Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 sees the UK’s premiere fright n’ fantasy film festival turn 18 years old. For any British horror fan, “18” is the rating that promises real terror; red, raw and spicy.
FF2017 looks to be just as juicy.
From Thursday 24th – Monday 28th August, FrightFest will showcase 64 movies across five screens at London’s Cineworld Leicester Square (formerly The Empire Leicester Square, the festival’s past stomping ground) and Prince Charles Cinema.
In a veritable cinematic santa sangre, there will be: 20 world premieres; 22 European premieres; 18 UK premieres. And the return of old favourites. To get even more excited, check out this sensational sizzle reel.
Kicking off the festival is Don Mancini’s Cult of Chucky, follow-up to the gleefully nasty Curse of Chucky. Mancini and his leading ladies Fiona Dourif and Jennifer Tilly will be in attendance. The closing night film is “Heathers meets Scream” comedy Tragedy Girls, with director Tyler MacIntyre on hand to introduce.
Festival favourite directors Joe Lynch and Adam Green will be walking the Cineworld halls. Lynch brings his new movie Mayhem (more on that below). Green returns with his breakthrough movie Hatchet, polished up with extra gore in a new redux version! And more guests besides, including Inside directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, here with the eagerly anticipated Leatherface (also more on that below).
Of the 64 films, we’ve managed to slash it down to the 18 we’re most anticipating. But, FrightFest is always full of surprises. Last year, our film of the festival was the pitch perfect horror comedy Found Footage 3D. A film not even included in our must-see feature back then!
But, from advanced word of mouth and trailers, here is what we’re going to be seeking out at FrightFest 2017…
CULT OF CHUCKY – World Premiere (Thursday 24th – Horror Channel Screen 6pm, Arrow Video Screen 6.40pm)
Director Don Mancini, plus Brad and Fiona Dourif return after the success of Curse of Chucky. Alex Vincent, the kid from the original instalment is also back. And Bride of Chucky’s Jennifer Tilly too! The trailer looks great and the killer doll that could is proving himself one of the most reliable movie monsters of all time.
DEATH NOTE – European Premiere (Thursday 24th – Horror Channel Screen 9pm, Arrow Video Screen 9.40pm)
Director Adam Wingard scored big with cult favourites You’re Next and The Guest. Netflix has given him this hit Japanese franchise about a literal doomsday book: if your name’s written in it, you’re dead. Provided no-one messes around with the formula too much, this should be a winner (and allow us to forget the slight stumble of Blair Witch).
LEATHERFACE – World Premiere (Friday 25th – Horror Channel Screen 9pm, Arrow Video Screen 9.30pm)
The rash of Texas Chain Saw Massacre movies over the past 14-odd years have not been stellar. In fact, there’s not been a great movie in the franchise since Tobe Hooper’s original. But, if anyone is going to inject blood into the series, it’s the co-directors of the original Inside, Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. A villain origins story, it sees Leatherface escaping a mental asylum and embarking upon the road trip from Hell. We think there’s fun to be had with the man behind the mask, hopefully this will cut deep. On a related note, the remake of Inside is also playing at this year’s FrightFest (details below).
FREDDY EDDY – UK Premiere (Friday 25th & Sunday 27th – Cineworld Discovery 9.15pm & 8.50pm)
There’s a touch of Edgar Allan Poe’s William Wilson to this cool looking German chiller. Freddy is accused of assaulting his wife. But, he swears it was his twin brother Eddy. Problem is, Eddy died at childbirth, so is Freddy even more dangerous than he already appears? Having picked up awards in Germany, this could be one of festival’s best discoveries.
VERONICA – European Premiere (Friday 25th & Monday 28th – Cineworld Discovery 11.25pm & 11am)
Mexican debut directors Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran appear to have looked to Henri-Georges Clouzot and Paul Verhoeven for this psychological thriller. Veronica, a disturbed young woman, is referred to a shrink at a remote woodland cabin for intensive therapy. A battle of wills ensues… Shooting in stylish black and white widescreen, this looks to pack plenty of twists and turns on the road to good mental health…
FASHIONISTA – UK Premiere (Friday 25th – Prince Charles Cinema, Splice Media Discovery 2, 1.30pm)
Best take a mental condom to a Simon Rumley film; they’re invariably quite the mind f*ck. After The Living and the Dead, Red White & Blue and Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word have seen Rumley working with progressively bigger budgets and name actors, but not tempering his dark, abrasive style. Fashionista resembles The Neon Demon by way of Crash and should be a festival highlight from one of the UK’s most unusual voices.
KING COHEN – European Premiere (Friday 25th – Prince Charles Cinema, Splice Media Discovery 1, 6.30pm)
Alongside the best in horror cinema, FrightFest typically makes room for quality documentaries. Of 2017’s bunch, our pick is this celebration oB-movie director Larry Cohen. Writer and/or director of such gems as It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, The Ambulance and Maniac Cop, he is an eclectic talent but never dull. What other documentary will include both Traci Lords and Martin Scorsese amongst the talking heads?!
THE BAR – UK Premiere (Saturday 26th – Horror Channel Screen 10.45am, Arrow Video Screen 11.15am)
Horror has its fair share of single location movies. Chiefly because it keeps the budget down (Blumhouse made a fortune off this simple device). Not to say good things can’t come in single space packages though. One of FrightFest 2016’s best movies was The Similars and this movie, from Alex de la Iglesias, looks to match that film’s sass and surprises. A bunch of strangers are holed up in small bar while outside pedestrians are getting shot. But, why is none of this on the news? And is everyone who they seem? We can’t wait to find out.
