You know how sometimes there’s nothing good to watch? So many cable channels, so many streaming services, so many Blu-rays in your house, and yet you can’t find anything remotely interesting to watch? Either you’ve seen all the horror movies you own, or everything airing looks lame. So you end up watching The Office or Parks and Recreation for the five billionth time, or whatever your I’m-bored-and-want-the-TV-on show is.
Well, buckle up buttercup, because it’s time for the 2019 London FrightFest Film Festival! This year marks the 20th anniversary of FrightFest, which is kind of insane when you think about all the amazing horror movies that have graced this horror-focused film festival. The list of groundbreaking and iconic horror FrightFest films is very long—Audition, Ginger Snaps, Pan’s Labyrinth, Martyrs, and The Babadook all count themselves members of this club, just to name a few.
This year, FrightFest will screen over 80 horror films (So. Much. Horror!), which means that BUCKETS of upcoming horror films are about to flood the market looking for distributors. And that means you’ll be seeing those films shortly, either in theaters or on streaming services. Even the most difficult to impress gorehounds and the pickiest psychological horror fans are sure to find something to like.
As I explained in last year’s FrightFest post, The FrightFest festival is one of the leading genre film festivals in the world, meaning they are committed to bringing horror, sci-fi, and other unabashedly genre films to audiences. That’s not to say that they don’t believe in quality—they do, it’s just that FrightFest recognizes that quality filmmaking isn’t limited to studio features, and that worthwhile stories don’t belong solely to highbrow historical dramas or whatever films will dominate headlines during awards’ season.
With so many new films (80+! I’m not over it!), it was a challenge for me to pick the ones I’m most excited about. After all, there’s no way I could profile all 80+ horror films. But I have included the ones that have intrigued me the most and that I haven’t already heard about or seen at other film festivals. (There are quite a few films at FrightFest that appeared in the 2019 SXSW lineup, for example.) Of my picks, I’m particularly excited to see what Gary Oldman will do in Mary, how the remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid turned out, and how a zombie couple navigates their new relationship in the hilariously titled Eat Brains Love.
Consequently, I cataloged my top twenty-five picks from the FrightFest lineup. It was really hard to narrow down my list—there are so many awesome films with intriguing stories and promising talent. So after you finish reading my picks, please go over to the FrightFest lineup and check out the full slate. Who knows, you might find something I missed and it might become your new favorite horror movie.
FrightFest World Premieres
“A dynamic killer thriller with its finger firmly on the pulses of stark social commentary and shattering suspense, ROAD GAMES director Abner Pastoll crafts a dazzling, dark and daring journey through Northern Ireland’s criminal underbelly. Recently widowed mother of two Sarah (a tour de force Sarah Bolger) is desperate to know who murdered her husband in front of their young son, rendering him mute. Coerced into helping a low-life drug-dealer stash narcotics stolen from the local Mr. Big, she’s forced to go beyond humanity into taking drastic action to protect her children while learning the awful truth about her spouse.”
“Think THELMA AND LOUISE meets SIGHTSEERS as directed by Mike Leigh to get a handle on Staten Cousins-Roe’s gem of a feature debut. Thirty-something, self-help addict, Lou Farnt wants nothing more than to escape her overly controlling mother and the dead-end seaside town where she grew up. When strange and strikingly confident new life coach Val invites her on a road trip of alternative therapies, culminating with a visit to American self-help idol Chuck Knoah’s British country home, Lou finds the perfect opportunity to leave – and the perfect person to become. Unfortunately for Lou though, Val is a serial killer.”
CRIMINAL AUDITION (UK)
“A darkly funny, claustrophobic Midnight Movie to laugh, wince and gasp at. An ex-lawyer and his crack team run an underworld service; they seek the most desperate and greedy to become fake criminals to take the fall for the rich and powerful elite’s felonies. The process is known as the Criminal Audition. In an undisclosed location, over one night they will put three individuals through hell to find the perfect candidate for their latest assignment. But their world is turned upside down when they face lies, deceit, murder and a very dangerous new client auditioning for their biggest job yet.”
