Thursday, 30 August 2012



Unlucky for some…

FRIGHTFEST, sponsored by FILM4, is a 5-day Horror and Fantasy Film Festival based in London that screens a multitude of UK, European and Worldwide premieres of the most highly-anticipated horror films of the year. Holding its first major event in 2000, Frightfest has since developed into a successful, not-to-be-missed annual event for fans of the genre. The festival is increasingly becoming recognised as not only the most highly regarded of its kind in the UK, but also in the world, alongside the likes of America’s largest and longest running horror film festival SCREAMFEST and fan-favourite TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL.

Labelled by director Guillermo del Toro (PANS LABRYTNH, CRONOS, THE DEVILS BACKBONE) as “The Woodstock of Gore,” this UK horror event attracts the very best directors, producers, casts (and fans!) of the genre from all over the world, unveiling a unique mixture of talent from all enthusiasts across the industry.

In it’s thirteenth consecutive year, FRIGHTFEST THE 13TH did not disappoint. As my third consecutive year at FRIGHTFEST I was pleased to be back amongst the real buffs of the genre and immersed in gore galore! Although FRIGHTFEST now holds three established events (a smaller version of the summer festival with a similar set-up and held in February as part of Glasgow’s International Film Festival, and also an all-nighter held over the Halloween period) it is this occasion that really comes alive with buzz and excitement and the prosperity and diversity that the genre can offer.

When I arrived at Leicester Square’s Empire Cinema early Thursday afternoon, I followed the ritual of picking up my weekend pass and the festival programme and started rooting through line-up’s and the short descriptions of each chosen film. I took out my pen and started to *star* what I thought looked to be the promising films of the five days, whilst too looking decidingly at the DISCOVERY SCREEN line-up. Despite it always containing a few appealing films, every year I can never seem to tear myself away from the MAIN SCREEN for the sake of my ever present “fomo”- fear.of.missing.out! (Though it’s always these films that you pretend are not there and later end up buying on DVD and being pleasantly surprised). With the festival appearing to grow in size each year, another of Empire’s screens (labelled the RE-DISCOVERY SCREEN) was being used to show the highlights of their Glasgow Festival – as well as this stretching the festival to host a grand 50 films, I think it’s a nice touch to give people who perhaps cannot justify the travel for a two-day event or who cannot get away from work twice a year the opportunity to watch the films shown at Glasgow in the months beforehand.

The World Premiere of Paul Hyett’s THE SEASONING HOUSE opened the weekend on Thursday evening. Known in the industry for his work on various British horror movies as a special effects make-up artist (THE DESCENT, EDEN LAKE, THE WOMAN IN BLACK), Hyett’s directorial debut kick-started the festival with a gritty, Eastern European movie about a girl who is kidnapped by the army during the Balkan war in the mid 90’s and used as a slave in a seasoning house. Mirroring the likes of MARTYRS and HOSTEL, Hyett generates a feeling of relentless claustrophobia as malicious physical and sexual torture is tightly bound within the walls of the house.

The festival followed its standard routine of screening five/six premieres per day back-to-back as you reluctantly count down from twenty-four to that final one film – an experience that must closely resemble one’s feelings when they unwrap their last rolo!

The mad Manetti brothers returned this summer with PAURA 3D following the encouraging reception of their first horror/sci-fi film L’ARRIVO DI WANG shown earlier this year at Frightfest Glasgow. A very different film to their first, PAURA- meaning ‘fear’ in Italian- intended to create exactly that, throwing the sci-fi elements aside. With an intriguing situation and a nightmare waiting to happen for three young boys perfectly set-up, the film falls a bit short in its final hour and the impression of a layered plot and a likely enticing twist in the story, gives way to an uninteresting easy way out.

NIGHTBREED: THE CABAL CUT was also a pleasant inclusion in the programme. Following many questions and queries over a substantial amount of lost footage that was shot but not included in its heavily reduced studio release in 1990, Russell Cherrington and Mark Miller have been on a quest to restore the original footage that was shot to follow Clive Barker’s original (3 hour) script. Having not seen the 1990 studio release before I wondered how the film had ever become successful without the additional footage. What appeared to be the most important and somewhat vital explanatory elements within the now 2 hour 37 minute film had only just been found and included (easily identifiable by the differing quality of the three ‘parts’.) Although the determined pair still have a long way to go with the project in terms of digitally remastering the newfound reels and VHS clips, they believe it will eventually reach Blu-ray - A masterful achievement for the pair and a true gift for all original lovers of the Nightbreed.

Back in February we saw a sneaky preview clip of Federico Zampaglione’s attempt at his own Italian giallo horror film, TULPA. With a good audience reaction and an as-ever excited Federico bouncing around the stage, I knew that the premiere of this film was in store for us this weekend. With obvious and self-stated influences from the likes of Bava and Argento, TULPA was a true love letter to 70/80’s giallo style. But perhaps too true – although the film looked cinematically attractive and the music score was spot on (composed by his brother and Andrea Moscianese and not, in Federico’s words, “a typical score you’d expect from a giallo… [but] something modern”), the characters voices were badly dubbed and the script was poor. Whether or not it simply didn’t translate very well to English I guess we will never know (unless they release a purely subtitled version) but it was an unfortunate comedic disturbance on the audience, deviating them away from the dark and ominous themed plot, and drawing attention to what seemed like playful, hammy acting. Federico delighted in key plot elements of the typical giallo with the deviant sexual presence, occult themes and symbols (A “Tulpa” being part of a traditional Tibetan Buddhism) and more crucially the whodunit murder mystery with the hidden killer in black cloak and hat…and not to forget, the black gloves.

Matthias Hoene revelled in this year’s line-up as director of zombie-infested geezer gala COCKNEYS VS ZOMBIES and co-producer of council house versus lone sniper TOWER BLOCK (the weekend’s closing film.) Beginning before the film had, with his stand-up-comedy-like-introduction, Hoene didn’t fail to get the audience in high spirits – and at least this time it was intentional!

Spoilt by the number of cast and crew that attend these premieres, Q&A’s that follow- always made interesting by some quirky question from the audience or a bonkers story from the director. I’ll never forget Glasgow Frightfest 2011 when Jason Eisner stripped and did the whole Q&A for HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN just in his underpants!

Also featured as an intricate part of the weekend is the INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM SHOWCASE, ANDY NYMAN’S QUIZ FROM HELL, and some surprise guests and premiere trailers of upcoming releases (one of which was a first look at a new compilation trailer for Season 3 of THE WALKING DEAD due to be aired in the UK in October.) But what trumps these “special events”, especially this time, is TOTAL FILM’S TOTAL ICON INTERVIEW. This year, Italian horror director Dario Argento returned to Frightfest for the first time in four years (since his appearance at 2008 when his MOTHER OF TEARS got its UK premiere in the frightfest programme). While the interview with last year’s candidate actor/director/producer Larry Fessenden had been a highlight of 2011’s Frightfest, I knew that this time I was facing one of the biggest horror icon legend of the last four decades. Interviewed at length by Total Film’s Jamie Graham, Dario spoke about his upcoming Dracula 3D release and what inspired him to rework such a classic novel and, perhaps more interestingly, why he wanted to shoot it in 3D. But what was inevitably even more interesting than that was of course the questions about his previous influences; his mastery of the Italian giallo horror film (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, CAT ‘O NINE TAILS); how he entered filmmaking, and more specifically, the horror genre; and how he “imagined” or “dreamed” the artistically visual and audio elements so apparent in his most successful genre-classics (SUSPIRIA, PHENOMENA, TENEBRAE, INFERNO, DEEP RED.)


For a transcribed version of the entire interview, visit

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