FrightFest returns this August Bank Holiday for its seventeenth year. And while the festival has been a mainstay of London’s Leicester Square for sixteen years, this time it is relocating to the 12-screen Vue Cinema in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush from 25th – 29th August.
FrightFest 2016 also has a new sponsor, with the Horror Channel appropriately now the headline backer.
But, while some things have changed, the festival still boasts the expected pedigree. Over 5 days 62 films will be showcased, spanning 16 countries.
Bracketing the festival is the European Premiere of My Father Die, Sean Brosnan’s brutal and beautiful feature debut – an ultra-stylish, uber violent revenge thriller that’s a calling card for Brosnan’s brilliant talents. And our closing night film is another breakneck paced masterpiece – the UK Premiere of Train to Busan, so join ‘The Commuting Dead’ as director Sang-ho Yeon takes you on a first class horror action thrill-ride, mixing slaughter, suspense and splatter with incredible visual élan.
As has become standard for the festival, films will be showcase across three Main Screens – this year the Horror Channel Screen, the Arrow Video Screen and the Splice Media Screen – plus three Discovery Screens focussing on smaller, offbeat movies. Don’t dismiss the Discovery films as outré weird fests, sometimes the best stuff can be found there.
Past Discovery screen gems have included Amer, The House at the End of Time and The Borderlands.
But what of this year? We have pored over the programme, watched the trailers and come up with a Top 10 list of must-see movies. Then had to expand said list to 15… Let the revels begin.
THURSDAY 25TH – EUROPEAN PREMIERE – MY FATHER DIE
Horror Channel Screen 6.00pm – Arrow Screen 6.15pm – Splice Media Screen 6.30pm.
Sean Brosnan’s feature debut looks like a mash-up between Oldboy, Night of the Hunter and American History X and should set off the festival with a bang. After a man is released from jail twenty years after being convicted of a murder his father committed, he sets about ripping up a riot of revenge.
THURSDAY 25TH – UK PREMIERE – CELL
Horror Channel Screen 8.30pm – Arrow Screen 8.45pm – Splice Media Screen 9.00pm.
The FrightFest crowd are wonderfully vocal in calling out anyone who dares to use their phones during screenings. So Cell is an apt opening night movie. Stephen King’s novel about cell phones sending users murderously insane comes to the screen starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Expect 4G’s worth of thrills and spills.
FRIDAY 26TH – ENGLISH PREMIERE – FRANCESCA
Discovery Screen 2 – 1.25PM
There seems to be a cottage industry emerging riffing on gialli of the 1960s and 70s. Here two cops track an active serial killer, but one time abductee Francesca may hold answers to the mystery. The film reportedly apes the style of Argento, Bava, Fulci and other greats, meaning we’re sold.
FRIDAY 26TH – UK PREMIERE – PET
Horror Channel Screen 9.00pm – Arrow Screen 11.55pm – Splice Media Screen 6.45pm.
In the tradition of John Fowles’ The Collector comes this intense looking shocker starring The Lord of the Rings’ Dominic Monaghan. Monaghan works at an animal shelter, which gives him a novel idea getting reacquainted an old schooldays infatuation.
FRIDAY 26TH – ENGLISH PREMIERE – THE DEVIL’S CANDY
Discovery Screen 1 – 11.00PM
Two words explain why we’re salivating for a bite of this candy: Sean Byrne. The Aussie director was responsible for the fiendishly good The Loved Ones. The FrightFest write-up warns, “Prepare for total dread, unexpected twists and full-blown carnage in an unnerving and devastating ride into psychological trauma and satanic bedlam.” Add in Cheap Thrills’ Ethan Embry and unREAL’s Shiri Appleby as the movie’s leads this is one of the festival’s hot tickets in our book.
FRIDAY 26TH – UK PREMIERE – THE SIMILARS
Discovery Screen 2 – 11.10PM
In Mexico City in 1968 a group of strangers gather in a bus terminus awaiting the next service, which is long delayed. As more people gather, events turn weirder and darker. Mexican director Isaac Ezban may be channelling the classic Vera Miles Twilight Zone episode “Mirror Image”, and if this is the case we’re excited all the more.
SATURDAY 27TH – EUROPEAN PREMIERE – ABATTOIR
Horror Channel Screen 1.15pm – Arrow Screen 4.00pm – Splice Media Screen 11.30am.
Darren Lynn Bousman, the director Saw II-IV, Repo! The Genetic Opera and that surprisingly good remake of Mother’s Day, fuses noir with horror in this enjoyable looking chiller. An estate agent recovering from a bereavement discovers a strange man is buying up the locations of violent tragedies. But why?
