Dundead II (5-8 Apr)
The dress code was black t-shirt and green canvas bag, the canapé of choice a gently nibbled Butterkist, washed down with Punk IPA from a plastic cup. Glancing at the crowd outside the DCA’s cinema doors, there was nothing to distinguish Dundead II attendees from those quaffing cosmopolitans in the Jute Café Bar. Nothing except a clear predilection for rainbow hair colourant and the fact in a few moments we would be riveted to our seats by the first joyous throes of a four day horror onslaught.
The first screening of Dundead II: The Cabin in the Woods. Choosing to exploit post-slasher cynicism, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon have managed to shred expectations with more flippancy and fun than the Scream franchise. It still defies comment, but like an axe to a piñata, it was a devastatingly effective opener. Since the festival’s more niche or disturbing offerings were relegated to later slots, Dario Argento’s 1980 stomach churner Inferno screened second. The most terrifying choice of this year by a light year, Inferno emerged as a blend of icy dread and chunky gore garnished with a lavish sprinkle of demonic witchery. A terror daiquiri, if you will.
Friday began with Xavier Gens’ The Divide, and the promise of some ballsy, relentless cynicism. Though it won’t be released in the UK until 20 April, the turnout at its screening was terminal. Those who did gird their loins for despair were rewarded with one of the most compelling, if disturbing films of the festival. A nihilistic look at a crumbling, post-apocalyptic civilisation, The Divide is abjectly hopeless. Accepting this, and several impoverished performances, its taut script, edgy set and claustrophobic camerawork delivered an unanticipated highlight. Blood Feast (1963) followed with some gooey offal, torrents of fake blood and intensely hammy acting, providing some welcome, hilarious relief from contemporary standards of CGI perfection and digitized doom. There was also the unexpected treat of it being preceded by hyper-rare The Errand (1980), a 25 minute long British film bridging The Divide and Blood Feast.
A BFI restoration of the Hammer classic Dracula initiated Saturday’s selection in a gratifying lather of colour. Christopher Lee gives devastating prowl with a 46 foot screen at his disposal. This was followed by Pål Sletaune’s sparse new thriller Babycall, from Norway, and a late night screening of Videodrome (1983). David Cronenburg’s body horror is a divisive choice: though well crafted, Videodrome is not easily accessible for non-fans, especially given its dated horror-tech textures. Those who love him are rabid enough about it. For those who don’t, there’s always the consolation of Debbie Harry’s breasts.
Sunday’s Cat People (Jacques Tourneur) is about as gruesome as a soggy furball, but its 1942 noir aesthetic gives it claws. To follow: The Raid, an Indonesian martial arts film from Welsh director Gareth Evans. Turnout was strong if not sell-out, commendable enough for a Sunday evening on Easter weekend. The screening showed a previously unseen cut featuring collaboration between Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park Fame and Tron: Legacy composer Joseph Trapanese. The resulting soundtrack is a nuanced, resonant triumph, adding weight to the film’s moments of knuckle-munching hyper-violence, holding back only to redouble its force at key moments. When the credits did eventually roll, the audience applauded, indelibly impressed. A few days later, Gareth Evans offered his thanks to the Dundead crowd. A film indulging those horror-lovers weaned on John Carpenter wrapped up proceedings: The Fog (1980), minus the VHS snow and commercials its true fans once weathered.
Each film was introduced by a quick soliloquy from festival programmer Chris O’Neill, chiefly to provide a little context and recommend later choices, while ticket raffles were held before smaller screenings. Buying a festival pass proved a savvy investment. Not only did a pass grant entry to all ten films, there was a generous survival pack included in the £50 price tag, with official Dundead t-shirt, a towel for mopping addled brows, a recent DVD, badges, and an ambiguous oaty power snack to be enjoyed. Thoughtfully curated from raw comments and social media feedback, Dundead II was as much about pleasing its fans as it was in year one. Roll on Dundead III.
For now, monthly Dundead double bills will recommence in May. With a shower of sparks and some muscular grimacing from Christopher Lambert, Connor Macleod will wield his broadsword at the behest of Man with a Pearl Earring Sean Connery. Then, as Ming the Merciless thunders, “Pathetic earthlings, who will save you now?” vocal chords across Tayside and beyond will rupture with screeches of ‘Flash… ahhhhh!’ That’s right: Highlander and Flash Gordon are just around the corner…