DEATH OF A VLOGGER (UK)
“Prepare for a genre-bending horror mockumentary when a vlogger gains viral fame after one of his eerie videos contains an alleged out-of-this-world haunting. Following YouTuber Graham as he investigates the darker supernatural side of the web and dealing with the effects of being famous on the internet, this trip down a hellish rabbit hole includes interviews, cat videos, ripped YouTube content, fun nonsense, archive material, tension and unusual scares. Following in the footsteps of maverick independent filmmakers, this bold new feature is the perfect balance of horror and reality giving the found footage format a needed shot in the arm.”
EAT BRAINS LOVE (USA)
“Based on the living dead road trip novel by Jeff Hart, a gory, funny, surprisingly engaging zom-rom-com from Rodman Flender, director of IDLE HANDS. The good news: Jake’s dream girl, Amanda, finally knows his name. The bad? It’s because they both contracted a sexually transmitted mysterious zombie virus and devoured the brains of half their senior class. Now both are on the run from Cass, a teen psychic sent by the government’s top-secret Necrotic Control Division to track them down as they search for a cure while weighing up the existential question of who really deserves to be eaten alive.”
FOR WE ARE MANY (UK)
“A legion of demons is brought to life in a unique anthology feature from Scotland’s Hex Studios, home of the FrightFest hits AUTOMATA, BLACK GLOVES and THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS. Starring horror legends Eileen Dietz (THE EXORCIST), Laurence R. Harvey (HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2) and Nicholas Vince (HELLRAISER, NIGHTBREED), the shock portmanteau showcases the work of upcoming genre directors from around the world. Each gives a fun, fresh and frightening take on a different demon, from Succubi and Wendigos to the Biblical and Lovecraftian, making this chilling collection a wild, fun-filled, terrifying ride through a diabolical and fantastical bestiary.”
“An all-star cast, including DARKEST HOUR Oscar-winner Gary Oldman and Emily Mortimer from MARY POPPINS RETURNS, swim into the murky waters of seafaring horror in a shocker lurking in the shadows of the Marie Celeste ghost ship legend. Written by Anthony Jaswinski, scripter of the shark suspenser THE SHALLOWS, and pitched as “THE SHINING meets THE CONJURING”, the supernatural chiller centers on a struggling waterfront family tired of working for an unscrupulous boss. So they buy an old ship with the hopes of starting a tourist charter business. But after sailing into isolated waters, the ship’s terrifying secrets start surfacing.”
“The hugely anticipated remake of David Cronenberg’s body horror classic from AMERICAN MARY directors, The Soska Sisters. What happens when you realize to achieve your dreams you have to live a nightmare? Rose wants to become a famous designer in the fashion world, but a terrible accident leaves her scarred beyond recognition. Undergoing a radical untested stem cell treatment, wallflower Rose turns into the belle of the ball and starts to realize her ambitions. But everything in life comes at a price and Rose’s newfound perfection is no exception as she unwittingly sets off a bloody spiral of contagion.”
“Former Royal Marine Commando and single mother Sam is brutally kidnapped and wakes up disorientated in what seems to be a deserted military factory. Worried about her baby at home, she finds all the exits sealed, and soon learns she is not alone. Stalked and attacked by an invisible foe she must use all her skills to survive a deadly game of cat and mouse, perpetrated by her kidnapper, a serial killer wearing a quantum stealth suit that renders him undetectable. Surrounded by drones, she unleashes all her ingenuity and strength to get back home in a nail-biting suspense thriller.”
THE PERISHED (Ireland)
“Dealing with a pregnancy termination in Ireland has been hard for Sarah Dekker. Shunned by her religious zealot family and after also breaking up with her unforgiving boyfriend, she travels to a sympathetic friend’s house in the country to recover. But unbeknownst to her, the provincial pile sits atop a mass grave of unwanted babies and their lost, confused spirits want to be reborn. Feeding on guilt and remorse the spirits need a mother. And they just might have found one in Sarah… Mixing horror and pertinent social issues, THE PERISHED marks the debut of a new Irish genre voice.”
