Frightfest is one of the biggest film festivals in the UK that is dedicated to providing festival goers with the best offerings from the horror and fantasy genre. Originally conceived by the four horsemen Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, Alan Jones, and Greg Day, Frightfest staged its first event in 2000 and has taken place every August Bank Holiday weekend in London’s Leicester Square. Over time, the festival has evolved into a community and has developed a very unique atmosphere where fans and filmmakers alike get together to sit back and enjoy a carefully selected line-up of the best films available.
The horror does not stop in London. Outside of the main August event, Frightfest is host to a regular two-day event at the Glasgow Film Festival and this past weekend marked its ninth consecutive year. Over the weekend there were 7 UK premieres and it also featured the world premieres of Jake West’s Video Nasties: Draconian Days and the visually striking film The Scribbler from Director John Suits. Guests included Directors Joe Begos, Jorge Dorado, Zack Parker and Ti West.
The first day of the festival was incredibly strong and was kicked off by the UK premiere of Director Michael S. Ojeda’s apache rape-revenge thriller Savaged. Starring Amanda Adrienne, Savaged is the story of a young woman who is attacked by a vicious gang in the desert. After she is left for dead, her body is reanimated by a bloodthirsty spirit of an Apache warrior who seeks revenge on her attackers. As a good friend said, Savaged was okay but tonally confused. I was unsure if the humor in the film was intentional or not but it did make me laugh at some of its very over the top moments.
Next up was the UK premiere of Zack Parker’s Proxy. Starring Joe Swanberg, Alexa Havins and Kristina Klebe, Proxy is a superbly acted thriller that is masterfully directed by Parker. We won’t go into much detail about this film as it is best to go in knowing very little. However, I can assure you that the Frightfest crowd loved this one and we’re pleased to confirm that it has been picked up for UK distribution so we thoroughly recommend seeking it out.
Following Proxy was the UK Premiere of Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek 2. The sequel to the 2005 sleeper hit, Wolf Creek 2 sees the return of John Jarratt as Mick Taylor as he continues his reign of terror across the Australian outback stalking and killing unwitting tourists. A definite step up from the first movie, Wolf Creek 2 is very different to the original. Not only does it look more polished but it features some truly spectacular splatter sequences that are sure to surprise you. The film will be given a limited release later this summer so make sure that you check it out if you’re a fan of the first movie.
Taking the evening slot was our most anticipated film from the line-up, Director Ti West’s The Sacrament. After already wowing audiences at the London Film Festival, The Sacrament is as far from a Ti West film as could be. There is no slow-burning introduction leading to a spectacular pay off. Instead, what we have here is an immersive “mockumentary” following two journalists who set out to document their friend’s journey to visit his sister who is living in a clean-living compound only to find something more sinister going on. If you’re familiar with the Jonestown Massacre you’ll know the direction this film heads in but regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Not only was it nicely directed by Ti West (and Joe Swanson) but the acting from AJ Bowen and Gene Jones is second to none.
It wouldn’t be Frightfest without a few surprises along the way. So before the midnight screening of Afflicted, the audience were given an exclusive first-look at the short film, She. Starring Fiona Douriff (Curse of Chucky), the trailer received a largely positive reaction from the crowd and I for one can’t wait to see what its co-directors, Chelsey Burdon and Mark Vessey have in store for us.
Rounding up the first day of the festival was the UK Premiere of Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee’s excellent found-footage horror Afflicted. Telling the story of two friends taking a journey across Europe, Afflicted sees one of them struck down by a mysterious illness. In desperation to find the source, the duo must come to terms with what has happened before things spiral out of control and consume them both. A truly spectacular found footage movie, Afflicted is a much needed breath of fresh air. Featuring some truly dazzling special affects that look flawless, the film is nicely paced and one hell of a rollercoaster ride. If you liked Chronicle and you love your horror then then is the one for you to keep your eyes open for.
After a well deserved sleep it was time for the second and final day of the festival. Sadly it was not as strong as the first but it did have some truly enjoyable films starting with Jake West’s documentary and sequel to Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape. Draconian Days extends the foundation of the first documentary to uncover what life was like in Britain post the 1984 Video Recordings Act when censorship was very severe. A thought-provoking and interesting documentary, West provides an insight into how crazy things were back in the 80’s for fans of horror.
Up next was the World Premiere of Director John Suits feature adaptation of The Scribbler. Visually stunning but dividing audiences, The Scribbler is a ‘sci-fi action, film noir and mind-bending slasher’. Starring Katie Cassidy (TV’s Supernatural), Eliza Dushku and Michelle Trachtenberg (both from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer), The Scribbler plays out as a pitch black superhero thriller instead of a horror movie and seemed somewhat out of place according to some festival goers. But considering the cult appeal of the movie, it came as no surprise that there would still be festival goers who would appreciate the film.
Actor/Director Jordan Barker’s Torment was given its UK Premiere in the saturday afternoon spot on the line-up. Starring American Mary’s very own Katherine Isobelle, Torment tells the story of newlyweds, Cory and Sarah Morgan as they head to the country for some much-needed family time with the hope that Liam, Cory’s struggling 7-year-old son from his previous marriage, will learn to accept his new stepmother. However, on their arrival they discover that someone has been living in their home and must face a family of deranged killers when they kidnap Liam. Torment doesn’t have anything new to bring to the home invasion thriller but provides enough mystery to keep your interest.
Following Torment was Jorge Dorado’s excellent thriller Mindscape starring Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga and Brian Cox. The film tells the story of John, a detective with the ability to enter people’s memories, who is assigned to work with young abused girl, Anna. Quickly turning into a cat and mouse thriller Mark must work to his best ability to get to the truth behind a murder mystery to prove Anna’s innocence. With the time running out it is unclear what and who can be trusted. Full of intrigue and mystery, Mindscape is a thriller that not only proves to be a fantastic film but would also, as a friend stated, work extremely well as a tv mini-series.
Up next was a real treat for fans of ’80s horror as Joe Begos and his collaborative partner, Josh Ethier took the stage to introduce their alien abduction slasher movie Almost Human. Clearly inspired by John Carpenter, Begos has crafted an enjoyable but flawed film that utilises practical effects to deliver a very fun film. Almost Human is the story of Mark Fisher who returns two years after being abducted in a flash of blue light to leave a trail of bodies in his wake. I loved this movie and so did the audience as they loudly applauded Begos and Ethier as they took to the stage to field a Q&A before they gave out two very limited collector editions of the movie on VHS. Sadly we didn’t win but we will be checking out the movie again when it’s given a UK release later this year via Metrodome Distribution.
The Raid 2: Berendal was meant to be the closing film for this year’s festival but it had to be pulled just before the announcement. It was then decided that Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjhanto’s Killers would close the festival. Starring a few familiar faces from The Raid and Tjhanto’s stellar segment from V/H/S/2 Safe Haven, Killers tells the story of two men who are brought together by one thing – their lust for murder. As the duo continues their quest of violent self-discovery their paths cross with devastating results. Despite the disappointment of missing out on the chance of watching The Raid 2: Berendal I was pleasantly surprised by Killers. It had key moments that were simply outstanding but these were lost in the slow pace of the film.
Overall day two did not match the strong start of the festival but we had such a great time meeting like-minded people and talking with the guests and filmmakers. But just before we succumb to post festival blues we’re going to bring you interviews and reviews of our favourite films from the festival over the next week. So thanks for reading and we hope to see you in August for the main event in London.