brings a fun time which ramps up in bat-shit form. Many great performances were on show throughout the festival, but none eclipsed the perfection of Tom Atkins' world-weary detective who answers the phone by growling "Thrill Me!"

Next up was the Director's Cut of Mimic, the English-language debut from Guillermo del Toro that unfortunately had a troubled production and Miramax retaining final cut. As del Toro shares in a recorded intro, he wanted the film to be darker and more philosophical while the studio wanted Alien 4, so the film ended up being Alien 3.5. In order to prevent a pandemic affecting New York City's children, Mira Sorvino's entomologist creates a breed of mutant insects to kill the disease carrying cockroaches. While this breed were engineered to die after a few months, they actually evolved to survive years later and intend to destroy mankind.

This tale of a hellish road paved with good intentions offers a compelling story, while the IMAX projection allows Rob Bottin's exceptional effects to shine on the big-screen, and adds impact to a last-act explosion that would make Michael Bay blush. What made the experience even better was knowing that the Oscar winning director has reclaimed his work from a certain notorious producer, and that the cut projected was as close to the director's vision as del Toro could create with this re-edit.

While many payed homage to the late William Friedkin by screening some of his best-regarded features, Forbidden Worlds stepped outside the box to screen the director's killer-tree film, 1990's The Guardian. Introducing the feature was original screenwriter Stephen Volk, whose candid and fascinating recollections paint a picture of understandable frustration as the work was retooled by a director attached as a favour to his old agent.

It makes sense that this was selected as the late-night feature, for it is one of the most bizarre offerings in the line-up - and that is saying something. The tale of new parents hiring a nanny already takes a turn as it becomes clear that she intends to sacrifice the baby to a giant tree, and that is before an amazing sequence of bikers being brutally murdered by the tree, or a wolf recreating "Here's Johnny!" It was a fascinating experience that the audience clearly had fun with, and made for a fantastic way to close off a successful first day.

Kicking off day two was a family film which broke up the adult fare, 1990's Arachnophobia. Programmed in memory of Julian Sands (who has a terrific role as an entomologist), the set-up sees a small town menaced by the off-spring of a deadly spider from Venezuela. The feature debut of director Frank Marshall comes alive courtesy of tremendous puppetry and a knowing sense of humour, as witnessed when a scene of Jeff Daniels' doctor and his on-screen wife kissing then transitions into two spiders having a similar embrace. From the arachnids to the human characters, there are tremendous personalities on-show which breathe life into this small town whose innocence is shattered by darker realities. As someone who is not a spider fan, this was an excellent addition that did not affect me for the worse.

In celebration of the film's 40th anniversary, John Carpenter's Christine was shown as the penultimate film. The stage was set by festival director Timon Singh, who shared how Carpenter adapted Stephen King's novel out of a fear that the negative reaction to 1982's The Thing would kill his career. He also pointed out the film's attempt to coin a new insult by regularly using the word "shitters", something which sent the audience into hysterics with each appearance. To paraphrase Regina George from Mean Girls, "Stop trying to make shitters happen! It's not going to happen!"

From the opening set to "Bad To The Bone", the allure and danger is effectively captured for the titular Plymouth Fury. Its path crosses with bullied teen Arnie, who sees a way to better himself by fixing up the rusting and disused vehicle. What then transpires is a toxic relationship between the pair, as Arnie changes into a different person while his car turns out to be living, jealous, and murderous. After the festivals previous showings of Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween, this is another phenomenal entry in their winning run of Carpenter classics.

Closing out the festival was my favourite discovery, 1987's The Hidden. In a recorded introduction, director Jack Sholder described the film as a Sidney Lumet cop film "but with aliens." That vastly undersold the feature, which sees a parasitic alien body-hopping through humans to commit murder, play loud rock music, and steal Ferraris, while two mismatched cops team up to stop the alien's real-life game of Grand Theft Auto. It is a wild ride that may peak with its carnage fuelled opening, yet that does not stop the absolute blast which follows involving a perverted character being fucked to death, an exceptional dog performance, and a magnificent use of a flamethrower. If the audience reaction was any indicator, this was a genius choice to close the festival.

Forbidden Worlds promises to return for another round of cult stunners, and I strongly recommend attending their next event.