5 things we learned about horror from FrightFest 2012

5 things we learnt from new horror movies V/H/S, American Mary, Cockneys Vs Zombies and more at FrightFest.

The Possession

The annual FrightFest horror movie festival provides a great snapshot of what’s going on in the genre. Every year, FrightFest’s organisers put together a programme that showcases the best new horror from around the world (with some old favourites thrown in along the way, too). Looking at the programme provides a sneak peek into what horror fans have got to look forward to over the next year or so. So what did this year’s festival have to tell us about the state of horror in 2012?

Here are five trends we noticed:

The Seasoning House
The Seasoning House is the directoral debit from Paul Hyett, who worked on The Descent and The Woman In Black

1. UK horror is alive and well

Home-grown horror took pride of place at this year’s festival. All three of the opening films were British and Irish productions: the festival kicked off with The Seasoning House, a bleak rape-revenge feature directed by special effects artist Paul Hyett, followed by Cockneys Vs Zombies, a fun zombie comedy written by Doctor Who scribe James Moran, and topped off with Grabbers, a brilliant Irish monster movie with real heart. The rest of the programme leaned heavily towards Brit horror, too, with clown horror Stitches, the Nazi-themed Outpost Black Sun, and the claustrophobic Berberian Sound Studio all making an appearance. Even the closing film was British: Tower Block is a thriller set in an East End, um, tower block.

Bionic Woman's Michelle Ryan stars in Cockneys Versus Zombies
Bionic Woman’s Michelle Ryan stars in Cockneys Vs Zombies

2. Zombies still aren’t going away

Apparently horror fans still aren’t bored of zombies, because there were loads of zombie films included in FrightFest’s line-up, too. As well as Cockneys Vs Zombies and Outpost: Black Sun, which we’ve already mentioned, fans of the walking dead were treated to Spanish zom-com REC 3: Genesis, bonkers Dutch splatter movie Kill Zombie! and Before Dawn, a low-key zombie movie directed by Dominic Brunt, aka Paddy Kirk from Emmerdale.

Berberian Sound Studio
The claustrophobic Berberian Sound Studio has received attention from the mainstream press.

3. Italian horror is making a comeback

Every year, FrightFest pays tribute to an icon of classic horror, and this year it was Italian maestro Dario Argento’s turn in the spotlight. The whole festival had kind of an Italian flavour, though; as well as Paura 3D and The Arrival Of Wang, made by Italian directors the Manetti Bros, there was Tulpa, a neo-giallo directed by Italian musician Federico Zampaglione, and Berberian Sound Studio, which is set in an Italian sound editing suite and stars Toby Jones. Even one of the shorts, Yellow, paid homage to the classic Italian giallo genre.

Soska Sisters
Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of American Mary at San Diego Comic Con.

4. Teamwork is everything…

Directing is traditionally a solitary profession, but this year’s FrightFest showed that filmmakers are increasingly working in teams. Festivalgoers got to see the Butcher Brothers’ follow-up to The Hamiltons, The Thompsons; the Soska Sisters’ American Mary; and two films by the Manetti Bros, Paura 3D and The Arrival of Wang. The film with the highest number of directors, though, was V/H/S: as an anthology film, it included sections by Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and Radio Silence, a directing team made up of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella.

The Possession
Produced by Sam Raimi, The Possession is in cinemas from 31 August 2012.

5. …and more women are getting involved in making horror movies

There aren’t many female horror filmmakers out there, but from the looks of things that might be changing. Along with American Mary, which was written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, FrightFest played host to Jennifer Lynch’s new movie, Chained, and the Jewish exorcism movie The Possession, written by Juliet Snowden. Promisingly, the short film showcase also featured the work of several up-and-coming female filmmakers, including Jen Moss’s My Brother’s Keeper, Axelle Carolyn’s The Halloween Kid, and Jovanka Vuckovic’s The Captured Bird.

Missed out on this year’s FrightFest? Keep an eye out for announcements about the traditional FrightFest all-nighter, usually held at the end of October.