What is the ‘strand’ approach?
Every year London Film Festival’s out-of-competition films are divided up into 10 different ‘strands’, all connected by a specific genre or theme. This year the strands are: Cult; Love; Debate; Dare; Laugh; Thrill; Journey; Sonic; Family, and; Experimenta. The strand approach is designed to help open the festival to new audiences, each headlined with their own gala. It also makes it easier for newcomers to negotiate the programme and find films to suit their tastes, as well as helping viewers to explore new genres and find new emerging talents.
For the next 10 days we’ll be bringing you details of all the films included in the strand programmes.
Cult Strand 2015.
“A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a cult following. Cult films are known for their dedicated, passionate fanbase, an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue, and audience participation.”
Much like Marmite, cult films usually have a love-it-or-hate-it reputation, but no matter what your opinion on them is, there is no denying that they make up a big part of film subculture. The BFI promises the films in the Cult Strand vary from “the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror”, and this year’s crop of future cult classics looks to be no exception. Ranging from horrors in the Wild West, to the making of Star Wars, through to the perils of social media and even a talking turtle, the Cult Strand is an utterly bonkers collection for anyone who wants to embrace the dark side, or just something a little bit different.
Bone Tomahawk (S Craig Zahler, USA, 2015)
Headlining 2015’s Cult Gala is musician S Craig Zahler’s directional debut, Bone Tomahawk. Described as equal parts The Searchers (John Ford, 1956) and The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven, 1977/Alexandre Aja, 2006) this horror/western hybrid tells the story of Bright Hope, a Wild West frontier town, whose inhabitants lives’ are rocked by the disappearance of one of the residents. Arthur O’Dwyer’s life is turned upside down when his wife is kidnapped, the townsfolk then assemble an unlikely vigilante mob headed by sheriff Franklin Hunt and set off to hunt O’Dwyer’s wide and her abductors down. Unfortunately for Franklin, Arthur and co. they have no idea who, or more, what is waiting for them when they eventually find her. Unpredictable, bloody and full of surprises, with its all star cast including Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox, as well as cameos from horror regulars including Sid Haig, Bone Tomahawk is sure to satisfy horror and western fans.
A word of warning though: as you would expect from a cult film described as being partly Wes Craven-inspired, violence is never far away, and when it appears it does so with a capital V.
The Boy (Craig William Macneil, USA, 2015)
Living with his father in an isolated desert motel, Ted Henley isn’t like most other 9 year old boys. His lonely existence involves exploring the barren and desolate landscape around him, and collecting road kill to be sold for 25c a carcass. This strange hobby of collecting and selling animal carcasses fuels into young Ted’s curiosity and feeds into his pre-occupation with death.
When a car crash causes a mysterious stranger to take up residence in the motel, Ted’s interest is piqued and his sociopathic tendencies begin to rise dangerously close to the surface in this slow burn horror that has the ability to truly disturb and unsettle.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz (Hector Hernandez Vicens, Spain, 2015)
(El Cadaver de Anna Fritz)
This morally dubious thriller about a celebrity obsessed world, tells the story of the sudden death of young, beautiful actress Anna Fritz. While the world is mourning the loss of the star, Pau, an orderly working in the morgue where her body has been interred has other ideas. After taking a photo of Anna’s lifeless corpse and sending it to his friends, Pau’s friends begin demanding to see her in the flesh, eventually turning up at the morgue. Once inside, with nobody around, one of his friends suggests ‘taking advantage of the situation’.
Likely to thrill and enthuse, as well as shock and repulse audiences in equal measure The Corpse of Anna Fritz tows the very fine line between taste and decency with its taboo tale and flawless execution of this morally reprehensible story about lengths people will go to in order to get close to celebrities.
Don’t Grow Up (Thierry Poiraud, France, 2015)
When a group of teenage delinquents on an unnamed island wake up one morning to find they are alone at their youth facility, seemingly abandoned by their supervisors, they do what any normal teenagers do when offered such unprecedented freedom: drink and party, and to hell with the consequences. However once they venture into the local town and find it similarly abandoned, they realise something is very, very wrong. Suddenly finding themselves under siege from a group of deranged adults, the teenagers must find a way to escape the island with their lives as well as figure out what caused their group leader to join this unhinged band of killers.
Elstree 1976 (Jon Spira, UK, 2015)
When George Lucas began working on a mysterious sci-fi project named Star Wars nobody could have imagined how much of an epic franchise would become and how it would still be shaping the landscape of cinema almost 40 years later. Unlike most ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries, Elstree 1976 focuses not on Lucas and the film’s stars and how they made it, instead the film meets 10 individuals whose lives were changed by the franchise in a slightly different way: extras.
Painting an intimate portrait of how this group of individuals crossed paths with Lucas, and how their bit parts in this franchise went on to shape the rest of their lives, Elstree 1976 doesn’t so much tell the story of how Star Wars was made but more the story of the people who helped make it.
Ghost Theatre (Hideo Nakata, Japan, 2015)
In 1998 Hideo Nakata catapulted Japanese horror cinema into the world’s consciousness with his film Ringu (The Ring), and 17 years later he still shows no signs of slowing down with his latest offering Ghost Theatre. Based on his 1996 breakthrough film Ghost Actress, (also known as Don’t Look Up) this deliciously dark and unhinged film tells the story of ambitious but quiet and reserved young actress Sara. When a tragic accident sees Sara promoted from her small part in a new theatre production to leading lady status, she is faced with an extreme and unexpected degree of rivalry from her cast mates. However when strange incidents begin to mount up on stage, Sara quickly learns that overinflated egos aren’t the most dangerous thing waiting for her when she exits the stage, in a twisted tale that could only come from a master like Nakata.
Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, USA, 2015)
From the critically acclaimed director of Blue Ruin (USA, 2013) comes Green Room, a beautifully vicious and violent thriller that aims to really put its audiences through its paces.
When unsigned punk band ‘The Ain’t Rights’ are booked to plan an impromptu gig in a sleazy dive bar, frequented by neo-Nazis and other undesirable characters, a long, tough night is what they expect. However, nothing could prepare them for the events that actually transpire over the course of the evening.
After accidentally witnessing a murder the band members find themselves holed up in the bar’s green room, being hunted down by a gang of merciless thugs, fronted by a very disturbing Patrick Stewart, hell bent on making sure The Ain’t Rights keep their mouths shut.
The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, USA, 2015)
Loving couple Eden and Will are driven apart after a family tragedy, fast forward two years and they have both moved on, both have new partners, but are drawn back together when Eden and her partner throw a dinner party for her old friends, including Will. Finding it hard to settle into the festivities, Will’s anxiety begins to grow as Eden’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and the evening gets stranger and stranger. That is until he figures out why Eden has called him and their old friends back together.
Love and Peace. (Sion Sono, Japan, 2015)
Returning to the London Film Festival for a third year in a row, this year Sion Sono brings us a mind bending, one off story of punk rock dreams, talking turtles and the possibility of the end of the world, that has to be seen to be believed.
Office worker Ryoichi has long resigned himself to a life of mundane 9 to 5 slog for a company that hardly even notices he exists, letting his dreams of punk rock stardom die many moons ago. However, his life is changed when on a whim he buys a turtle named Pikadon, and sets off a chain of events that could allow him to revive and fulfil his dreams of being a punk rock star, but could also bring about the end of the world.
Defying convention, difficult to pigeon hole, and with more imagination and creativity in the first 15 minutes than many films have in their entire script, Love and Peace is a truly one of a kind film, you won’t believe it until you’ve seen it.
Observance (Joseph Sims-Dannett, Australia, 2015)
Described by the BFI as Rear Window remade by David Cronenberg, by way of Shane Curruth, Obervance portrays the life of Parker, a private investigator still recovering from the death of his young son and subsequent break-up of his marriage, attempts to pull himself out of the depths and get his life back on track. In his attempts to make a fresh start he takes on a surveillance job which sees him moving into a run-down apartment, with instructions to spy on the woman living across the hall. With no real reason as to why she is under surveillance, Parker begins to fear for her safety, at the same time his health starts to decline, life starting to throw up more questions than answers.
Part horror, part thriller, part ‘what the hell is going on here?’ Observance is another film that defies easy labelling, the resulting product is one that will excite and exasperate at the same time, one where you think you’ve finally worked out what’s going on, but in actual fact, you might never find out the truth.
Ratter (Branden Kramer, USA, 2015)
Ratter: A ratter is an individual hacker who “take[s] control of victims’ computers and remotely activate their webcams.”
Emma, played by Ashley Benson, is a college student, going about her day to day life and enjoying living alone for the first time in her new Brooklyn pad, completely unaware that her every move is being watched by an unknown stalker who has hacked into the technology around her.
Shot entirely from the perspective of the various gadgets Emma surrounds herself with, Ratter is a cautionary tale about the notion of privacy in a society where we are obsessed with the development of technology and social media, and self-documenting our lives.
What We Become (Bo Mikkelsen, Denmark, 2015)
When the town of Sorgenfri is suddenly hit by an unknown deadly flu-like virus, the residents of this sleepy Danish town have their lives thrown into disarray as they are quarantined and hermetically sealed in their homes. With the Johansson family being held like prisoners in their own home, it begins to transpire that teenage son Gustav has no idea what is really going on. With nothing to lose Gustav sets out on a mission to discover the truth, but uncovers a secret more terrifying than he could have ever imagined. With a nod to George Romero’s cult zombie series Living Dead and biochemical warfare film The Crazies, What We Become has fear radiating off it in waves, with paranoia running rife, in this truly bone chilling thriller.
Yazuka Apocalypse (Takashi Miike, Japan, 2015)
Combining gangsters, vampires, and pretty much every genre going, Yakuza Apocalypse follows the story of Kamiura, the Yukuza underworld’s most powerful and feared boss, rumoured to be un-killable Kamiura is in fact already dead, and an incredibly powerful vampire. Of his loyal group of followers, the most faithful is Kageyama, who is often ridiculed by the rest as his sensitive skin prevents him from branding himself with their clan’s signature tattoo. However when a dying Kamiura bites Kageyama he transforms into a blood thirsty monster who will stop at nothing to avenge his boss’s death.
Wild at Heart and Weird on Top (Various, 2014-2015)
Wild at Heart and Weird on Top is a compilation of 11 short films drawing on horror, surrealism, and all-out craziness. With offerings from the UK, Australia, Hungary, Belgium, Germany, and the USA, including live action and animation, and exploring topics from porn and sex scandals, and moving moral goalposts, to the perfect roadtrip between Heaven and Hell, and everything in between, this compilation provides a glimpse into the non-conforming styles that make cult films.
Full details of the Cult Strand, including screening times and venues and information on tickets can be found here (x)