FrightFest 2016, the UK’s premier horror film festival, runs over the forthcoming August Bank Holiday weekend. With over sixty movies set to screen, plus their short films showcase, Andy Nyman’s very popular quiz and several industry-related talks and events, FrightFest continues to expand its brand and deliver a varied selection of titles from across the globe. The anointed one (this year’s opener) is Sean Brosnan’s southern Gothic thriller My Father, Die. Starring Brit actor Joe Anderson (The Ruins, The Crazies), it’s sure to be a damn sight better than 2015’s Cherry Tree. Also up to bat on opening night, after My Father, Die, is the latest Stephen King adaptation, Cell, starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. The Hollywood stars reunite after 2007’s devilishly good 1408, also a King adaptation.
Following Cell is Let Her Out, a Toronto-set drama mixing Roman Polanski mind-fucks with David Cronenberg body horror. With a strong blood-and-guts quota and intriguing twist on the theme of the doppelganger, Let Her Out is worth staying up late and checking it out. Latin America, currently a hotspot for horror filmmaking, is strongly represented. We Are the Flesh (Disco Screen 1, Mon 29) has got critics buzzing and Mexico’s biggest names – Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón – have given their seal of approval to compatriot Emiliano Rocher Minter’s debut. Also screening: Argentina’s Francesca (Disco Screen 2, Fri 26), White Coffin (Main Screen, Fri 26) and Benavidez’s Case (Disco Screen 2, Fri 26). Rounding things off is another Mexican entry, The Similars (Disco Screen 2, Fri 26).
Other films we can recommend include: Shelley (Disco Screen 3, Mon 29), a nerve-shredding tale literally pregnant with fear; Kate Shenton’s hilarious and poignant Egomaniac (Disco Screen 1, Sun 28), in which a young female filmmaker’s hopes and dreams of artistic integrity are destroyed (with demented consequences); and Fury of the Demon (Disco Screen 3, Sat 27) is a whip-smart mockumentary blending real cinema history with a meta-mythology involving the occult and a mysterious silent movie which, when screened, turns the audience into raving maniacs. For those with a very strong stomach and whom like their documentaries made up of atrocity footage, 1981’s The Killing of America is a must-see. Co-written and co-produced by Leonard Schrader (brother of Paul), Sheldon Renan’s mondo-style history of gun violence and general bedlam in the United States is a remarkable piece of grot. Another cracker in the Disco programme is Anna Biller’s deliciously camp feminist take on the serial killer flick, The Love Witch (Disco Screen 1, Sat 27).
Biller’s new work doesn’t just nail its 1970s retro pastiche look, The Love Witch actually looks as if it was made in the 1970s. Samantha Robinson, who has a look of Edwige Fenech about her, is superb in the lead role and M. David Mullen’s cinematography is quite simply outstanding. So too, the costumes and sets. Closing night on the main screen is devoted to Australia’s colourful and gory Yuletide slasher Red Christmas, starring genre icon Dee Wallace, and South Korea’s latest box-office smash Train to Busan, a zombie saga set on a train. Yeon Sang-ho’s thriller is bound to see off 2016’s FrightFest edition in fine style, with both films exactly the type of crowd-pleasing fare the audience will lap up.
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn