From 24th to 28th August, FrightFest – the UK’s biggest and baddest genre festival – is returning, as it has every year since its diabolical debut at the turn of the millennium. Horror, too, is all about returns. Not only in the sense that it can sometimes turn a low budget into big profits (just look at the staggering ROI of The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity), but also because of the genre’s central preoccupations: the return of the repressed, the return of the dead, the return of vindictive spirits, punishing the people of the present for their historical transgressions. In horror, the past is aggressively persistent, and buried tropes are constantly being disinterred and resurrected.
Not only is FrightFest returning, it is also going back. Back, that is, to the Empire in Leicester Square where it was the resident evil for six years running, and where its closing film in 2013, Big Bad Wolves, was also the last film ever to screen in the mighty Empire 1 before that theatre was cut open, gutted and split in two, ensuring that FrightFesters would never again all be seated together simultaneously to watch the same film in the one auditorium. Ever since, at various VUE venues, the audience has been as divided in location as it typically is in opinion.
So while FrightFest may be returning to the Empire, the Empire is no longer what it once was (its very name changed to Cineworld Leicester Square), and now the audience will be split between two screens (as well as various smaller Discovery screens, including in FrightFest’s very first venue, the Prince Charles Cinema), for an experience that, though familiar, will also, inevitably, represent a different mutation of the past. So it is with horror too, always looking back to its history, but also renewing it, with remakes, retakes and eternal returns.
Speaking of which, this year’s line-up has just been announced, and the Festival will open with the global première of the latest instalment in the fan-favourite Child’s Play franchise, Don Mancini’s Cult of Chucky (with Mancini himself, and stars Jennifer Tilly and Fiona Dourif in attendance), and will also feature world premières of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s TCSM prequel Leatherface, old festival friend Adam Green’s new revisiting of his own long-buried Hatchet, and, even more incestuously, the UK première of Miguel Ángel Vivas’ remake of Maury and Bustillo’s Inside.
Among the 64 features (including 20 world, 22 European and 18 UK Premières) that will be screening, however, there is also plenty of less familiar fare. As well as the usual strong showing from the US indie scene (e.g. Trent Haaga’s 68 Kill and Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls), there are plenty of homegrown British films (e.g. Dominic Brunt’s Attack of the Adult Babies and Benjamin Barfoot’s Double Date), as well as titles form Canada (Peter Ricq’s Dead Shack), South Korea (Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainness), Germany (Tini Tüllmann’s Freddy/Eddy), Mexico (Carlos Algara & Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s Veronica), Japan (Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Meatball Machine Kodoku), France (David Moreau’s Alone), Spain (Alex de la Iglesia’s The Bar), Australia (Damien Power’s Killing Ground), Italy (Daniele Misischia’s The End?), Brazil (Our Evil) and Bulgaria (Patricio Valadares’s Nightworld).
There are also documentaries (King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, To Hell And Back: The Kane Hodder Story, Mansfield 66/67), retrospective restorations (Dream Demon, Death Laid An Egg, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Return of the Living Dead III, Demons of the Mind), two films reprised from this year’s Glasgow FrightFest (Simon Rumley’s Fashionista and Colin Minihan’s It Stains The Sand Red), the usual showcases of shorts, and another chapter of the Duke Mitchell Film Club which will screen Stefan Ruzowsky’s Cold Hell. There will also be probably the only opportunity to catch Adam Wingard’s Death Note on the big screen before it makes its way to Netflix’s streaming service.
Full programme details can be found here: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/2017films/frightfest-2017-film-schedule.html
Festival passes will go on sale Sat 1 July at noon and will only be available to buy online: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html