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Grimmfest 2017: It's (Still) Grim(m) Up North!
By James Whittington, Wednesday 27th September 2017

It was probably intended as an insult; a means of dismissing an entire region of the UK with a few words: "It's Grim Up North". But the Grimmfest team take a perverse pride in that notion. They adopted it as a brand from the start, and still wear it as a badge of honour. Because those overcast skies, and rainy, windswept moors conjured up the doomy Yorkshire Gothic of the Brontes; the harsh post-industrial cities and dour poker-faced black humour shaped the rattling verbal patter and ultra-violent urban wastelands of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. It's a landscape to inspire dark dreams and dangerous narratives. Some of the country's finest writers of horror and weird fiction have hailed from the region, from Ramsey Campbell, to Clive Barker.

So it seems strange, with all of that visual and literary inspiration to draw on, that there are not more horror films set and filmed there. Sure, some of the film versions of Bronte novels have used real Yorkshire locations, but more often than not, the region is stunt-doubling for somewhere else - the Lake District standing in for the Swiss Alps, our own fair city of Manchester's Victorian and Edwardian buildings standing in for parts of London or New York. In fact, the last time Manchester appeared onscreen in a horror movie AS Manchester was over forty years ago, in Jorge Grau's The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue. Which, after the opening five minutes or so, was mostly shot in the Lake District. Beyond that, and a few obscure films by local cult legend Cliff Twemlow, Manchester's cinematic life has mostly been a reflection of its musical history, in films such as 24 Hour Party People and Spike Island.

Grimmfest is an attempt to change that. The festival was born in part out of a desire to put the city firmly on the horror map. In their capacity as a Manchester-based Director-Producer team, festival supremos Simeon Halligan and Rachel Richardson-Jones have always filmed within the North West region, and the festival has always encouraged and showcased locally-produced work, from Simeon and Rachel's first feature, Splintered, which provided the impetus to launch the first ever festival, to Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell's Yorkshire-based domestic zombie drama Before Dawn, to shorts such as NSFW, Radio Silence, and A Father's Day.

So this year they are delighted to be launching the festival with a truly, defiantly Mancunian film at last - Rachel and Simeon's third feature, Habit. Based on the cult novel by Stephen McGeagh, it's an unsettling journey into the seedier, sleazier corners of the city, to discover the sinister and seductive sub-cultures that lurk there and sample the forbidden and addictive pleasures on offer. The film captures perfectly the city's unsettling, uncomfortable ambiance; that nagging sense that behind the bright lights and bustling bars, the fancy restaurants and hipster hang-outs, there is something older and darker. Something dangerous and predatory, that has you right in its sights. Shot on location, with mostly local talent, the film has already been snapped up by numerous high-profile festivals, and will soon be flying a blood-spattered flag for the city as a location and a centre for production, all around the world. But in addition to cast and crew Q&A, this Gala Premiere screening offers something unique. Because much of the film was shot only five minutes walk from the festival venue - so this is a chance for a truly... immersive cinema experience. Always assuming you don't mind getting a few bloodstains on your clothes...

Strangely enough, sub-cultures and substance abuse seem to be a bit of a theme in this year's Northern films. There's an emotionally brutal brace of shorts, Real Gods Require Blood, and Fissure, which offer very different, but equally unsettling slices of Manchester macabre, and then, by way of contrast...

Grimmfest is also delighted to welcome back our old friends Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell, for the Northern Premiere of their utterly outrageous and all-too-timely cinematic shocker, Attack Of The Adult Babies. A scabrous, scatological, splatter-satire, which skewers the British Nation's sexual hang ups and social divisions with puerile glee and savage abandon, it offers a grotesque and gobsmacking grand finale to this year's Northern strand, and brings the festival to a suitably uproarious and frenzied climax.

Featuring such cult faces as Human Centipede's Laurence Harvey, and "Uncle Peter" himself, Charlie Chuck, the film earned Producer, co-writer, and lead actress Mitchell a Screen/Horror Channel Frightfest "Rising Star" nomination. Dominic and Joanne will be joining us to introduce the film and for a Q&A afterwards.

Grimmfest runs 5th-8th October at Odeon Printworks, Manchester and for more info click here.


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