Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Frightfest 2014 Reflection

Frightfest's fifteenth year, and my fourth full attendance, was always going to be different. A forced move from The Empire to Vue a couple of doors down meant the logistics of the festival were shaken up considerably, the main audience was split across three screens and films were shown on rotation allowing guests to move between screens.
You couldn't help but notice the change, the clearest example being this article. In years gone by it's here that I'd talk about all the extra stuff going on at Frightfest, but things were thin on the ground at this year's event. No onstage interviews, no quiz, no short films before features (they were all put in their own slot elsewhere), no surprise giveaways and no big names dropping by with a quick sneak peek of their latest project.
There were two mildly underwhelming previews, It Follows presented by star Maika Monroe and See No Evil 2 presented by the Soska twins via a video intro, and a handful of guest intros/QnA's. Although when Home was introduced by a writer who wasn't involved and appeared to be there solely because he had also written an American Horror movie (Sinister), you begin to question the point of it. The QnA's still had their moments of illumination, but a reduced crowd size seemed to generate a reluctance to ask questions and it probably didn't help that no roving microphone meant audience members had to bellow their queries across the auditorium.
Add in the fact that I got to watch a trailer for TV series 'The Strain' twenty six times due to it's inclusion at the beginning of every feature (festival highlight was a bloke yelling "OK, I'll fucking watch it!" after its final airing) and it was easy to start spitting doom and gloom on the perceived lack of atmosphere at this year's event. By the end though, a more important change presented itself.
Due to the reduction of extraneous guff the focus of this years Frightfest shifted considerably to the films themselves and the flexibility of the programming. Discovery screens were four times larger in the new venue, meaning plenty of tickets were available, allowing choice to be free right up until screening times. There was queueing chaos on the first couple of days generated by a combination of untrained Vue staff struggling with an illogically slow booking system and the impatience of Frightfesters who insisted on booking eight tickets at a time through this painfully drawn out nonsense. Once the unecessary panic had died down though, it was a joy to be able to just walk up and grab a ticket at any time.
And the films. This Discovery screen flexibility allowed you to tailor your viewing and with some savvy choosing I ended up watching the strongest line-up I've ever sat through at Frightfest. I opted for seven Discovery screen films, missing out on main screen fare such as Shockwave Darkside, Stage Fright and I Survived A Zombie Holocaust, films that are presently receiving a critical mauling on message boards across the internet. In exchange I got gems like R100, The Canal, Wolfcop, Creep and The House At The End Of Time.
This year's selection also demonstrated that Horror is now a very broad church indeed, I watched a couple of sci-fi movies, a bizarro asian movie and two romantic comedies as well as all the usual blood, guts and hard edits accompanied by sudden squawks of sound. The quality was so high that putting together lists of the best and worst becomes problematic. There's too many for the best list and not enough for the worst (yeah, seriously). Which means this year's lists are presented with caveats, of the worst it's only really the bottom three that should be avoided the other two simply being my least preferred. My apologies to Alan Moore.
With the best on offer, there were four clear standouts but fifth place was tricky. It could easily be given to The Samurai, Housebound, The Harvest, R100 or Alleluia. All of these are highly recommendable but I eventually opted to give fifth place to a movie that made me spontaneously clap my hands with glee as the action unfolded onscreen. Here's the lists:
5 favourites;
1) Creep [Peachfuzz]
2) The Babadook
3) The Signal
4) The House At The End Of Time [La casa del fin de los tiempos]
5) V/H/S: Viral
5 not favourites;
1) Nymph [Mamula / Killer Mermaid]
2) Among The Living [Aux yeux des vivants]
3) The Green Inferno
4) Late Phases
5) Show Pieces
Thanks to Ed, Greg, Jim and Ali for melting their brains alongside me and thanks to all the organisers for keeping a firm hold on the ball. Next year? Yeah, reckon so.


  1. Yep, thanks to everyone for their great company. Not much to add to Al's summation - a festival of high quality programming on a par with, if not better than, FF 2012.

  2. My top 5:

    1. Creep
    2. Alleluia
    3. The Harvest
    4. The Signal
    5. Starry Eyes

    Honourable mentions to Housebound, The Canal and VHS Viral.

    Bottom 5:

    1. Life After Beth
    2. Nymph
    3. Zombeavers
    4. The Green Inferno
    5. Dead Snow 2

    Dishonourable mentions to Late Phases, Among the Living and House at the End of Time (sorry!)

  3. Sounds like it does work better with a number of decent size screens, rather than one warehouse and three broom cupboards. They do pick some awful dross to - supposedly - keep the horror proles (or distributors) happy.

  4. I need to - regretfully - apologise for the split infinitive there

  5. A little late to the party, but better late than never... Was great to share my first Frightfest with you guys. Looking forwards to next year...

    Top 5:
    1. The Signal
    2. The House At The End Of Time
    3. The Babadook
    4. Creep
    5. The Canal

    Bottom 5:

    1. Nymph
    2. Zombeavers
    3. Open Windows
    4. The Green Inferno
    5. Late Phases

    Bottom 5 was more difficult as there were quite a few mediocre films that were worthy of going in.