Must-See Movies at FrightFest 2019

Horror fans will rejoice (and possibly feel a little old) this August Bank Holiday. The legendary Arrow Video FrightFest is marking twenty bloody good years of terror… and it is doing it in style.

From Thursday 22nd August to Monday 26th August the Arrow Video FrightFest will host an astonishing seventy-eight movies, a record-breaking number for the event. Celebrating horror from around the globe, FrightFest will bring films from fourteen countries to the Cineworld and Prince Charles Cinema in London’s Leicester Square.

There are 20 world premieres, 20 International or European premieres and 28 UK premieres. Make no mistake, this is horror so fresh the blood is still wet…

Highlights include opening film Come To Daddy, Ant Timpson’s chiller starring Elijah Wood, and Abner Pastoll’s thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find, the film bringing the festival to a close.

Mainstream horror is well-represented by Alexandre Aja’s “gator in the house” creature feature Crawl, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the latest film from Troll Hunter helmer Andre Øvredal. Gary Oldman and Emily Mortimer bring star wattage to ocean-based spook-fest Mary, and Malcom in the Middle himself, Frankie Muniz, seems to go Cronenbergian in The Black String.

But, revving our fear engines at FrightFest are those movies likely to go under the radar, given big screen airings and royal treatment. You’ll find a bunch of them in our Top 15 Must-Sees below, but here are honourable mentions to those that didn’t quite make the cut:

Russian movie Why Don’t You Just Die resembles Meet the Parents done as an episode of Bottom directed by Takashi Miike. Jason Mewes goes full-on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare meta for the insane looking Madness in the Method, featuring Stan Lee’s final appearance.

A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is a great-looking UK entry, tantalizingly billed as “Thelma and Louise meets Sightseers”. We can confirm Death of a Vlogger is a smart social media supernatural shocker. I Am Toxic isn’t about incels or Hollywood power players, but is a grungy, Mad Max looking action-horror hailing from Argentina.

FrightFest delivers great documentaries every year, with 2019’s pick of the bunch being the wonderful looking The Magnificent Obsession of Michael Reeves. The first feature length examination of the turbulent career of the Witchfinder General director, cut tragically short by his untimely death at 25, we think this will shine a light on an important genre figure, at risk of being forgotten.

Horror maestro Dario Argento returns to the festival for a Q&A and signing of his autobiography, aptly titled Fear. Making this even more of a must-have is the fact FrightFest co-director and Argento expert Alan Jones provides annotated notes in what maybe the most important film book release of the year. Tenebrae, Argento’s prescient take on toxic fandom and the sometimes uneasy relationship between creator and consumer, will also be screening courtesy of Arrow Video.

Other guests in attendance this year are the unstoppable Soska Sisters, bringing their remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid (more on that below). Director Ant Timpson will introduce Come to Daddy, while Abner Pastoll will be in attendance with A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

Controversial-at-Cannes feature Knives and Skin will be joined by director Jennifer Reeder, while homegrown talent includes Abigail Blackmore, director of the Mackenzie Crook and Johnny Vegas starring Tales from the Lodge.

A frightfully fun-looking August Bank Holiday weekend coming up then. But, what are those ten movies we’d sell our souls to see? Well, choosing ten proved too tough, so we’ve allowed ourselves fifteen. As always, these are the movies that look most enticing. Gems may be missing that we’ll be rhapsodising about post-festival.

But for now, here is our kill list…

(Thursday 22nd – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 6pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 6.30pm)
The eternal struggle between fathers and sons lies at the heart of Ant Timpson’s intriguing shocker. Elijah Wood continues choosing challenging projects over boilerplate blockbusters, playing a man visiting his estranged father in a remote cliff house. Attempts to impress dad (A History of Violence’s Stephen McHattie) will take them both on a violent journey reportedly as surprising as it is inventive. The inclusion of genre stalwarts Martin Donovan and Michael Smiley in the cast list only elevates our excitement.

