Let’s be honest your 18 th birthday is always a big one and this year FrightFest was 18 years old. Legally in the UK you can buy alcohol, fireworks, a crossbow, get a commercial pilot’s licence, vote, donate your body to science and most importantly watch 18 films. Hold on a minute does that mean the festival couldn’t the majority of its own films till this year?
Regardless on Thursday the 24 th of August the 18 th annual FrightFest began and I headed up to the West End and the Cineworld Leicester Square where the five day horror film festival would take place. Packed as ever with tourists, day trippers and holiday makers it was totally different environment from Hammersmith last year which seemed so quiet in comparison.
Hilariously a bunch of crazy Jesus freaks where preaching straight outside the cinema holding banners and yelling into a loud hailer about saving soul from Satan all the while a bunch of hard core horror fans filed past wearing t-shirts depicting sick scenes, horror icons and more gore that I can only imagine made these religious nuts even more enraged.
Interestingly this cinema was the site of FrightFest past when it was the Empire and the main screen with over 1000 seats used to be filled every year with horror fans from all over the world. Sadly Cineworld has split this fantastic auditorium into 2 with a 728-seat IMAX which served as the Horror Channel screen and a 400-seat IMPACT screen which was the Arrow screen and my home for the festival in seat CC5 located in the swanky upstairs balcony.
After an obligatory Douche Brothers short two of the biggest stars at the fest took the stage to bid us all hello, Kane Hodder and Barbara Crampton. With some great people in attendance as ever it was cool to have these two on stage at the same time to bring out FrightFest’s organisers Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, Alan Jones and Greg Day. That wasn’t the end of the special guests as Don Mancini, Jennifer Tilly (who seemed as crazy as her character) and Fiona Dourif came out with Chucky to get us ready for the opening movie Cult of Chucky one of the films I was most excited for.
Before it started we had a great short The Dollhouse by Kyra Gardner the daughter of Tony Gardner a make-up and special effects man whom operated Chucky on many of the movies. An excellent short it gave a real personal insight behind the scenes of Chucky and the people that made it.
Cult of Chucky was sensational and just as good as Curse which also premiered at FrightFest. Changing the game completely it entertained and shocked in equal measure making it a must see especially for Childs Play fans.
Next up was Death Note made by Netflix’s and directed by Adam Wingard from the hugely famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata of the same name. Having known nothing about Death Note before this I was captivated by the story and I couldn’t wait to read the originals and find out more about this crazy story of a killer note book and the demon that comes with it.
The last film of the day for me was Diane in the Cineworld Discovery Screen a haunting and brilliantly directed movie by Michael Mongillo dealing with a disabled war Vet who becomes obsessed with a deceased singer he finds murdered in his back garden. Very different from many other horrors it meshes genres in an engaging and original way all the while crafting an outstanding oppressive atmosphere. A film about being haunted by memories, guilt and regret Diane is far more interesting than other straight up supernatural horrors with ten times the budget but a quarter of the creativity.
Day 2 the sun shone brightly blazing down on the hordes of people amassed in Leicester Square to shop, eat and watch very bad street performers. I was up early for the first film of the day in the Arrow Screen Freehold a surreal and sick assault on the senses about a dodgy estate agent who unwittingly lives with a stranger maliciously intent on ruining his life in the grossest way possible. Funny and strange luckily for me I had skipped breakfast!
As Hayley our Welsh Demoness watched Sequence Break and Tom aka Zombie1 tackled The Glass Coffin, Voice from the Stone staring Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke and Simon Rumley’s Fashionista it was Bad Match for me, the amazing new film from Cheap Thrills David Chirchirillo. A twisted tale of online dating which swipes right into many peoples worst fears Bad Match played out like a warped rom-com with excellent turns from the two leads Jack Cutmore-Scott and Lili Simmons.
Packing in as much as possible our other reviewers also saw It Stains Read, Nightworld , Accountable and Veronica all of which they enjoyed however it was down to Hayley to watch the film everyone had been eager for Leatherface, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You can read here review right HERE!
I ended the second day with the insane heist movie horror 68 Kill that sees Criminal Minds star Matthew Gray Gubler as Chip getting into all sorts of terrifying trouble when his unhinged girlfriend decides to rob her sugar daddy for 68 thousand dollars. Terrifically done it features three outstanding performances from AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe and Sheila Vand playing strong female characters who dominate Chips life and the movie.
As Saturday dawned it dawned on me that FrightFest 2017 was already half way. I made a vow to make the most of it telling the other reviewers attending from Love Horror to make sure to do the same.
