All the Colours of the Dark: Arrow Video FrightFest 2018
Horror comes in many colours and flavours. There’s Universal horror, classical horror, drive-in horror, fleapit horror, mainstream horror, alt horror, trash horror, elevated horror, ‘real horror’ and ‘not really horror’. Horror takes up residence in the castle, the woods, the laboratory, the graveyard, the hospital, the school, the bunker, the ship, the shadows – and it is most at home in the home. There’s home invasion, haunted house and Blumhouse. It fetishises the monster, the murderer, the sociopath, the doppelgänger, the ghost, the uncanny Other. Its footage can be found, buried, distressed, multiplied and multi-mediated. It can speak any language, take possession of any form, play the rôle of any gender. It is usually B-, but sometimes also J-, K- and T-. It can provoke disgust, disdain, disorientation and deep unease. It deals in sadism and masochism, in slash and dash, in shock and awe. It can prickle the skin, fire the adrenaline, bludgeon the senses, stress the psyche, jolt the brains, torture our expectations and murder all good taste. It is the end of everything and the return of the repressed. It can be pure, it can be political, it can be postmodern. It likes to expose and exploit and unearth. It can blur boundaries and transgress categories. It echoes and mutates and evolves and evades easy definition. It can be unsettling and funny and even, occasionally, scary.
All this is horror – and since its inception in 2000, FrightFest has been accommodating, even expanding, the many forms that give the genre its Protean quality. This year’s event is taking place from 23rd to 27th August at the Cineworld and Prince Charles Cinema on London’s Leicester Square, and the lineup has just been announced. It is a record-breaking year: 70 features in total, from 18 countries and six continents, including 20 World, 17 European and 22 UK Premières. For the first time in its history, FrightFest will open with a film directed by a woman, Jenn Wexler’s punkily pomo slasher The Ranger; it will close with Gaspar Noé’s Cannes controversy-courter Climax.
In between, there will be a veritable smorgasbord of the sadistic, the salacious, the sick and the silly, with something for all tastes. There are the usual strands on ‘first blood’ debuting British directors (including Aislinn Clark’s possession shocker The Devil’s Doorway), on South American genre cinema (including Demian Rugna’s mood-generating Terrified), a slew of documentaries (including this year’s offering from The Duke Mitchell Film Club, Life After Flash, about actor Sam Jones), and a minifest dedicated to Barbara Crampton (including Tommy Wiklund’s Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and Brad Baruh’s Dead Night). There is even, for the reflexively inclined, Chris Collier’s documentary on the festival itself, FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart Of Cinema, and a Halloween-set film by Ante Novakovic simply entitled Fright Fest.
Anton Bitel: Speaking with extreme prejudice, several titles immediately grab my eye: Incident In A Ghost Land, from Pascal Laugier, whose films Martyrs and The Tall Man have been previous FrightFest standouts; What Keeps You Alive, whose director Colin Minihan goes from strength to strength (Grave Encounters, It Stains The Sands Red); Bodied, the latest from Joseph Kahn (Detention!!!); Piercing from Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother); Chris Sun’s Boar (because I cannot resist a killer pig film); and Matthew Holness’ Possum, which looked simply astonishing in the teaser shown at last year’s FrightFest. I can also not recommend highly enough Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid, which also screened at this year’s Glasgow FrightFest, and which transforms the realities of a drug-war orphan’s life on Mexico’s streets into uneasy fairytale fantasy.
Jonathan Hatfull: Having caught the tiniest glimpse of Possum at last year’s fest, it is definitely at the very top of my to-watch list, and I am extremely excited for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (come on, who isn’t?). I’m thrilled that Gaspar Noe’s Climax is playing following its incredible reception at Cannes, I love a Golem so the presence of the new movie from the makers of Jeruzalem is most welcome, and Dead Night (formerly known as Applecart) looks right up my street. It’s always interesting to see what Darren Lynn Bousman has come up with (especially following the excellent Abbatoir) so St Agatha looks promising, Upgrade should be incredibly fun to watch with the FrightFest crowd, I’m right there with Anton on Bodied, Piercing and Boar and the opening-night double of The Ranger and Summer Of 84 should be killer.
Most of all, though, I simply cannot wait for The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then Bigfoot. The Lucky McKee-produced film stars Sam Elliott as the titular Man, and if that title and that casting does not result in a great film then the world has truly gone wrong.
AB: The trick to getting the best out of FrightFest, though, is to suck it and see. It is often the films of which you have the least expectations that creep right up on you and take their place permanently in your imagination. So take a dip in genre’s deep, capacious dying vat, and see what colours stick.
Festival and day passes will be available from noon on Saturday, June 30th with single tickets at noon on Saturday, 21st July. For more information visit the website.