Founded by film enthusiasts Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy and Greg Day and sponsored by Film4, FrightFest has grown immensely popular as an indoor alternative to the Notting Hill Carnival every August bank holiday weekend.
We spoke to a number of FrightFesters this weekend — they are truly the friendliest crowd with genuine commitment to the horror genre. The festival organisers roam freely, speaking with festival goers. There are DVDs and film posters for sale in the foyer and interviews are held in an accessible manner which puts you right in the heart of the film festival experience. The atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed — in an unusually London-like fashion, strangers strike up conversations as they eagerly await their next screening.
Horror is by far the most interesting genre in film and sharing it amongst genre devotees is a completely refreshing and exhilarating experience. FrightFesters travel from around world to attend, “horror is OUR fairground ride,” one festival-goer told us as he sat outside Empire, admiringly watching the crowd. An interesting comparison that tied in quite nicely to Alan Jones’ opinion of horror:
“Everyone responds in different ways to their fears… a safe darkness, a way to deal with what scares us communally and at a manageable distance.”
We spoke to Alan regarding the perfect location for FrightFest and he described London as “such a cosmopolitan crowd, the footfall through Leicester Square is over a million a day so we’re in the centre, reaping the benefits.”
Indeed they are — the five-day festival takes place at the luxurious Empire Leicester Square and offers audiences a jam-packed eclectic weekend of premiers, previews, quizzes and interviews with directors and stars.
This year’s showings included a British film, The Dead 2: India. Directed by The Ford Brothers, the film tells the story of zombies in a post-apocalyptic land. Alan Jones said:
“It’s vital we showcase British product, we are Britain’s leading genre festival so we see it as our duty. Most of the time we are submitted the titles at an early stage, other times we hear on the grapevine.”
The Variety spotlight award event was granted to our very own London-based director, Ben Wheatley. Audiences were invited to a special event where Wheatley discussed his impressive and fiercely unique films to date.
Friday’s film was another British offering, Dementamania, filmed around London Bridge and telling the story of a bored and mentally-decaying City office worker. Fed-up with his irritating co-workers (a situation we can all sympathise with) he conjures up violent ends for them in his head.
The British premiere of US film Cheap Thrills stole the show on the Saturday, described as a “Michael Haneke feature filtered through an American Dream”. Self-funded feature, On Tender Hooks, visually speaking, was the most gruesome film of the day which as the title suggests, adopts a fly on the wall style of filming following individuals who challenge themselves to intense body modification.
Other films included In Fear, simple yet well-crafted psychological plot following a young couple lost on a drive around country lanes. A screening of 1922’s classic gothic horror Nosferatu was also a visual treat. The festival closed with the immensely hyped-up Israeli thriller/horror comedy Big Bad Wolves which brings together a rogue cop, a suspected paedophile and the father of a victim. Aside from the comic aspects, there are serious insights into Israel’s aggressive sense of victimhood and preoccupation with revenge. A truly brave and sophisticated feature with an incredible soundtrack.
FrightFest will return next year and you can buy tickets directly from the Empire cinema website.
By Natasha Saifolahi