For most people the perfect holiday break consists of seeking out the sun in order to obtain that perfect golden brown colour (although most have to settle for lobster red). For others it’s a journey of discovery, seeking out places of historical interest or natural beauty. For me it’s five days in a cinema watching non-stop horror movies.
FrightFest is the UK’s premier horror and fantasy festival. Started in 2000, its reputation has grown each year. This was my first trip to the festival (in fact to any festival) and the line-up of films had me cautiously excited. The Festival took place at the Odeon West End in London’s cinematic centre, Leicester Square, starting on the evening of Thursday 23 August and finishing late of Monday 27. Showing 26 films plus several short films and with appearances from many of the films' directors, this was heaven for a horrorphile like myself.
Things got underway on Thursday evening with a showing of the New Zealand comedy/horror Black Sheep. It was a fun way to start and the majority of the audience seemed to enjoy this tale of genetically modified killer sheep. I liked the film although many of its funniest moments had been featured in the trailer.
The film’s director, Jonathan King, was on hand to introduce the film and do a short Q&A afterwards. He said he wanted to clear up some doubt about what type of film it was. “It’s a documentary, everything you see is real, New Zealand is a very dangerous place and you shouldn’t go there.” It will be interesting to see how this talented director’s career progresses and if he stays with the horror genre.
Next up was what amounted to a promo for the 28 Weeks Later DVD; a showing of a deleted scene and a few more extra features. The producer fielded some questions, the highlight coming when he was asked if there was any studio pressure to give the film a happier ending. “Happier than infecting the French?” he quipped, to much laughter from the audience.
It was a black double-bill from Down Under with the evening’s final film being the killer croc tale Black Water. I hadn’t originally planed to stay for this as the trailer made it look like a rehash of Open Water with a crocodile instead of sharks. I was glad I did. While it had its faults (some dodgy dialogue being the main one) this was an incredibly tense man versus nature story as three holidaymakers find themselves alone, stranded in a tree surrounded by water with a very hungry crocodile for company. The night-time storm sequence is the film's high spot, using the audience’s imagination and some gruesome sound effects to show that what you don’t see is more potent than what any special effects guys can conjure.
The day ended with a special treat. Neil Marshall presented some footage from his forthcoming science fiction epic, Doomsday. Things didn’t run smoothly – technical difficulties delayed the screening – but for those of us who waited (which was almost everyone) the reward was worth it. Even though the footage was displayed in black and white when it should have been colour this was the highlight of the day and looks like one of the must-see films of next year.
Having read up on the festival beforehand, I’d come prepared with a cushion in my bag, but not seeing anyone else with one and not wanting to appear a wimp I kept it in there for the duration of the first day. I was starting to feel a little numb in the posterior by the time I made my way out of the cinema and I knew Mr Cushion would be making an appearance the next day.