Gaz Bailey is one of the hardest working people on the UK horror circuit. As festival director of Wales’s long-running horror event Abertoir he has established a one of a kind festival experience for fans of the bloodier side of cinema. Abertoir prides itself on being a festival built on a loyal community of attendees while also welcoming new faces each year.
The festival celebrates its twelfth year on the 14th-19th November with 2017 commemorating the tantalizing giallo sub-genre. The festival will welcome two iconic guests associated with the giallo; Lamberto Bava and Sergio Martino. In this interview, Gaz tells us more about what fans can expect from one of Love Horror’s favourite UK horror festivals. I would like to personally thank Gaz for taking his time to take part in this interview with me.
Welsh Demoness: Abertoir has been running for 12 consecutive years, how did the festival first begin?
Gaz Bailey: The festival first began back in 2006 purely due to the fact that there weren’t any other horror festivals in Wales. I love going to see all the cult classics and new releases at other festivals, and this was the perfect chance to see if we could do something ourselves. (I run the cinema at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, so we were in the lucky position of already having a venue and a projectionist to run the films!).
At the time, the late Robin Hardy was doing a book tour with Cowboys for Christ, follow-up to the Wicker Man, which was yet to be turned into a film. So we managed to get Robin come here around Halloween, I programmed The Wicker Man and then fleshed out a few days of horror films around that. Lastly, I came up with a cheesy name (which to this day some people think is a spelling mistake), and It was a big success! People had a great time and then we simply did it again the following year!
Thanks to various film funding boards such as the BFI and our main funder Ffilm Cymru, over each subsequent year we managed to get funding to support the festival and allow it to grow, enabling us to put on more and more special events, get higher profile sneak previews and also afford more guests and presentations. I’m actually really humbled we’re still doing it 12 years on from then, and when I think back at how many really great audience members and guests we’ve had over the years, it’s really quite amazing to think we’ve had the likes of H G Lewis, Richard Johnson, even Fabio Frizzi performing live here in Aberystwyth!
Welsh Demoness: What inspired you to select ‘giallo’ as this year’s festival theme?
Gaz Bailey: There’s always an element of the festival reflecting what we love, that’s why since the very first festival we’ve always had a film starring Vincent Price (he’s now our official patron saint!). I love Vincent, grew up on his movies (and Hammer) and there’s the age old desire of wanting to share what you love with other people.
So the giallo… we’d touched on it briefly in the past, but since we’ve improved how we do things now, built up an audience who really appreciate the direction we took the festival, and have more courage to spend our hard earned funding on some really fantastic guests… we thought this is the chance to go all out on another sub-genre that, essentially, we could have loads of fun with!
Welsh Demoness: Other than lashings of blood on screen and J&B in the bar, what can pass holders expect from Abertoir 2017?
Gaz Bailey: As is evident, the essence of Abertoir is to always be at the same level with the fans, and have fun. I saw a meme floating around the internet saying “One day Abertoir will take itself seriously…. Today is not this day”, which really sums us up nicely! We’re all about creating a nice, welcoming atmosphere where by the end of the festival everyone will know everyone else, and will have had a good time along the way.
We don’t have competing events, so if you buy a pass, you and everyone else in the audience will be seeing the same films at the same time and you won’t miss anything (unless you oversleep). So we put together the lineup almost as a set menu, designed to be experienced from start to finish. The pub quiz as well encourages people to make teams and get to know each other too. And because it’s all about going on this journey through horror, we spice it all up to stop it from getting too repetitive… so you can expect the afore mentioned pub quiz, Q&A sessions, talks and presentations, an offsite screening, old classic films, brand new films, even a bit of theatre. Every new film is a pre-release screening, and every old classic is a rare and beautiful thing to experience on the big screen. Hopefuilly at the end many members of the audience will have discovered a new area of horror they didn’t know they’d like before.
Welsh Demoness: What are your personal favourite giallo films and why?
Gaz Bailey: It’s quite usual to quote Argento’s films when talking about the giallo, and certainly he’s a huge contributor to the genre…plus his films are amazing! From his work, I’d say Tenebre is my ultimate favourite, although the others aren’t far behind!
Leaving Argento aside, I love Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball, Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, all of Sergio Martino’s giallo entries, particularly Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key….. Well to be honest I love a LOT of them. A good selection are screening in our festival, and a good majority aren’t…. so if you enjoy what we’ve got on offer, hopefully it’ll open up a new world to you!
I should also point out that for me, the giallo isn’t only about stylish killings or a labyrinthine mystery to solve, they’re also about the music. When non-horror fans talk about Ennio Morricone for example, they will cite The Mission, The Good the Bad and the Ugly or Cinema Paradiso. When horror fans talk about Morricone, it’s with a deeper knowledge: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, What Have You Done to Solange, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and so on. The music from his films, as well as other composers such as Fabio Frizzi, Bruno Nicolai etc are just incredibly sensual, beautiful compositions that deserve to have a much wider following than they have in the mainstream. That’s what’s always fascinating me about the giallo, how these images of death and violence can sit so comfortably alongside haunting, intricate and beautiful scores. It would be a mismatch in any other genre, but here, they work like a dream.
Welsh Demoness: Two prolific Italian Directors will attending this year, Sergio Martino and Lamberto Bava, how do you think their contributions have shaped Italian genre cinema and the giallo in particular?
Gaz Bailey: I actually discovered many films in the genre not by going by the director, but by going by the brilliant music! Of course, you then get familiar with recurring names of actors and directors, and eventually a few always seem to come top of the favourites pile: Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino and Mario Bava.
Although the giallo was around in written form long before Mario Bava was making them into films, nonetheless he was responsible for making it a success, and steering this sub-genre of Italian cinema in that direction. As is always in Italian cinema, when something really takes off, there will be plenty of more similar types of films coming down the pipeline. Bava is credited with creating the giallo in The Girl who Knew Too Much in 1963. More specifically, his film Blood and Black Lace is the first movie to fully present the giallo as we collectively understand it today: it’s a film drenched in colour, a classic who-dunnit involving various different characters, brutal killings and a groovy score that blends it all together.
Lamberto Bava, Mario’s son, is a filmmaker in his own right, and has learned a lot from his talented father. While certainly showing off his skills at the giallo himself (Blade in the Dark, Macabre etc), Lamberto is responsible for many more Italian horrors in his own right, including the excellent Demons which we’re delighted to be showing to festival goers this year.
And Sergio Martino… where to start? Well certainly, if you’ve seen a giallo movie you’ll probably have seen one of Sergio’s. A massive name in Italian cinema, he’s done everything from post-apocalyptic sci-fi to spaghetti westerns, from cannibal movies to Euro-crime action. But most importantly, his giallo films with the stunning Edwege Fenech are most memorable. With titles like Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, All the Colours of the Dark and so on, Martino honed another side of the giallo… where woman are running the show, and brutal violence is wrapped up in sensuality and a gorgeous soundtrack. His films are certainly very different from Argento and Bava, and are as much fun to dive into as the much more recognisable entries.
Essentially, both men are hugely important in Italian cinema, and we are overjoyed that we get to welcome both of them to Abertoir this year. As far as I’m aware, neither have been to Wales before, and I really hope that they enjoy being here as much as we will enjoy introducing them to our lovely audience!
Abertoir takes place at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on the 14th-19th November.
You can find out more about what Abertoir 2017 has to offer by visiting their official website: http://abertoir.co.uk/
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