For part of my Masters course we are expected to make some sort of effort to gain experience within the film industry in some form. For my first attempt at gaining this experience, I volunteered to help out at Dead By Dawn Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The film festival is primarily a horror film festival run by the lovely Adele Hartley at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. I was required to swap day passes for the relevant tickets, answer general enquiries and look after the guests: Australian actress Mollie King, director Thomas Hefferon and their guests. Even though the day was long, it was good fun, everyone I spoke to was really lovely and it was nice to be around people who also had such a passion for film. There were some incredible films shown at the festival and it made it really worthwhile travelling all the way up to Edinburgh.
My absolute favourite film of the day, and now one of my favourite pieces of film I’ve ever seen, was the visually stunning Danse Macabre by Pedro Pires. I love anything to do with the romantic side of death, and this film showing the journey of a corpse from several seconds before death to being eventually taken to a morgue and later to being turned into ashes at a crematorium. The concept is explained via elegant dance based movement, and has really made me appreciate how beautiful macabre dance can really be. I couldn’t even begin to describe how beautiful this film really is, it honestly makes me speechless whenever I even think about it!
Danse Macabre Official Site
My second favourite film, and again now one of my favourite documentaries, was Cropsey. A documentary about the Staten Island, New York urban legend of a deranged killer who lived in the grounds of the local abandoned mental asylum. The film makers traced this urban myth back to its roots and discovered that ‘Cropsey’ may have in fact been based upon a string of missing children cases spread over a number of years; thought to have been committed by a former orderly at the asylum who later lived in the grounds of the building, mainly in the masses of tunnels underneath the building with a range of other mentally unstable people. I really felt that this documentary has been one of the few pieces of film, either real or fiction that Ive ever seen that genuinely left me feeling unsettled. I’d been so absorbed in the film that it took me a good 15 mins to get round the fact that I was actually in the middle of a busy city rather than tramping through the asylum grounds with the filmmakers. I think Cropsey really takes the viewer on a journey with the film makers to discover more about the real story behind the legend.
Cropsey Official Site
Another film worth mentioning was 5150, Rue Des Ormes a French-Canadian film about a local filmmaker who is taken captive by a local part time vigilante father obsessed with chess and being righteous. I loved the twist of Jacques Beaulieu having made an entire dead human chess set completely out of the ‘unrighteous’ people for the black side and ‘good’ people for the white side, it made a nice twist to a film that builds its tension around the multiple escape attempts made by the captured yet innocent Yannick. The film is also captivating as we see Yannick almost losing his mind when himself becoming obsessed with winning just a single game of chess in order to secure his release. I also loved the actors cast to play the main family and Yannick and really thought they did their characters justice, making them completely believable.
5150, Rue Des Ormes Official Site
Another couple of films worth mentioning were Tufty, the short film that could offer an answer to where teddy bears really come from; The Pool, a film about the disappearance of a boy whilst playing in a local pool (directed by Thomas Hefferon) and Sunshowers, about a girl who accidentally hits an old man whilst driving a stolen car.
Overall, the festival and the film choices were fantastic and I will definitely be going next year, whether it’s as a volunteer or as an audience member. I would highly recommend this festival to anyone who loves the dark, macabre and the horrific.
Dead By Dawn Festival Official Site