The second feature of Soho Horror Film Festival’s “National Healthcare System” Shockdown Saturday event was a film that I’ve been waiting to see since I heard about its premiere at FrightFest last year. Cyst delivered a memorable eighteen-second teaser trailer of gross-out fluids and gore back in November and instantly had my curiosity, but when I learned that The Room’s Greg Sestero and Troll 2’s Darren Ewing and George Hardy were among the cast members, it had my full attention. After searching for a film festival that was showing the film, it seems a film festival showing it found me, and I am happy to announce that Cyst is everything I could have possibly wanted it to be. Of course, shorts bearing similar themes appeared before the feature.
In Central Dental, a recently mugged man (Adam Drory) has his tooth knocked out in the parking lot of a back-alley dentist’s office. Having no money or insurance information, he’s instructed by the receptionist (Nikki Rae Hallow) that the doctor (Belinda Cornish) will work something out with him—however, even if it ends up costing him an arm and a leg. Central Dental is awesome. I loved this bonkers short and its monster surprise ending that featured exquisite creature effects, fantastic lighting, and a tone that feels like you’re watching a classic Universal monster movie. Lindsay Thomas Robinson’s short is something worth sinking your teeth into.
The final short of the evening was also just as fun as a janitor (Thomas Aske Berg) unknowingly unleashes a creature from “the belly” of medical waste in Hospital Dumpster Divers. Anders Elsrud Hultgreen tells his story through the lens of an 8mm camera, giving it a similar feeling of old school creature features that reminds one of old Frank Helenlotter midnight movies Basket Case and Brain Damage. The mutated creature is nightmarishly crafted with needles protruding and toxically dispelling liquids from the back of its head, creating wonderfully tense moments in close-up shots. The film does run a little longer than necessary as there are moments that could be condensed, like the janitor luring the creature near the end. There are some wonderful gory and grotesque moments though, making the short one worth checking out.
Finally, Tyler Russell’s Cyst began. Though I had seen the trailer, nothing truly prepared me for the overabundant effort of nauseating fluids I was about to witness. Remember how in Drag Me to Hell whenever Alison Lohman opens her month near gypsy woman Lorna Raver there’s some stomach-turning liquid being poured or vomited into it? Imagine that intense vulgarity for sixty-four minutes. Cyst is absolutely disgusting, and I mean that as a high compliment.
Taking place in the ‘60s, Cyst is about an underappreciated nurse, Patty (Eva Habermann), who decides to quit after her boss, Dr. Guy (George Hardy), decides to go behind her back seeking a patent for a cyst-shrinking-machine he invented that nearly amputated her arm during its last trial. When the perfect patient declines to be the machine’s test subject the “in-cyst-ant,” Dr. Guy pressures intern Preston (Darren Ewing) into being the procedure’s guinea pig by applying an accelerating gel to his acne that creates a massive growth on his back. The machine, of course, goes haywire.
Dr. Guy goes full-on mad scientist when he realizes he won’t acquire a patent and locks down his office so the patent officials (Jason Douglas, Terri Merritt Bennett, and Greg Sestero) are unable to leave. With the utter absurdity of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, a cyst monster is created that feasts upon the inhabitants of the office, growing larger with every grisly, gory kill. Cyst keeps itself in line with the introductory short Hotel Dumpster Divers by providing shining practical creature effects that would also make Hellenlotter proud.
The film doesn’t have a lot to say in terms of themes, though one may be for employers to treat their employees better. This is really just a fun body horror film with cult-classic written all over it that gives kudos to the many macabre films throughout the years that certainly inspired it. People will see parallels to the monster’s growth and think The Blob, The Thing, or (deep-cut) Fiend Without a Face while finding some similar mad scientist comparisons from Dr. Warren Chapin in The Tingler to Re-Animator‘s Dr. Herbert West. The film certainly draws its inspiration from many atomic-era anxiety films (Dr. Guy’s new-age laser machine certainly cements that) while drawing its modern-day audience in with the promise of its putrid prominence.
Cyst is not for the squeamish or anyone with a light gag reflex as pus is shot like a super-soaker into faces, fluids are poured from ceilings, and people erupt into gory splatter. Cyst has all the makings of a midnight horror classic that fans will insist upon for years to come. It’s silly, funny, repulsive, and twisted, and I can’t recommend it enough for those with the fans—just see it on an empty stomach maybe.
Two weeks remain for Soho Horror Film Festival’s Shockdown Saturdays, with Frederico Gianotti’s Leni and the World Premiere of Sam Ashurst’s A Little More Flesh II (an assuredly challenging follow up given the nature of A Little More Flesh) coming this Saturday along with the Ghouls Magazine panel special event. If you’d like to be a part of the festival, all you have to do is become a member of the festival’s Facebook page and click the links in the announcements section when the films become available on Saturday. All showings are based on local time in Soho, England—check with their website and Facebook page for times (often they leave the links open until Sunday at midnight). The festival is completely free, but Soho Horror Film Festival is operating solely on viewer support donations and entirely without sponsors. So, if you like what you see, I’d strongly encourage you to support them so we can all indulge in future events.