For those not familiar with what Grimmfest is, its in essence a horror film (with the odd sci-fi film thrown into the mix) which happens in Manchester each year featuring a mixture of full length feature films and ‘shorts’ made by independents or up and coming film makers.
As is becoming the tradition (this year is the 5th Grimmfest festival), the premier night happens at the Plazza Cinema over in Stockport, which is a beautiful art-deco building which has been renovated back to its former glory by a team of dedicated people.
There were actually 2 films being shown on the premier night, but unfortunately I was unable to make the first one (Hansel and Gretel get baked), so I will start with the first and arguably what would be for many the highlight of the opening night, The Wicker Man (Final Cut), with the added bonus of a Q&A session after the film with the director Robin Hardy.
Its a film I have heard about many times in the past, but for some reason I have never seen, so what better version to see than the final version (which includes all the elements which have previously never been included in versions released previously).
What can I say about this film, well it has to be said that hands down its one of the oddest films I have ever seen (I would rank it along side the Fifth Element for having many W.T.F moments in it!). It starts off in a very unassuming way with a police Sargent (Neil Howie) arriving via sea plane to investigate a missing girl, the residents seem a little reluctant to let him onto the island initially, but eventually he manages to get onto dry land and starts his investigations.
The middle chunk of the film is where it all starts to turn rather odd, the traditional May day celebrations have a strange sexual tone to them, there are a lot of phallic references and woman dancing round fires naked, along side a very strange couple of evenings down the local pub (where Neil is staying whilst on the island)
In the end Sargent Neil starts to suspect that the only way he is going to get answers is to somehow infiltrate the village parade. Queue a load more strange costumes and masks and singing and dancing.
Without spoiling the ending, Neil does finally get the answers he is looking for, but its not in the way he expects.
I have to say that I was not expecting the ending at all, it went in a totally different direction and was actually a pleasant surprise as a weaker ending is so often what you come to expect from engrossing films like these.
Immediately after the film, Robin took to the stage to talk a bit about the history of the film and how this version ended up coming into existence, basically, when this film was made, it was traditional to release two films at the same time, the A film and the B film, with the B film being the shorter and less well known film, there was an internal power struggle going on with the film company at the time and to help them with their plans, they decided to release the Wicker Man as the B film, which resulted in a good 30 minutes to be cut from the film (including most of the first day and the party in the pub). Unfortunately for the company though, Christopher Lee had managed to get his hands on the full uncut version and took it abroad to the USA, where it received rave reviews.
For the past 40 years Robin has been trying to get the full film released into the cinema in the UK so that the UK audience could see the film in the way it was supposed to be seen, this include a slow and painstaking task of piecing together the old 35mm frames back into the edited cut.
So tonight, on Robin’s 84’th birthday, he was finally able to release his perfect version of the film onto the audience.