Frightfest 2013: A Glorious Send-Off

It may seem incongruous, but reclining over sun-kissed sand whilst an azure sea fizzed across my slowly tanning feet was a good place to cogitate on the horror film festival that was Frightfest 2013.

The lure of sparkling new horror treats led us to enjoy a less than sunny Leicester Square morning last June. The tickets would go on sale at 10 to 11am on June 29th and by the time we reached the doors of the Empire cinema at 7am the queue, which was longer than those of the previous festivals, stretched around the block and almost into the MSG covered service road behind the cinema. The line was a mixture of heady chatter covering which films would be good to see, with different groups of friends already planning their mid-festival food runs, and those at the end of the queue mentally calculating whether there would be enough tickets for everyone already waiting or would they reach the front of the queue only for the phone lines to open and any remaining passes exasperatingly fade from their grasp. In our case we got in under the wire and picked up some seats close to the front of the Empire’s immense main screen. As a treat, everyone in the queue got a ticket to see James Wan’s The Conjuring. Mark Kermode sums up what I think about James Wan’s recent output below…

The merely ‘aight film couldn’t diminish our jubilation at managing to get hold of a set of Golden Tickets for another year, and we stumbled home grinning like children with anticipation of the festival proper.

The August Go date rolled around quickly and we found ourselves deposited on the steps leading into the Empire, caught in the mosh of monster film aficionados as we made our way into what would turn out to be an amazing festival. The line-up this year was probably the strongest I’ve seen programmed since it began, and was a superb send-off for the main screen (the largest in London) which we later learned would be closed and the space re-purposed to hold two smaller screens. There was palpable anticipation as we found the seats we’d be setting up home in over the next five days, the large crowd hushed, the lights slowly dimmed and the Frightfest idents rolled. A jet-lagged-but-still-funny Bobcat Goldthwait introduced the festival organisers and as the spotlight hit Alan’s shaved bald pate and the crew hit the small stage we knew we were in for a horrifically lush few days of cinema.

The lineup teemed with macabre delights, and we did our best to catch as many as possible. Aside from a small handful of merely ok movies, our only disappointments were having to miss the last few films “Big Bad Wolves”, “Stalled” and “We Are What We Are” on the last day so we could get back home to recuperate before the start of the week. From later forum action it looks like all of these were exceptional cuts that we’ll have to source when they are finally released later on in the year.

The highlights this year:

  • The Curse Of Chucky, which completely floored me. I thought this would be standard sequel fodder and it unrolled into a picture which in many ways was better than the original. There are so many quirky little touches that raised the experience from merely ok to something I’d recommend people watching. It was also great to see a huge cinema full of people wearing Chucky masks.
  • You’re Next, a fantastic addition to the Home Invasion Horror sub-genre. I had no expectations coming into this film and it came out of nowhere to be one of my favourite horror films of the last ten years.
  • V/H/S 2, this was much better than the first in the series, full of zombies, demons and Indonesians going ballistic. An amazing horror anthology that genre fans should source and watch.
  • Cheap Thrills. I wouldn’t really call this a horror movie, but it wasn’t hugely out of place in the program. This is one of my favourite films period and I suspect it might be regarded as this generation’s Taxi Driver or Reservoir Dogs. I’m not going to spoil this by giving it any context at all, just go and watch this film!
  • Wither, a Swedish Evil Dead with more dark humour than the recent remake. We managed to catch this on one of the smaller screens, and can recommend it.
  • The Empire, the main screen was incredible, and it is unfortunate that there wasn’t enough general usage to make it economically viable in it’s current state.

Following on from last years set of reviews, these are the movies we managed to catch at the festival and links to the attached articles will appear as they are completed…

The Dead 2: India
Curse Of Chucky
You’re Next

V/H/S 2
100 Bloody Acres

Frankenstein’s Army
No One Lives
Cheap Thrills

In Fear
Andy Nyman’s Quiz From Hell 4
Dark Tourist
The Conspiracy
The Last Days

Dark Touch
Banshee Chapter
Odd Thomas

As a footnote, I’d like to extend massive thanks to Alan and the organising crew at Frightfest for managing to put on a spectacular set of films to see off the iconic screen. Its an amazing feeling knowing that every year there are a group of dedicated horror film fans putting together a panoply of movies that the rest of us can sit back, relax and enjoy.