With a staggering 76 features screening across the extended Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August (Thursday 27th-Monday 31st), the amorphous, omnivorous Film4 FrightFest is a Blob-like monster that just keeps growing and growing until no cinema can contain it.
Its main programme is spread, like last year’s, over three screens at the VUE on Leicester Square, while its bigger-than-ever Discovery Programme gives FrightFesters one shot only at films showing in two further VUE screens as well as around the corner in FrightFest’s original spawning ground, the Prince Charles Cinema. At this rate, FrightFest will soon take over most of Central London, with only one or two screens left for rom coms to make their last desperate stand. Although those films too are not safe from horror’s encroachment, as this year’s FrightFest showcases several genre films of a decidedly erotic bent (Nina Forever, Night of the Living Deb, Over Your Dead Body).
There are premières and retrospectives, documentaries and Q&As, shorts and afterparties. There are, of course, plenty of British films (starting with David Keating’s festival opener Cherry Tree), but also titles collated from across 17 countries and five continents. There are lots of movies made by men, and a few made by women (including Another Me, whose director Isabel Coixet, best known for non-genre titles, promises to bring different flavours to the genre mix). There is even a film directed by a 14-year-old (Nathan Ambrosioni’s Hostile), who may well prove too young to attend the very festival that is celebrating his debut.
To go with Hangman, there’s Suspension. To complement festival closer Tales of Halloween there’s A Christmas Horror. To answer the fatalistic Most Likely To Die or These Final Hours there’s the more tenaciously survivalist Final Girl, Last Girl Standing, Never Let Go, We Are Still Here, or Afterdeath. There’s a Night Fare to rhyme – in title, if not in theme – with The Nightmare, and for every self-explanatory Landmine Goes Click, there are more opaque titles like Banjo and Curtain.
Still, let’s not list the whole programme here. There are so many films of such dizzying variety, even speculating about them becomes a diffuse, abstract activity. Like a zombie horde, this festival overwhelms its audience through sheer numbers and brute strength – but given that even those with full-weekend all-access passes will be physically able to see no more than a third of the titles on offer, it is a good idea to make a friend of the festival programme and to plan ahead wisely. Or alternatively, just take pot luck and map your schedule at random, trusting in the eclectic expertise of the festival organisers. One word of advice, though: do venture into the Discovery screens at least once or twice. With horror, the shadowy periphery is almost always where all the interesting stuff is happening, and where genre’s borders are truly expanding.