INSIDE – UK Premiere (Saturday 26th – Prince Charles Cinema, Splice Media Discovery 2, 12.45pm)
The original Inside is a jaw-on-the-floor charnel house that gave Beatrice Dalle her last significant role to date and proved Alysson Paradis was more than just Vanessa’s younger sister. Horrifically bloody, but strangely melancholic and emotional, it’s a five-star modern horror classic. Meaning we’re intrigued by this English language remake, particularly as it’s co-written by [REC} director Jaume Balagueró. Laura Harring is perfect casting in the Dalle role. We’ll see if the film matches the ferocity of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s original.
JACKALS – European Premiere (Saturday 26th – Horror Channel Screen 4pm, Arrow Video Screen 4.30pm)
Stephen Dorff and Deborah Kara Unger head up this nerve-jangling thriller about parents attempting to rescue their son from a murderous cult. But, the cult has other ideas. Echoes of The Strangers are no surprise, director Kevin Greutert was editor on that ruthlessly efficient fear machine. Greutert also directed Saw VI, the best instalment after the original, so we’re expecting pleasant surprises…
RUIN ME – World Premiere (Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th, Cineworld Discovery, 6.30pm)
Giggles and gore look to be in store in Preston DeFrancis’ directorial debut. A gang of horror nerds sign up for the Slasher Sleepout, an experiential holiday that is The Blair Witch Project meets Fun House. When the holiday turns into a horror day, the gang will need their genre movie smarts to survive. Which does not bode well for Alexandra, a reluctant tag-along with no interest in fright flicks. This one looks lean, mean and murderously fun.
DEVIL’S GATE – European Premiere (Sunday 27th, Prince Charles Cinema, Splice Media Discovery 1, 11am)
There are fewer pleasures greater than watching a balls-out nutso horror film with a FrightFest crowd. And Devil’s Gate looks loony enough to have shrieks and applause in equal measure. Milo Ventimiglia is a farmer whose wife and son go missing. X-Men: Apocalypse’s Shawn Ashmore is the local police deputy investigating the case, soon discovering some questions are best left unasked. Horror pyrotechnics ensue in this is rollickingly good-looking frightener.
KILLING GROUND – UK Premiere (Sunday 27th, Horror Channel Screen 10.45am, Arrow Video Screen 11.15am)
Ruin Me is joined by another “camping trip from Hell” movie with Damien Power’s brutal looking debut. An Aussie couple go from “in tents” to intense when they discover the scene of a horrific crime. And the criminals to go with it. An intricate dual plot narrative promises this has more up its sleeve than standard Deliverance style shocks.
IMITATION GIRL – European Premiere (Sunday 27th, Prince Charles Cinema, Splice Media Discovery 1, 6pm)
Although there are notable female names working in the fantasy field, it’s still largely a boys’ club. Meaning any new movie from a female writer/director should be on the watch list. Last year Anna Biller’s The Love Witch wowed FrightFest audiences. Natasha Kermani’s intriguing sci-fi, in the vein of The Man Who Fell to Earth, will hopefully have the same impact.
MAYHEM – European Premiere (Sunday 27th, Horror Channel Screen 6.15pm, Arrow Video Screen 6.45pm)
Director Joe Lynch is a FrightFest fave from way back and we like his brand of zero-fuss, maximum energy exploitation filmmaking. Mayhem looks like it could be his best yet. In the tradition of James Herbert’s The Fog a deadly virus causes people to act out their darkest fantasies. Which is unwelcome news for The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, playing an office drone who’s already having serious co-worker issues. Expect prime splatter served with a bloody wry smile.
THE VILLAINESS – UK Premiere (Sunday 27th, Horror Channel Screen 8.30pm, Arrow Video Screen 8.45pm)
South Korean cinema is often all flavours in one. And this explosive Asian smash looks to be particularly flavourful. The trailer suggests an eye-popping mash-up of Nikita, The Raid, Shiri and Black Widow’s backstory. Director Jung Byung-gil helmed the twisty-turny 2012 thriller Confessions of Murder, so we’re expecting good things here.
THE TERROR OF HALLOW’S EVE – World Premiere (Monday 28th, Horror Channel Screen 6.15pm, Arrow Video Screen 6.45pm)
The trailer cheekily says this is “Based on True Events”. But, there seems to be a large dash of wish fulfilment to this tale of a horror fan getting revenge on his bullies. Accidentally raising a malevolent spirit, he’ll soon realise once Pandora’s Box of terror is opened, it’s not easily closed. Del Toro regular Doug Jones is promisingly cast as the evil spirit “Scarecrow” and the 1980s setting suggests Stranger Things style nostalgic thrills.
TRAGEDY GIRLS – UK Premiere (Monday 28th, Horror Channel Screen 8.30pm, Arrow Video Screen 9pm)
As we said at the top of the article, our film of FrightFest 2016 was Found Footage 3D. We’re hoping Tragedy Girls is as canny in its skewering of horror conventions and delivering genuine jolts. The plot is Clueless meets Scream as two death obsessed teenagers startle their town with an online show about real-life tragedy. Variety called it a ,“…welcome tonic, and one of the freshest, funniest horror-comedies to emerge in “Scream’s” long wake.” Who are we to argue?
As is tradition, the final word goes to FrightFest co-director and horror guru Alan Jones:
“The whole cinema landscape is changing and Horror Channel FrightFest is listening. We know the fans want to see the films first, see them fast and see them in an environment that is second to none. That’s why we have what we believe is the finest line-up ever assembled and are showcasing the superlative selection in premium surroundings. So, the West End becomes the Dark Heart of London once again. And we’ve made it to our 18th birthday. It’s going to be quite some party.”
Official site: http://frightfest.co.uk/
Ticket information here: http://frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html
Watch festival directors Alan Jones and Ian Rattray give a guided tour the Cineworld Leicester Square, home to FrightFest 2017.