DARK ENCOUNTER – International Premiere
(Friday 23rd – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 10.30am, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 11am)
We’re excited about this maybe-alien-abduction chiller for several reasons. The premise is attention-grabbing, the trailer promises to deliver the thrills, and Laura Fraser and Alice Lowe, two always-interesting British actors, are starring. 12 months after an eight-year-old girl vanishes, her grieving family are exposed to strange lights and odd phenomena emerging from a nearby forest. Is something more profound than “mere” alien abduction befalling them? Devil’s Gate was a gem that played FrightFest back in 2017 and we’re getting the same vibe off Dark Encounters…

DACHRA – UK Premiere
(Friday 23rd – Cineworld Discovery Screen, 10.45am)
Ah, the exquisite torture that is FrightFest. Starting fifteen minutes after Dark Encounter is Dachra, Tunisia’s entrance onto the world horror stage. Unsolved murders, witchcraft, cult compounds and the evergreen creepy-girl-in-a-red-coat are ingredients in this shocker that broke box-office records in North Africa and promises to make its mark around the world.  

THE WIND – English Premiere
(Friday 23rd – Prince Charles Cinema Discovery One, 10.45am)
It’s the clash hat trick! And in the spirit of full disclosure, we will have already seen Emma Tammi’s The Wind by the time it plays the festival. But, we have to recommend this supernatural Western that is generating real buzz and comparisons to The Witch and The Babadook. In the 1800s, a farming husband and wife take it upon themselves to help a newly arrived couple cope in the harsh terrain. Soon after, odd events start occurring. Has evil arrived, or is the landscape taking a psychological toll? We cannot wait for this one. 

(Friday 23rd – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 3.30pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 4pm)
Reportedly splitting opinion at Cannes 2019, but definitely floating our boat is Jennifer Reed’s unsettling looking take on teen trauma. In rural Illinois, the disappearance of a popular drum majorette sparks a wave of reconciliations, recriminations and revelations. The trailer suggests something pitched between Assassination Nation, The Virgin Suicides and Blue Velvet. Erm… sold!

KINDRED SPIRITS – European Premiere
(Friday 23rd – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 6.30pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 7pm)
A new film from director Lucky McKee will always be an event. May remains an impressive debut almost twenty years on. All Cheerleaders Die is an underrated entry into the caustic high school comedy genre. The Woman is a sensational shocker that dazzles even as it ruins your day. McKee’s new movie stars Thora Birch as a single mum (which makes us feel old) whose life is thrown into turmoil when her long-absent sister suddenly re-appears. Old wounds bleed anew in this thriller co-starring Blue Ruin’s Macon Blair and All Cheerleaders Die’s Caitlin Stasey.

BLISS – UK Premiere
(Friday 23rd – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 8.45pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 9.15pm)
It may just be the trippy trailer, but we’re getting a real Gaspar Noe feeling from Joe Begos’ Bliss. An artist facing a crippling creative block embarks on drug binges to reignite her passion. Traversing LA’s nighttime, her descent into a sensory maelstrom starts delivering inspiration of a more violent nature. Noe closed FrightFest 2018 with Climax, which divided audiences (fitting for a film of two halves). We expect Bliss to be just as dynamically divisive!

(Saturday 24th – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 12.35pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 1.05pm)
Anyone who has visited FrightFest will tell you how much fun watching a properly gory movie is with a large, appreciative audience. This year, we’re expecting the Brazilian Ghost Killers Vs. Bloody Mary to be a festival highlight due to the mixture of gore and guffaws. A gang of YouTubers specialising in paranormal investigation agree to exorcise the demonic Bloody Mary from a local school. May the power of Christ compel you to watch the trailer for a taste of what awaits.

FEEDBACK – UK Premiere
(Saturday 24th – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 3.20pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 3.55pm)
An Eddie Marsan movie is always a must-watch. Add Paul Anderson and Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth’s Ofelia herself) into the cast list and we are stampeding toward our cinema seat. Marsan plays a DJ for whom “dead-air” takes on a troubling new meaning when masked intruders take his entire radio talk show hostage. They want a live confession of a scandal that could end his career and worse. But, he has no idea what they’re talking about. The ensuing mayhem seems to make James O’Brien’s LBC call-ins look tame by comparison.