SATURDAY 27TH – WORLD PREMIERE – FORTITUDE – SEASON 2 – EPISODE 1
Discovery Screen 3 – 1.00PM
Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude series 1 was a canny mix of police procedural and Cronenbergian body horror. Series 2 brings Dennis Quaid into the cast and promises to up the horror ante. I was lucky enough to read the scripts for the first few episodes, and episode 1 gets things going in grisly style.
SATURDAY 27TH – 1ST BLOOD – WORLD PREMIERE – HOUSE OF SALEM
Discovery Screen 2 – 4.00PM
There appear to be touches of You’re Next and Kill List in this promising looking UK thriller. A group of kidnappers find themselves forced to protect the child they’re targeting when it becomes clear everyone’s been earmarked for human sacrifice.
SATURDAY 27TH – EUROPEAN PREMIERE – SADAKO VS. KAYAKO
Horror Channel Screen 6.00pm – Arrow Screen 8.30pm – Splice Media Screen 11.15pm.
FrightFest led the Asian horror new wave from its inaugural year back in 2000 when it unleashed Audition on a gobsmacked audience. Fitting then that a film showcasing J-Horror’s two biggest monsters should find its way on the programme. It could be Alien Vs Predator, but our hopes are high…
SATURDAY 27TH – ENGLISH PREMIERE – THE LOVE WITCH
Discovery Screen 1 – 8.40pm
A witch looking for love is the basis for what looks like a dazzling pop culture homage to horror movies of the 1960s and 70s, Hollywood melodrama, classic American soaps, and Russ Meyer sexploitation. Director Anne Biller also wrote, produced, edited, scored and designed this labour of love, making it an intriguing must-see.
SUNDAY 28TH – EUROPEAN PREMIERE – JOHNNY FRANK GARRET’S LAST WORD
Horror Channel Screen 1.00pm – Arrow Screen 3.45pm – Splice Media Screen 11.15am.
A man is executed for the murder of a nun. He always professed his innocence and declared a curse on those sending him to his death. And when freak deaths start occurring is it revenge from beyond the grave? All sounds a bit pedestrian and worryingly similar to Wes Craven’s dud Shocker? Well, we’re excited because it’s from Brit director Simon Rumley, whose The Living and the Dead and Red, White & Blue previously stunned the FrightFest crowd. Here’s hoping his latest is similarly provocative.
SUNDAY 28TH – WORLD PREMIERE – BROKEN
Horror Channel Screen 3.30pm – Arrow Screen 11.00am – Splice Media Screen 1.45pm.
Martyrs star Morjana Alaoui plays a care assistant looking after a tetraplegic former rock star and escaping the demons of her past. But, as her charge’s demands grow more excessive a battle of wills ensues. Advance word on this is strong and after that astounding Martyrs screening back in 2008 we’re looking forward to seeing Alaoui’s latest mind scrambling outing.
MONDAY 29TH – RESTORATION PREMIERE – THE KILLING OF AMERICA
Discovery Screen 2 – 10.50AM
FrightFest is not just about the horror. Memorable documentaries have also been showcased at the festival. And The Killing of America, written and co-directed by Leonard (brother of Paul) Schrader looks like a real curio. Made in 1981, intended primarily for Japanese distribution, and long difficult to see, this documentary about how the USA seemed to be on the verge of implosion could not be timelier. In an age where everything is caught on camera, it will be fascinating to see how the shocking footage and film’s viewpoint look to modern eyes.
Warning: Trailer contains graphic images
MONDAY 29TH – UK PREMIERE – SHELLEY
Discovery Screen 3 – 3.45PM
FrightFest is the home of bold, challenging movies and this Danish films sounds like a memorable chiller. Louise, a woman unable to have children after a horrifying miscarriage offers her Romanian housekeeper Elena a generous financial incentive to become a surrogate mother. But when Elena’s pregnancy turns maybe supernaturally complicated thing become very dark. Wry political black humour and full-on body horror are almost guaranteed.
Yet, this is not all! On Sunday 28th Discovery Screen 3 will host a series of panel discussions, including Women in Horror, The Future of UK Horror, a talk with FX expert Dan Martin and more. Click here for more details.
For the festival schedule and ticket purchasing click here. And check back after the festival for our round-up of how it all went!
But, the final word should go to FrightFest co-organiser and horror guru Alan Jones:
“For seventeen years now FrightFest has led the way through landmark changes in the genre, altered perceptions of fandom and embraced the revolutions in platforms and distribution models. It continues to do so this year with a breathtaking selection of genre attractions with the widest appeal and breadth of focus. We stand out because we stand for something special – a one-stop roadmap through everything you need to see to be totally up to speed with what the next year in horror fantasy will be all about.”