My first screening was at the Prince Charles cinema which hosted the Splice Media Discovery screens 1 and 2 showing some of the smaller movies at the fest. Introduced by Ian Rattray as part of his First Blood strand that was launched last year Mountain Fever was a chilling outbreak horror set in the Alps where a fatal flu virus has devastated Europe with disease. Unlike many other movies in the same genre the male and female leads who are thrown together hate each other and their refreshing and realistic relationship makes the film well worth watching.
Having already seen the sensation Return of the Living Dead 3 I set off to Alone in the Arrow Screen a French film adapted from a popular comic of the same name. Although more teen fantasy than horror it was thoroughly enjoyable and good to see something so different at FrightFest.
While Zombie 1 watched Game of Death other reviews saw Jackals, Cold Hell and 3rd Night and Welsh Demoness headed for The Bar and took in Ruin Me and Eat Locals. Her favourite film by far on Saturday and perhaps of the whole festival however was to Hell and Back The Kane Hodder story a stunning doc about the man behind the mask of Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley she gave 5 out of 5 too in her review HERE
I ended the day having a great chat to David Chirchirillo about Bad Match in the posh bar of the Radisson Leicester Square. One of the highlights of every FrightFest for me is the chance to meet such amazing and talented movie makers who have the same passion for horror as I do. David discussed his movie from writing the script to filming as well as his views on online dating and his favorite horror films all of which you can read when Bad Match comes out in January next year. The movie is worth the wait believe me.
Sunday turned out to be rather tragic being that I woke up to hear Tobe Hooper had passed away. It seemed so strange being that Leatherface had played only a few days previously and I had a flashback to FrightFest 2015 during which Wes Craven passed and although another legend of horror had headed to the afterlife I knew that spending the day watching terror filled gore ridden movies would make Hooper happy and honour his memory the best way possible.
Back at the Prince Charles it was Devils Gate staring the day a genre blending horror staring Milo Ventimiglia that is best watched without knowing anything about it at all. Italian zombies seemed to have died off but The End? gave up a novel twist on an overdone genre with the unlikable lead stuck in a lift during an undead apocalypse. Part Resident Evil, part Pontypool it was excellent and effective using its limitations in the most original way possible.
Zombie 1 got into Mayhem and Killing Ground as our other reviewers saw Our Evil, Freddy/Eddy and Imitation Girl and I went for Double Date a great British comedy horror that had as many laughs as jumps in its amusing story involving an innocent virgin attempting to lose his cherry before he is 30 spending the night with his idiot friend and two sisters with more sinister things on their mind than sex.
My final film was Replace directed and written by Norbert Keil alongside eccentric genius Richard Stanley and staring Barbara Crampton as a scientist trying to help a young woman who has lost her memory and is losing her skin in a strange stylised love story that is sick and massively engaging.
The final day of FrightFest seemed to come too soon. It had been a great festival and all of us at Love Horror had loved every minute of it. None of us wanted it to end but end it must after a day of movies that is.
Still/Born was a very commercial shocker with tons of jump scares perfect for a popcorn audience that I could imagine playing in multiplexes across the country showing that it’s not all small indie art house horror at FrightFest. In fact it is the diversity that makes the festival so great as you really don’t know what you might see next.
Back at the Prince Charles I had a double bill of Asian delight with 2 episodes of the superb Crow’s Blood up first that hooked me in instantly. A goretastic tale of high school girls and immoral experiments it was fun, frightening and thought provoking all at the same time, I just hope it gets picked up and shown in the UK soon so I can find out what happens next.
Next was Top Knot Detective described by the writers & directors Aaron McCann & Dominic Pearce in their great Five FrightFest Facts as a “behind the scenes tale of a little known Japanese samurai series called: Ronin Surari Tentai (translation: “Deductive Reasoning Ronin”)” featuring “classic samurai hallmarks: ninja, honour, love, death, revenge, robots, kaiju, cigarettes adverts, throbbing penis monsters” and if you’re wondering yes it’s just as wonderful as it sounds.
As Hayley watched one of the final films of the fest The Terror of Hallows Eve a crazy special effects spectacular I headed to the FrightFest press room to interview Travis Stevens the producer of 68 Kill. We had a brilliant chat about the movie which is out in November as well as some of Travis’s favorite horror films which included Hellraiser and what he would do for 68 thousand, the answer involving nudity and karaoke.
As I walked away from Cineworld Leicester Square and FrightFest’s 18 th year alive and kicking I felt sad as it had been such a great fest packed with excellent movies. Thinking of all that the horror festival had achieved over the years and the massive scale it was now on having reached maturity I knew next time round would be even bloodier and better and I couldn’t wait.