Do you know when Christmas for horror fans is?
If you said Halloween, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong.
Because horror Christmas starts this Thursday, August 23, 2018, when the FrightFest Film Festival kicks off in London, England.
As a genre, horror rarely receives the respect it deserves. Imaginative, crowd-pleasing horror films are too easily dismissed and underestimated by major studios and audiences alike. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of horror films that have wowed both dedicated horror fans and critics (a la Get Out, Hereditary, see my whole blog). But honestly, there are way more horror films deserving of attention, if not acclaim.
That’s why I started blogging about horror movies at film festivals and why I’m so excited about this year’s FrightFest. I wanted to bring attention to horror films that, against harsh odds, broke out of their confines and stampeded into the spotlight. From Sundance to Cannes to TIFF, horror movies are proving that they can hang with the best of the best.
Still, it’s exhausting always having to prove that point, isn’t it?
But this week, my horror-fan prayers will be answered by the 18th annual FrightFest, a unique film festival dedicated to horror and other genre-bending films. FrightFest initially started as a quest to give British horror fans a high-caliber horror film festival before quickly becoming an internationally renowned festival. FrightFest is the festival where Danny Boyle debuted the first reel of 28 Days Later, where Guillermo del Toro chose to premiere Pan’s Labyrinth instead of the more glitzy London Film Festival, and where Neil Marshall held a gala preview for The Descent.
And the best part? TONS of horror. This year, over 75 films will be screened at Frightfest, the vast majority of which are horror films.
For once, my challenge in writing this FrightFest post wasn’t scouring the website for the few horror films included—it was picking which horror films to spotlight. It was hard to narrow down the list with so many to choose from. I’ve compiled the films I thought held the most potential and that I haven’t written about already on this blog. (For example, FrightFest is showing buzzworthy indie horror films like The Ranger, Summer of ’84, and Ghost Stories, which I wrote about in my SXSW post.) Then I compiled the resulting list into these FrightFest categories:
Period Piece Horror
Serial Killer Horror
Please note that I included trailers when they were available. For Frightfest’s full film schedule, click here.
Ghostly Horror – Films about ghosts and evils spirits, with generally spooky and supernatural themes.
“A husband returns home to find his wife terrified to enter the bathroom because voices are coming from the pipes. Voices promising to kill her… As she turns into a bloody human pinball, their entire neighborhood turns into a giant paranormal freak show. Faced with these unearthly incidents and short on answers, a policeman calls upon two paranormal researchers to investigate.”
“Thousands have been murdered or gone missing in Mexico’s ongoing violent drug war. The result is many orphaned children living on the streets caught in the unceasing cartel crossfire. In her third work of immense beauty, pain, fear and joy, writer/director Issa López tells the magical story of five such urchins making the best of their daily struggle to survive.”
(SFG note: Goddamn I want to see this movie so bad. I need more fairy-tale horror ala Pan’s Labyrinth.)
“Busi, a destitute woman with dangerously repressed emotions, lands a job as a cleaner at a rundown hospital in the heart of Johannesburg. Desperate for money so she can also relocate her younger sister, she learns to cope despite the predatory and corrupt hospital manager. But when Busi discovers an abandoned girl in the hospital, one who believes she’s tormented by supernatural forces, she must also face her own past demons in order to save the child from the abusive and insatiable monster that pursues them both relentlessly.”
Horror-Comedy – Who says you can’t enjoy bloody scares and belly-bursting laughs at the same time?
“Sophie’s 18th birthday party becomes a bloodbath when six terrifying monsters descend upon her house, intent on devouring the party guests and killing anyone who tries to leave. As her school friends are torn apart and eaten, Sophie must rally a band of misfits and take up arms to send their party crashers back to hell. To survive the night, Sophie will face her destiny; monsters are real – and she’s the only one who can stop them.”
“Sam is getting married and his best man decides to take him on a zombie apocalypse paintball weekend. He couldn’t be happier, after all, what better way to spend your last few days of freedom than shooting paintballs in the woods with your best mates? What could possibly go wrong?”
“Anna is looking forward to the end of high school. But while her widowed father dreams of university, she has other plans – jet-setting around the world to experience life before settling down. Suddenly a zombie apocalypse threatens her sleepy Scottish town, forcing Anna and friends to struggle, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the living dead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. A holiday horror show stopper with a mental, maniacal and magical musical edge.”
Period Piece Horror – The past can be just as scary, if not scarier, than the present.
“Paula Maxa was the most assassinated woman in the world. During her 1930s heyday the celebrated headline star of the Grand Guignol Theatre in the Pigalle district of Paris was graphically murdered more than 10,000 times in over 60 different ways. In this evocative, atmospheric, suspenseful and informative mystery inspired by historical events, the French icon is about to relive a past trauma on stage, one that will unlock family secrets and expose if the infamous landmark is involved with a series of gruesome killings for real.”
(SFG Note: Holy crap, this looks really good. Paula Maxa has a fascinating story, one that seems too dark to be true, except that it is. Horror fans should be aware of the ramifications of our continued consumption of visual violence, especially when women are the objects of that violence.)
Psychological Horror – Can you trust your mind to keep you safe?