TO YOUR LAST DEATH (USA)
“Narrated by STAR TREK icon William Shatner, it’s the animated horror epic of the year! After emerging as the sole survivor in a deadly revenge game set up by her dying father to punish his four children, Miriam receives an offer from the Game master, an otherworldly supernatural entity, to go back in time and try again. But the Game master only entraps hapless humans into diabolical conflicts for her species to gamble on the outcome. So now Miriam must not only survive her father’s blood lust but also the Game master’s ever-changing rules as she relives the worst night of her life.”
“From the writer of THE VATICAN TAPES and Jordan Barker, director of past FrightFest entries TORMENT and THE MARSH, comes an unrelenting assault of pure terror. A group of students head off for a snowboarding adventure on an untouched piece of land. When their SUV mysteriously stalls in a brutal snowstorm they are not only faced with the reality of freezing to death but a fate even more horrifying. For they have become stranded in Stoughton Valley, home of some Witch Trials even more horrendous than Salem, and are being hunted by a supernatural creature determined to keep them there.”
FrightFest UK Premieres
“FrightFest showcased his ALMOST HUMAN and THE MIND’S EYE and now Joe Begos, the quirkiest director on the independent horror scene, is back with a zeitgeisty, fresh and thrilling trip into terror. A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece and recklessly indulges in a series of drug binges. As the narcotics fly out of control and spiral into a hallucinatory hellscape of highs, lows, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles, so does her newfound, and inexplicable, yet unquenchable craving for blood.”
CUT OFF (Germany)
“A massive success at FrightFest 2005 was the serial killer thriller ANTIBODIES which put director Christian Alvart firmly on the rising star map. Since then Alvart has become one of Germany’s most commercially viable directors and he returns to his triumphant roots with this compelling, gripping and twisted blockbuster adaptation of the worldwide best-selling novel set in the world of Forensic Pathology. Coroner Paul Herzfeld finds a capsule buried deep in the head of a heavily mutilated corpse, containing a phone number and single word: the name of his daughter. And soon the nerve-jangling suspense never stops….”
“Tunisia makes a grand entrance onto the world genre scene with an intense moody folk horror that has broken box-office records in North Africa. Three journalism students take on a university assignment to solve the cold case of Mongia, a woman found mutilated 25 years ago, now imprisoned in an asylum suspected of witchcraft. Soon they’ve stumbled into the archaic world of Dachra, an isolated countryside compound filled with goats, silent women and mysterious drying meat. Welcomed to stay overnight by the jovial yet ominous cult leader, Dachra’s secrets are about to erupt with tribal menace and cannibal terror.”
KNIVES AND SKIN (USA)
“Filtered through the DNA of HEATHERS, MEAN GIRLS and DAZED AND CONFUSED, director Jennifer Reeder’s tender, feminist teen noir fantasy redefines the High School movie with visionary élan. In rural Illinois, a drum majorette’s disappearance traumatizes the small-town residents as secrets are revealed, destroying some relationships and strengthening others. Three girls form a bond in the aftermath of the tragedy as everyone struggles with their own infidelities, dreams and family cruelties while the manhunt continues. Think Sofia Coppola meets David Lynch on the set of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL in this superb portrayal of teenage angst, rage, and disillusionment.”
READY OR NOT (USA)
“One wedding and how many funerals? From the V/H/S directing duo of the Radio Silence collective, a bridal shower of devilish scares, sophisticated chills and fun gore. It’s the happiest day of Grace’s life as she marries her fiancé Daniel, from the super-rich and eccentric Le Domus family, owners of one of the biggest games companies in the world. Before taking her rightful place at her new in-laws country mansion, there’s a traditional family ritual Grace must play first prior to heading off on honeymoon. But the game that’s chosen by chance turns lethal and everyone must fight for survival.”
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! (Russia)
“A roaring rampage of stylish revenge with a fabulously comic tone and superb Ennio Morricone pastiche score, here’s a stunning slice of bloodthirsty Russian crime and punishment in the high tone Tarantino manner. Corrupt detective Andrei brings together a terrible group of people in his apartment: his resentful actress daughter, an angry thug, his timid wife, and a cheated cop. Each one of them has a reason to kill him but will they succeed? A splatter punk action comedy drenched in gore marking an exciting feature film debut from director Kirill Sokolov and making his carnival of carnage a total delight.”