DARLIN’ – English Premiere
(Sunday 25th August – Prince Charles Cinema Discovery Screen One 6.25pm)
Above, we mentioned Lucky McKee’s The Woman. That starred Pollyanna McIntosh in her second screen appearance as the titular female, a feral cannibal unleashing feminist fury against the patriarchy. McIntosh’s The Woman’s first appearance was in 2009’s Offspring, and her latest is in Darlin’, which also sees her behind the camera as director. Loosely picking up from where The Woman left off, this concerns a savage teenage girl being taken into a Catholic hospital for spiritual education. But, The Woman comes a-looking for her… If this matches the blood-black comedy and intense emotional and physical violence of McKee’s movie, we’re in for a treat…!

READY OR NOT – UK Premiere
(Sunday 25th – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 6.30pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 7pm)
The actor casting directors presumably go to when the budget won’t get Margot Robbie, the charismatic Samara Weaving has steadily established herself as leading lady material. She dominated The Babysitter (so to speak), was electrifying in Mayhem and has been memorable in everything from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to the recent TV adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock. We are stoked to check out her next leading role in the fantastically fun looking Ready or Not. Weaving is a newlywed who has to play a game of Hide & Seek in her in-laws’ mansion before she and her hubby can honeymoon. But, with family traditions straight out the Manson Family playbook, it’s going to be a long night. The trailer is included, but we stopped watching halfway through because it all looked too good to spoil!

(Sunday 25th – Prince Charles Discovery Screen Two, 9.05pm)
FrightFest has always had a proud tradition of showcasing Japanese genre gems. Audition played the first ever festival back in 2000. In 2017 Meatball Machine Kodoku left many wondering if reality hadn’t truly broken while they were in the cinema. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers resembles one of those fake forgotten movies, but actually is a forgotten 80s artefact. Made by animation legend Osamu Tezuka’s son Macoto, it’s adapted from 80s musician and TV star Haruo Chicada’s soundtrack to a film that never was. Still with us?! All you need to know is it looks like Phantom of the Paradise spliced with The Happiness of the Katakuris. Subarashii! As our Japanese cousins would say…

THE WRETCHED – World Premiere
(Monday 26th – Prince Charles Discovery Screen One, 1pm)
Another slice of rural horror, this time from the Pierce Brothers, belatedly following-up their 2011 cult favourite Deadheads. The woods once more harbour ancient evils, here a spirit who sprinkles amnesia on anyone who invites them into their house. When a student notices his next-door neighbours have no memory of their son, he begins investigating. Which, judging by the trailer, may not be the best idea.

RABID – World Premiere
(Monday 26th – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 5.45pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 6.15pm)
The Soska Sisters were a force of nature back in 2012 when they brought their sophomore winner American Mary to FrightFest. They now return with their fifth directorial outing, an audacious remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 classic, Rabid. When timid wannabe fashion designer Rose undergoes radical reconstructive surgery, her new look gives her a fresh lease of life. And unleashes murder, sex and mayhem. Radical feminism and radical body horror smash together in what could be a fascinating updating of the original. We’re also glad that, from the trailer, Father Christmas still ain’t safe.
David Cronenberg’s original Rabid is also playing on Sunday 25th in the Prince Charles Cinema Discovery Screen Two at 6.30pm.

(Monday 26th – Cineworld Arrow Video Screen 8.45pm, Cineworld Horror Channel Screen 9.15pm)
Sarah Bolger is reportedly sensational as a widow attempting to protect her kids while hunting her husband’s killer in Abner Pastoll’s second feature. A crime thriller heavy on the thrills, we are expecting good things from this one. And, as FrightFest has selected it as the closer of their 20th anniversary festival, we suspect we’re right to be excited.

As is tradition, the final word goes to FrightFest co-director and horror guru Alan Jones:

“Over the last two decades we have tirelessly introduced our committed audiences to every trend, every new talent and every innovation that has put horror back in the collective cinephile conscious. Even after 20 years. FrightFest’s August event remains a key destination to see the latest genre movies in the manner for which they were made – on the big screen surrounded by fellow fear-mongers. Remember, it’s our party and we’ll scream if we want to!”

Official Arrow Video FrightFest site

Ticket purchasing information

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
iTunes Podcast: The Electric Shadows Podcast

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