The Arrow Video FrightFest returns in live gory glory this August Bank Holiday Weekend. After relocating online for a virtual festival in 2020 (due to that little real life apocalypse we had), the UK’s biggest horror film festival returns to London’s Cineworld Leicester Square for a five day bacchanalia of the big screen bizarre.
Running from Thursday 26th to Monday 30th August, FrightFest 2021’s boasts over fifty movies, including eighteen world premieres. Making its European premiere and opening the festival is Demonic. The brainchild of District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, and made in secret last summer in British Columbia, it is a tale of science versus superstition, so an appropriate film for our times.
Closing the festival is the UK premiere of another topical sounding movie, Rob Jabbaz’s The Sadness. Mayhem erupts when a frustrated nation grows weary of pandemic restrictions and cuts loose, creating a deadlier variant of the virus. Horror has always reflected the times, and the past eighteen months have provided the genre plenty to chew on.
Demonic and The Sadness both feature in our 10 Must-See Movies at FrightFest below. But, this year’s festival continues its mission to provide imaginative cinema beyond whatever superhero title is clogging up multiplex screens. Eco-horror features in Brain Freeze and Crabs. Revenge is a dish best served red, raw and dripping in the heavy metal infused shocker The Retaliators. Mythical monsters may be friend or foe to a bullied teen in Slapface, while therapy turns deadly in The Parker Sessions.
Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor has been a sensation on the festival circuit. The film is released in the UK on 20th August, which should provide enough opportunity to see it before Bailey-Bond’s live audio commentary event at 11am on Sunday 29th. Anthology horror arrives courtesy of Isolation, featuring nine tales shot in lockdown, plus Bad Candy, a horror portmanteau in the tradition of Trick ‘R’ Treat and The Mortuary Collection.
FrightFest has always boasted first class movie documentaries. So this year, look out for The Found Footage Phenomenon, examining horror’s game changing wobbly-cam subgenre, The Brilliant Terror, which delves into the Grassroots Horror movement, and the three-hour-plus grim tale, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror.
If this feature reads a little breathless, it is only because FrightFest is bloody, good fun. Plus, there is no better way to watch a horror movie than with a FrightFest crowd. No need to worry if lockdown has spoilt this audience; flawless cinematic etiquette (no phones during the film, no endless yabbering on during the film, cheers and applause both in abundance during the film – when appropriate) is always observed, making this a great movie watching weekend.
Now, the ten films getting us excited for FrightFest 2021:
DEMONIC – European Premiere
(Thursday 26th August – Main Screen – 6.25pm)
The Matrix, Inception and eXistenZ seem to have merged for Neill Blomkamp’s dazzling and disturbing looking sci-fi chiller. The trailer teases rather than reveals (just the way we like it), so Demonic promises to have surprises in store.
THE SHOW – UK Premiere
(Friday 27th August – Main Screen – 1.40pm)
The Show has travelled a long road to reach FrightFest. Comic guru Alan Moore and renowned photographic artist Mitch Jenkins first introduced audiences to the movie’s world back in 2014, with a portmanteau of three shorts entitled Show Pieces. Seven years later they return with a film that promises to blend fairy tales, film noir, voodoo, mythical monsters and masked avengers. All set in Moore’s beloved Northampton. We can’t wait.
THE LAST THING MARY SAW – UK Premiere
(Saturday 28th August – Main Screen – 1.25pm)
Orphan star Isabelle Fuhrman is joined by Rory Culkin for this 19th century tale of death, suspicion, superstition and dark forces. We do like a period shocker, and the buzz this movie is generating suggests another treat in store.
OFFSEASON – UK Premiere
(Saturday 28th August – Main Screen – 6.55pm)
Director Mickey Keating has quietly been establishing himself as a horror director of note over the past decade. Anyone who saw his psycho-sniper shocker Carnage Park knows he can spin a tried n’ tested tale into something fresh (and messy). Advanced word on Offseason is it is Keating’s best yet. The House of the Devil’s Jocelin Donahue plays a woman returning to her dead mother’s island community, soon discovering herself in a waking nightmare. Are the horrors man made or borne of something more ancient?
PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND – UK Premiere
(Saturday 28th August – Main Screen – 9.10pm)
Fans of extreme cinema know Sion Sono, the Japanese iconoclast behind Tokyo Tribe, Suicide Club, Exte and more. Said fans may have also heard of Nicolas Cage. The pair unite for Sono’s English language debut, a genre-blending tale of Cage’s bank robber forced to rescue a small town governor’s kidnapped granddaughter. Problem is, she’s being held in a perilous Mad Max-like wasteland. The Kingsman star Sofia Boutella plays the granddaughter, and the whole thing sounds like a spiritual descendant of David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. We cannot wait.
THE ARROW VIDEO FRIGHTFEST FIRST BLOOD STRAND
(Click on titles below for screening dates and times)
Okay, we’re cheating here and running five films as one selection. But, First Blood showcases exciting new talent in horror cinema, and this year’s five movies look to be particularly juicy. Werewolves rule in Seb Cox’s Are We Monsters, vampires rise in Ian Steele’s Boy #5, in Leroy Kincaide’s The Last Rite there is paranormal activity, the mockumentary format gets an infusion of fresh blood in Conor Buro’s When the Screaming Starts, and love hurts in Richard Waters’ Bring Out the Fear.
EVIE – World Premiere
(Sunday 29th August – Main Screen – 7pm)
Director Dominic Brunt made quite a mark on FrightFest 2017 with the unforgettable gross-out of Attack of the Adult Babies. Evie looks to be more in line with his previous, darker movies Before Dawn and Bait. As Brunt is one of the most interesting directors currently working in British horror, we are excited for his latest movie, co-directed with Jamie Lundy. A spin on the Celtic myth of the shape-shifting Selkie, Evie weaves in Brunt’s favourite themes of dysfunctional families and dark pasts. Kill List’s Michael Smiley and Harlots’ Holli Dempsey lead the cast.
NO MAN OF GOD – European Premiere
(Sunday 29th August – Main Screen – 9.10pm)
Like Daniel Radcliffe, Elijah Wood has used his franchise millions to pursue a career in offbeat indie movies. Frequently of the wilder variety. Wood starred in the FrightFest 2019 festival opener Come to Daddy, and returns here in a film about America’s most notorious serial killer. In a plot reminiscent of Netflix’s Mindhunter, Wood plays an FBI behavioural science agent assigned to interview Ted Bundy. Based on actual transcripts from 1984-89, this promises to be a tense two-hander, with Wood’s G-Man attempting to pry information from Bundy on all his victims. But, the serial killer, played by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Luke Kirby, was infamously cruel and capricious when it came to giving families closure. Scripted by C. Robert Cargill, who debuted with the excellent Sinister before moving on to other movies including Doctor Strange, this is one of the most intriguing films of the festival.
ULTRASOUND – UK Premiere
(Monday 30th August – Main Screen – 3.40pm)
A man breaks down during a storm, and the owners of the house in which he seeks shelter make him a bizarre offer. Elsewhere, a toxic relationship is destroying a woman. At a research facility, another woman begins questioning her role in a weird experiment being conducted. Debuting director Rob Schroeder was previously the producer of FrightFest audience favourite Beyond the Gates. He has delivered what sounds like an irresistible journey into a world located somewhere near The Twilight Zone. Conor Stechschulte is on writing duties, adapting the film from his graphic novel Generous Bosom.
THE SADNESS – UK Premiere
(Monday 30th August – Main Screen – 9.10pm)
Closing the festival is Rob Jabbaz’s wild sounding pandemic shocker. As mentioned above, this Taiwanese shocker concerns a frustrated nation who grow weary of restrictions due to a global virus. When said bug mutates, it turns the infected into depraved murderers, making it difficult for the film’s central couple to find each other amidst the carnage. Spinning the past 18 months into a wild horror splatterfest sounds like a great slab of catharsis to us. And it may even become a survival video for when the next Covid variant strikes…
As is tradition, the final word goes to FrightFest co-director and all-round horror guru, Alan Jones:
“Like every other film festival this past year, the Arrow Video FrightFest has had to adapt to the difficult circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our last three events may have taken place entirely online, but you can’t keep a commended vanguard of international genre cinema down for too long. Team FrightFest has been working tirelessly to make sure our banner 22nd event will tick every box you’ve been desperately missing.
Let’s face it, for the past year it has felt like we’ve been extras in the longest, flattest and most boring sci-fi movie ever. But, now we are free at last to meet up with our Arrow Video FrightFest friends and acquaintances again for a much needed and well deserved in person horror fantasy binge.”