Hot city frights

A look forward to Film4 FrightFest this August Bank Holiday.

by Anton Bitel

Kelly Reilly in 'hoodie horror' Eden Lake

Kelly Reilly in 'hoodie horror' Eden Lake

Horror is a many-headed beast, from survivalist slashers to creature features, from ghost stories to psychogenic fugues, from torture porn to apocalyptic nightmares – but if you want to look upon all its faces, contained (if never tamed) in a single British location, the place to be is FrightFest, dubbed by regular guest Guillermo del Toro "the Woodstock of Gore".

Since the dawn of the new millennium, legions of genre fans have gathered in London's Leicester Square every August Bank Holiday weekend to feast their eyes on wall-to-wall terror, preferring the chill of non-stop psychothrills and splattercore to the dwindling rays of the summer sun.

This year, it runs from Thursday August 21 to Monday 25, in the bottom-most pit of Odeon West End. Over the course of those four-and-a-half days, there will be screenings of 26 new features (including six world and 16 UK premieres), as well as the usual assortment of special guest appearances, Q&As, sneak previews, short films, signings, competition prizes and giveaways – all so that you can be up to your eyeballs in cinema's most visceral genre.

Mum and Dad
Dido Miles, Olga Fedori and Perry Benson in Mum And Dad

The festival opens with the world premiere of James Watkins' reportedly very strong 'hoodie horror' Eden Lake – and that is just the first of an unprecedented six British films featured this year, including the kitchen-sink cannibalism of Steven Sheil's Mum And Dad, the medicated murders of Paddy Breathnach's Red Mist (Freakdog), the doppelganger delirium of Sean Ellis' The Brøken, the viral violence of Kerry Anne Mulaney's The Dead Outside, and the satanic slayings of Johnny Kevorkian's The Disappeared.

Among the other highlights from around the world, Sweden offers the well-received genre hybrid Let The Right One In, Denmark also explores teen angst in The Substitute, France takes its recent penchant for extremes (think Switchblade Romance, Frontier(s) and Inside) even further with the controversial shocker Martyrs, while French director Alexandre Aja refracts the Korean ghost story Into The Mirror as the Hollywood reimagining Mirrors. Spain carries out Time Crimes (before David Cronenberg gets to revisit them in his announced remake), Japan's Tokyo Gore Police ups the body horror, while Japanese director Ryuhei (Versus) Kitamura adapts Clive Barker for the US in Midnight Meat Train (featuring, heh heh, Vinnie Jones). Australia reveals the killer side of cricket in the self-explanatory I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer, Korea gives us a frantic serial-killer hunt in The Chaser, and Norway also turns to human bloodsports in Manhunt.

bubba's chili parlor
Bubba's Chili Parlor is one of several Stateside shockers
There is the usual quota of American horror (Trailer Park Of Terror, The Stranger, Bubba's Chili Parlor, Fear(s) Of The Dark, From Within, Autopsy, Jack Brooks Monster Slayer, Death Race) - and last but not least, two films worthy of being singled out, namely Jed Weintob's Scar (because it is in 3D!), and Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology (because it comes from the same Frank Henenlotter who directed cult favourites Basket Case, Brain Damage, and Frankenhooker – and because it sounds totally demented).

The programmers of FrightFest have a proven track record of selecting the best horror of the coming year, so you can be guaranteed an excellent mix of the harrowing, the hilarious, and the downright bizarre - and nothing quite beats the cumulative bludgeoning effect of seeing all these films together, until your resistance has been sapped, your nerves have been shredded, and your eyes have turned blood-red.

Check out the full programme at, and call the dedicated hotline 0871 224 1983 to book tickets (whether for individual films, or day passes, or full weekend passes). That way, soon we will all know what you did last summer.

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