FrightFest the 13th is coming! By this time next week I’ll be knee deep in the annual five day celebration of all things horror cinema. I thought it would be interesting to highlight my most anticipated screenings, and then come back to this after the event to see what the highlights actually were. FrightFest doesn’t always play out the way you expect it to; there are always surprises and some keenly anticipated films that don’t live up to expectations.
I’ve been excited about this since it was announced. Reece Shearsmith plays an agoraphobic serial killer, Pollyanna McIntosh his suspicious next-door neighbour. Premiering at FrightFest, I believe this short film promises to be something quite special.
The Seasoning House
The directorial debut of Paul Hyett, famous for prosthetics and effects work on films like The Woman in Black, Ironclad, Eden Lake, and the Descent. The plot for this sounds like nothing that’s come before: a deaf mute orphan in a Balkan brothel plans revenge on the men who murdered her family, avoiding detection by moving between the walls and crawlspaces. Hopefully this is just the sort of brave, challenging material that can make for astonishing FrightFest moments.
Cockneys Vs Zombies
OK, so perhaps not so challenging. James Moran, FrightFest regular and writer of Chris Smith’s Severance (as well as numerous episodes of Dr Who, Spooks and more) brings us this charming tale of Londoners battling the undead. FrightFest attendees were treated to a glimpse of material last year, and it looked far funnier than the name or concept would suggest. Alan Ford always provides value for money, and Michelle Ryan usually does a good job with this sort of material1. Watch the trailer and tell me Richard Briars fleeing zombies (slow moving, of course) using his zimmerframe isn’t a work of genius.
Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut
Any fan of horror should be acquainted with Mr Clive Barker. While his most famous cinematic offering is probably Hellraiser, in 1990 Barker directed an adaptation of his 1988 novella Cabal. I have very fond memories of both the novel and the film, and it’s always been a bit of a shame that Barker didn’t direct more (he stopped after Lord of Illusions in 1995, which is also well worth seeing).
I didn’t know it at the time, but on Nightbreed’s release it was hacked about by the studios. Barker’s vision wasn’t compatible with what the studio had paid for, and so the film was recut, performances were redubbed, and a new ending was added. For years since there were whispers that a more complete version existed. Then a few years back, the whispers grew louder, became chatter, and the Cabal Cut started to become a reality.
I never thought I’d get to see it, but thanks to the efforts of all involved it’s screening at FrightFest this year. How it’s going to look projected on the Empire’s massive screen, I don’t know. Whether the restoration actually elevates the film dramatically beyond it’s original incarnation remains to be seen too. But as a fan of the film since day one, I’m thrilled at the chance to see something as close to Barker’s original vision as we’re ever going to get. Boone, Peloquin, and the ‘Breed captured my imagination years ago, and I’m very happy to spend another couple of hours with them again.
I do love a good anthology film. V/H/S has been getting some very positive buzz from other festivals, has some great names behind it, and could well be one of the festival’s highlights.
Comedian Ross Noble as a zombie clown, resurrected to get revenge on those responsible for his death in a fatal party mishap. How can anyone not be up for that?! Directed by Conor McMahon who gave us the quite splendid bovine zombie epidemic movie Dead Meat in 2004, I’m hoping for solid comedy horror here. (See also Grabbers - in which the only way our heros can survive a bloodsucking alien invasion is to get drunk).
Rec director Jaume Balaguero brings a more Hitchcockian number to FrightFest this year. I’ve heard very good things about this, so it’s very high on my list of most anticipated films for the weekend.
Berberian Sound Studio
Another that’s been generating buzz from other festivals. I’m totally in love with the concept behind this, but I’m not totally sold on Toby Jones as a leading man.
I’ll admit I’ve not yet seen Dead Hooker in a Trunk, the debut feature from the Soska Sisters. But American Mary sounds just as challenging as some of the other features on display this year. Body modification isn’t exactly an overused trope in the genre, so this has the potential to offer something new and interesting. The sisters will be in attendance, so I’m looking forward to a decent Q&A afterwards. Don’t let me down FrightFest audience2!
It’s possible that Chained could be the festival’s most disturbing and upsetting entry. There are always a few films that cause non-genre fans to wonder why anyone would want to put themselves through the experience. I’ve mentioned it twice already, but it’s partly about challenge. Horror, sometimes more than any other genre, causes the viewer to challenge themselves. Not literally - as a test of endurance, or will - but to open yourself up to something horrible, unthinkable, and come away from the experience with a different perspective. The very best of horror does this. Recent examples like Martyrs, The Woman, Irreversible, and Requiem for a Dream3 are not at all pleasant experiences, they’re deeply upsetting, but they push the limits of the genre. This is my pick for the most affecting film of the festival.
I try to regularly attend the annual celebration of all things zombie at Leicester’s Phoenix Square. I’ll post more on it nearer the time, but last year we were treated to a scene from Before Dawn (at that point it was untitled). The scene we saw as shot entirely in the confines of a small garage, and featured Paddy from Emmerdale (Dominic Brunt) trying to avoid being eaten by a particularly hungry looking zombie. It should have been laughable, but it was anything but. Tightly directed by Brunt himself, it was inventive and incredibly well staged. I’m a little disappointed this isn’t on in the main screen (Under The Bed, and After are on the in the main screen during its two screenings), because I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in…
There are three things I need to do between now and the start of the festival:
- Watch Dead Hooker in a Trunk - it’s not fair to not watch the Soska’s debut feature seeing as they’re making all that effort for us.
- Watch The Hamiltons - sequel The Thompsons is showing this year - never watch a sequel without seeing the preceding films first.
- Watch Outpost - because Output II, see above.
Not long now. I may post a few bits and pieces during the festival, but I’ll be sure to post a follow-up once I’m back. If you’d like to hear my thoughts during the festival, you can follow me on Twitter (@moviedan). If you’re going to be in attendance, then see you there, please do come and say hello!
Honestly, she’s under rated. Yes, she’s also quite easy on the eyes. What of it? ↩
Last year, after watching Ben Wheatley’s brilliant Kill List, one audience member asked “why did you make it so violent?”. This has entered FrightFest legend as the most moronic question in the entire history of moronic questions. ↩
Yes, it’s a horror film. ↩