Please note: for an up-to-date FrightFest guide, check out: Best films to watch at FrightFest 2016.
Every true devotee of cinema knows that actually yes, size does matter. The bigger the screen you watch a movie on, the more enthralling the whole experience is.
This isn’t to say that a giant screen will make a bad movie good but it can make an insufferable mess tolerable.
Of course anybody can watch the latest superhero CGI cartoon or Michael Bay’s most recent ejaculation on a giant screen, that’s easy.
Watching something weird and extraordinary tends to happen less often and there’s a definite thrill to be had from watching something on a big screen that really doesn’t belong up there. When you live in a city you’ll have access to excellent repertory cinemas that will show you such delights.
I don’t however. I live in the rural backwaters where England threatens to become Wales, my current cinema options are a Marvel movie, a shitty comedy or getting pissed on cheap cider round the back of the building, and in today’s movie climate it’s only the middle option that changes with any regularity.
Which is why on August bank holiday weekend every year for the last four, I tool up, take a deep breath and plunge into the seething twatpile that is London in order to attend Frightfest and sit in the dark watching the weird, the gruesome and the really fucking weird.
I know that there will be a payload of films projected in their fullest glory on the screens at Leicester Square Vue that, in the cinematic food chain, wouldn’t usually make it past your local supermarket’s cheapo horror DVD section. Which isn’t a knock on the quality of these films, simply a comment on the fact that most of these movies aren’t suited for general consumption. Some of them only suited for particularly careful consumption out of a sturdy metal container clutched in a giant pair of metal tongs.
Every year there are amazing films – in the past I’ve seen Kill List, Big Bad Wolves, The Babadook, Maniac, The Woman, Creep (no, not the shitty tube-train one), Cheap Thrills, Willow Creek, American Mary and Troll Hunter.
Then there’s the usual hideous dross that infects every film festival. Last year’s Nymph – about a killer CGI mermaid that made everybody’s acting become total bollocks – was astoundingly poor, but even then I had to keep reminding myself that I hadn’t smuggled this out of a crappy video rental shop, I wasn’t a teenager and yes this genuinely was being projected on a screen in London’s Busy Centre Of Film. Amazing.
Sometimes though, you get the holy grail. You get to see a film that very few others will ever have the opportunity to see, such as Tulpa.
Probably my favourite Frightfest experience ever was the world premiere of a film you will never get to see called Tulpa, an incredible emulation of 70s giallo flicks that stuck to the source a little bit too closely – it had all the lavish cinematography and stylish death of the classics but also brought along the usual appalling dubbing, clunky dialogue and nonsensical plotting that plagues all Italian cinema of the period.
The film got laughed off the screen and is now only available as a butchered German edit that removes two of the main supporting characters and most of the plot. I personally wanted to find director Federico Zampaglione, give him a big hug and explain that I also laughed my way through most of Deep Red’s dialogue scenes as well as the maggots in Suspiria and these are both fucking stone cold classics.
Please Zampaglione – let us experience the full Tulpa one more time. Please.
2015 FrightFest Preview
This year the Frightfest team – Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy, Alan jones and… the other one called Greg – have thrown down a gauntlet stuffed full of bizarre, unsettling filth. There’s no mainstream crowd pleasers in this years selection (past years have seen the Fright Night remake, RIPD and Sin City 2 fill out the schedules), if you want to get involved you’re going to have to get your eyes dirty.
There is plenty of weirdness out there once more though, and these are some of the gems I’ve set my sights on…
TAKASHI MIIKE’S OVER YOUR DEAD BODY
Another film to be appended to the list of millions he’s already created. While Miike’s name isn’t always the hallmark of quality, it is a hallmark of batshit insanity.
Steve Oram who co-wrote and starred in Ben Wheatley’s phenomenal Sightseers has directed a very British film called Aaaaaaaah! that features no human dialogue whatsoever. Just animal noises.
It also features eighties pop icon Toyah, obviously.
A French horror film directed by a 14 year old boy.
Yeah, read that again, question reality, read it again, wonder ‘how the fuck is that going to work?’.
Read it again, watch this trailer, read it again,
IF HE ATTENDS THE FESTIVAL HE WON’T BE OLD ENOUGH TO WATCH ANY OF THE FILMS, read it again etc.
Rodney Ascher follows up his immensely entertaining Room 237 with another documentary this time about Sleep Paralysis called The Nightmare, which includes full mock ups of the vivid terrors described by hapless individuals.
Sounds creepy as fuck – even more so given that it’s non-fiction.
So they’re just four out of the seventy-odd (some very odd) films that will be shown this bank holiday,
I’m aiming to see these and twenty-one others. Every square inch of the pantheon of horror has been covered – ghosts, monsters, violence, disgust, nostalgic throwbacks, modern terror, everything.
They’ve covered most of the globe too, as well as a strong UK contingent there’s films from Ireland, France, Peru, Israel, Georgia, Australia, Spain and Mexico. Even the USA gets the occasional look in. I’ll be there wearing my usual ‘don’t fucking talk to me’ expression so do feel free to come over and have a chat.