A taste of Frightfest

Five unmissable horror highlights set to thrill fans in London

by Jennie Kermode

It’s that time of year again. We’re only a month away from Halloween and already dark shapes are starting to emerge from the shadows. The UK’s favourite horror film festival, Arrow Video Frightfest, has unveiled a stonking line-up. It includes magnificent documentary Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror, but as we covered that at the Fantasia International Film Festival, we’re bringing you a whole new selection of top quality titles to look out for at the London event. Dig in!

No Man Of God
No Man Of God Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

No Man Of God

Many films have been made about Ted Bundy over the years but very few have been directed by women, something which changes the complexion of this one directly. indeed, it’s arguably not about Bundy at all, but – rather in the manner of David Fincher’s Zodiac – about the obsession that many people have with him. He’s played here by Luke Kirby, opposite Elijah Wood as Bill Hagmaier, a psychologist trying to tease out evidence of his crimes over the course of years. At the helm, Amber Sealey cuts straight through the usual bullshit. Other filmmakers have expressed their awe and critics agree it’s one of the best films of the year in any genre.

Carlee Avers, Clare Foley and Jason Alan Smith in The Changed
Carlee Avers, Clare Foley and Jason Alan Smith in The Changed

The Changed

Back at Frightfest four years after he débuted there with Diane, Michael Mongillo has taken an Invasion Of The Body Snatchers scenario and compressed it down to the experiences of a group of people in a single house who realise that something is very wrong. Clare Foley (known to genre fans for her work in Sinister and Gotham) plays a teenager caught in the middle of it all who struggles with the angry and confused behaviour of the adults around her as well as facing a serious temptation to surrender and feel accepted for once in her life. It’s a tense psychological take on a paranoid science fiction classic.

Boy #5
Boy #5 Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Boy #5

Made on a low budget and featuring one one the best performances of the festival (from Laura Montgomery Bennett, in her very first screen role), this is a take on the vampire myth that will remind genre fans of George Romero’s 1977 classic Martin. Bennett stars as a social worker still reeling from a former client’s fatal overdose who agrees to supervise the care of a sullen homeless teenager (Lennon Leckey) found drinking the blood of a dog. She’s determined to connect with him no matter what it takes, but whether he’s a supernatural fiend or just another poor lost soul, just how high could the price be if he eventually lets her in? This film is a gem in the raw.

As In Heaven, So On Earth
As In Heaven, So On Earth Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

As In Heaven, So On Earth

13th Century alchemists and 21st Century cops collide in Francesco Erba’s wildly inventive tale of a young woman held captive by monks, the acolyte who wants to save her, and the mysterious disappearance of present day teenagers who go poking about in a ruined abbey. Told partly through live action and partly through puppetry, it’s complicated by unreliable narrators, mysterious manuscripts and bizarre conspiracies, yet it manages to engage even when its connections are unclear and it is, in the end, surprisingly moving. You certainly won’t see another film like it at this festival or any other.

Slapface
Slapface Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Slapface

There’s an awesome performance from August Maturo (who will turn 14 during the festival) at the heart of this story about a boy and his monster, which is tonally complex and has hidden depths. He plays young Lucas, who is being raised by big brother Tom (Mike Manning, also impressive) since the death of their parents. Neither is coping very well and there’s a troubling dynamic between them which only gets worse when Tom meets a girl and Lucas meets a monster. Whilst friendship is undoubtedly what the younger boy needs, boundaries soon blur, as does the line between good and evil, in a story that will thrill you but threaten to break your heart.

With a particularly strong line-up at the festival this year, these great films are just the tip of the iceberg. There are fabulous fungi in Gaia, Wicca meets Wicker's World in King Knight, a café owner just misses meeting himself in Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes and you won't have seen anything quite like the ultra-low budget anthropomorphic antics of Greywood's Plot. Catch them if you can, and remember that if you can’t make it to London (we appreciate that there’s a global pandemic going on), you can still see some of what’s on offer at the virtual version which starts two days afterwards. We’ll be running coverage throughout including interviews with the directors and stars of some of the films above.

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