“It’s Christmas Day and the dysfunctional Milgram family wake to find a mysterious black substance surrounding their house. Something monumental is clearly happening right outside their door, but what exactly – an industrial accident, a terrorist attack, a nuclear war? All their limited information now comes from the television. But as the ominous gogglebox exerts an ever more sinister grip on their psyches, their terrified paranoia escalates into bloody carnage.”
“The Cannes Director’s Fortnight 2018 sensation, which the entertainment bible Variety called “FAME directed by the Marquis de Sade with a Steadicam”, finds French extreme cinema’s incorrigible wild child Gaspar Noé at the peak of his confrontational and hypnotically mesmerizing powers. A young dance troupe rehearses for an upcoming American tour in a dingy school assembly hall. But someone spikes the mid-session break drinks with LSD and soon A Chorus Line Heaven becomes nightclubbed Hell in an escalating nightmare of intense emotions and apocalyptic actions.
“Based on a novel by Ryu Murakami, who wrote Takashi Miike’s AUDITION, a new father decides to ease his parental stress by killing an anonymous prostitute, but the flaky escort he chooses has her own chilling agenda.”
Religious Horror – Witches, demons, and Satan, oh my!
“In the early 17th century, innocent young Persephone is falsely accused and put on trial for her life. Her fate seems sealed except for the timely intervention of the mysterious Reverend Mother offering her not just sanctuary, but hope. For the Reverend Mother is the self-appointed leader of a small religious retreat, a secluded Priory, where her fellow Sisters devote their lives to the Lord and seek atonement for their pasts. But upon arrival, Persephone is plagued with terrifying visions and soon realizes that it’s not salvation that awaits but a battle for her very soul itself.”
“Cursed with mystical powers, nineteen-year-old Natalia takes refuge in a remote convent where she is desperate to renounce the pleasures of the flesh. But when her mother commits suicide, she returns home to face her unbalanced sister who insists they embark on a voyage of discovery and self-awareness together. Soon ancestral drugs, pagan rites and a perverted version of the eternal battle between Good and Evil unleash the demons within them.”
Serial Killer Horror – Apparently, being a serial killer is lonely.
“A murderous shape-shifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves but had to leave behind for her own safety’s sake. But zipping between ever-faster body snatches is becoming confusing, mind-bending and more debilitating by the minute. Something has got to give.”
“Mina is an undead flesh-eating ghoul, cursed to haunt her childhood woodland home where she was murdered. Nobody invading her territory gets out alive. That is, until she comes across Alex, an abused blind boy, discovered in a car trunk. After killing his obnoxious companion, Mina lets Alex live, an action that throws her very existence into upheaval. For through his trauma she starts experiencing some old human feelings resurfacing, such as empathy and love. Could be Mina is more alive than she thought?”
Survival Horror – What are you willing to do to stay alive?
“On holiday at a remote Canadian lake house, a mother and her two young daughters must fight for survival after falling into a terrifying and bizarre nightmare conceived by a psychopath.”
“On the eve of their one-year wedding anniversary, Jules and Jackie become embroiled in a merciless fight for their lives when they find themselves pitted against the most unexpected of adversaries. As violence reigns down upon their idyllic forest getaway, the two women engage in a frenzied psychological and vicious battle that will test the very limits of their instinct to survive.”
Throwback Horror – These films aren’t just inspired by horror cult classics—they’re straight homages.
“Move over RAZORBACK, there’s an even bigger beast in Ozploitation Land. One of staggering size, with a ruthless driving need for blood and destruction. It cares for none, defends its outback territory with brutal force, and kills with a raw savagery unlike anything seen before. City slickers with no respect for nature, drunken sheep-farming locals and the collective casts of the original MAD MAX and WOLF CREEK may try to go up against it. But what chance do they have against a giant predator with an insatiable appetite?”
“Buenos Aires, 1985, the first anniversary of the death of Alexis Carpenter, the unstable supermodel who died tragically in a horrendous catwalk fire. Fashion editor Lucia L’uccello wants to honor Alexis in a commemorative issue of her magazine. But the night before the cover photo shoot, Alexis’ original dresses are stolen and staff members begin to disappear at the hands of a sinister silhouette in a long black leather raincoat. Is someone seeking revenge? Or has Alexis returned from the grave? Mario Bava, Dario Argento and SUSPIRIA fans, here’s the sumptuous neo-Giallo you’ve all been waiting for!”
Documentaries – Take a critical but loving look at the horror genre.
“A heartfelt love letter to the entire history of Fred Dekker’s 1987 cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD, from the cast and crew members who brought the faux Universal creatures to life, to the obsessed fans and horror filmmakers who wouldn’t be where they are today without it. Dekker’s family frightener initially tanked at the box office but found a second life on VHS and cable TV. For years the creators were unaware of the phenomenon growing on the genre fan fringes and this superb documentary details how it happened and why decades later an entire community refuse to let go.”
“Fear is an art form, an adrenaline trip with a rock spirit. Why is it that our attraction for the morbid, the sinister and the horrific can create the greatest of monsters, the greatest of tensions? From director Gustavo Leonel Mendoza, a fascinating documentary that takes you inside the global horror festival circuit to uncover and explore the fanaticism of those who love the fantasy genre. With spooky audiovisual sequences, and insight from genre specialists (including FrightFest’s Alan Jones), filmmakers, stars and writers who are passionate about the subject, this shows us how much fun it is to be scared.”
Which FrightFest films look exciting to you? Are you going or have you ever been to FrightFest? Let me know in the comments!