FrightFest International Premieres
“Produced by horror royalty Eli Roth and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, writers of the breakout genre hit A QUIET PLACE and its upcoming sequel, HAUNT is a full-length feature based on the fake grindhouse trailer. On Halloween night, a group of college friends travel to a remote country location to enter an extreme haunted house attraction. Extreme because it promises to feed on all their darkest fears. But the night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real and the mischief-makers behind the enterprise are something else altogether.”
IMPOSSIBLE CRIMES (Argentina)
“Experienced detective Lorenzo Brandoni is devastated after two personal catastrophes: his sister dies of cancer and his wife and son are killed in a car crash he’s mainly responsible for. Throwing himself into his work to ease the pain, he starts investigating a series of impossible crimes that a young nun claims responsibility for. Is she really the devil’s emissary ordered to carry out seemingly senseless slaughter? Or does she suffer from a mystical delirium? As she leads Brandoni further into his own tortured darkness to finally face his personal demons, the incredible truth will prove a shattering revelation.”
KINDRED SPIRITS (USA)
“From Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson, the oft-combined director/writer team behind such beloved FrightFest hits as THE WOMAN, THE LOST, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, ALL CHEERLEADERS MUST DIE and this year’s stellar attraction DARLIN’, return to the fold with a twisted thriller that will startle, surprise and shock. AMERICAN BEAUTY star Thora Birch plays Chloe, a single mother in a clandestine relationship with her neighbor Alex that even her daughter knows nothing about. But when her sister Sadie comes back home after a long unexplained absence, a grim incident from the past rears its horrific head once more.”
SATANIC PANIC (USA)
“THE DEVIL RIDES OUT meets SOCIETY in the elegant, sexy, funny and gory latest Fangoria feature with a cult cast to die for. Times are tough for cancer survivor Sam ekes out a meager existence delivering pizza. Offered a final delivery to a wealthy neighborhood with the chance of healthy tips, she unfortunately gatecrashes a key ritual being carried out by an elite Satanist sect. The only thing missing from their black ceremonial orgy to rebirth the Dark Lord is a virgin sacrifice. And guess what? Sam fits the bill. Can she make it out of country club hell alive!”
THE DARK RED (USA)
“Indie director favorite Dan Bush (THE SIGNAL, THE VAULT) returns to FrightFest with a seat-edge twisted shocker. Sybil is being held against her will in a psychiatric ward because her claims are extreme. She says her newborn baby was kidnapped by a secret society to harvest its supernatural blood. She says the ancient bloodline has great powers – it lets you hear other people’s thoughts. And she begs the doctors to let her go so she can rescue her child from the cult’s dungeons. Is she telling the truth, or is it just mere delusion? The answer will freeze your brain.”
THE DEEPER YOU DIG (USA)
“A Coen Brothers-esque story of grief and survival cloaked in shades of horror and bent through a mirage of the supernatural. Driving home drunk one snowy Catskills night, Kurt Miller accidentally kills 14-year-old Echo Allen sledding in the dark. As Kurt desperately tries to cover up the crime and his tracks, Echo’s mother Ivy is determined to find out the truth behind her daughter’s sudden disappearance. But Kurt has underestimated the sinister lengths to which Echo will go to stay connected to her mother and all three must stare into the great unknown to find peace and closure.”
“Withdrawn Avery Malone, a wannabe writer and lonely librarian, gets her big break when she’s hand-selected to assist her hero, reclusive author, Caleb Conrad. Whisked away to Caleb’s remote country estate, Avery is given her one and only task: to participate in a controlled psychological experiment in fear that will serve as the basis for Caleb’s next thriller novel. What could possibly go wrong? Exploring personal themes of sacrifice, remorse and absolution, Braden Croft’s third independent feature after FEED THE GODS and HEMORRHAGE, is a compelling study into consent and the abuse of power.”
What are you excited for from this year’s FrightFest lineup? Let me know in the comments!