FrightFest 2014 - The Ultimate Round Up
By James Whittington, Saturday 30th August 2014

FrightFest2014-poster-LR-Final MediumFrightFest 2014 is just a distant memory even though it only ended a few days ago and only now am I adjusting to being in daylight!

The five days brought us over 60 features and several shorts which combined to make this year’s programme one of the most varied for a long time. The new venue gave the festival a new feeling and a main screen running order that took a bit of time to adjust to. This actually helped with congestion problems of the past and made the simple things such as using the toilets and grabbing a bite to eat much easier.

The event started off with the crowd pleasing UK premiere of Adam Wingard’s The Guest but for me the most fun was in the last film of the first night, the way over the top Zombeavers. This is one movie to watch late night with a bunch of mates.

Friday had a mixed start, Shockwave Darkside3D and Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno got mixed reactions from the crowds coming from the main screens but one movie really did get the seal of approval, Late Phases. This smart take on the werewolf genre from the director of Penumbra and Here Comes The Devil has a stunning central performance from Nick Damici playing a blinded veteran living in a gated retirement village.

More smart horror in Housebound a Kiwi comedy from Gerard Johnstone. Again this took a well known theme (a possibly haunted house with secrets in the walls) and gave it a refreshing twist with plenty of humour. Taking humour to its darkest but crowd pleasing place was the superb sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead. Original director Tommy Wirkola took is Nazi zombie army to new levels of grossness in a film that surpasses the gore of the first.

Saturday too had a real mixed bag of movies, from the all-out and ghoulish All Cheerleaders Die from Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson to the psychological chills of John McNaughton’s The Harvest, both delivered on very different levels. Talk of the day was The Babadook which has got many festival goers checking their cupboards in their homes as I type, whilst I Survived A Zombie Holocaust made for perfect late night guffaws and gratuitous gore-shots. Zombies were in high supply this day as the rather smart Life After Beth proved that the rom-zom-com genre wasn’t dead (so to speak) yet!

One of the stand out days of the festival for the main screens was Sunday which had the strongest line ups of the whole event. Faults from Riley Stearns is simply outstanding with performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser that are just begging to be seen. This story of a lost man trying to un-brainwash a victim of a cult is just incredible. Same can be said for Nicholas McCarthy’s Home which takes the idea of demonic possession to a more real place. With a sound mix that takes the tension right up to 11 this had most of the audience, as well as myself, jumping around as it delivered jump after jump. The Samurai from Germany’s Till Kleinert had the crowds chatting for ours about its stylish mix of mania and violence.

Minnie Driver and Meat Loaf (yes, you read that right) popped up in Stage Fright which is surely the next big must see midnight movie. A mix of Glee, Friday The 13th and Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s a celebration of invention mixing rock tunes and melody to high end hack and slash.

The weather took a turn for the worse on Monday but didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirit as they sat down for four UK premieres and a world premiere. Nymph gave us an original slasher movie, that of a killer mermaid which was a great piece that utilised some amazing locations coupled with a tight script. V/H/S: Viral took the series onward and upward with five more cutting edge stories whilst The Signal gave big screen thrills to end the main screen movies.

The Discovery Screens had more than their fair share of must-see movies too. The Forgotten gave Urban Horror genre the originality it so craves whilst The Canal was a dark exploration of psychological horror that will stay with me for some time. You want cult hits of the future look no further than Lowell Dean’s Wolf Cop which really had to be seen to be believed. Simeon Halligan’s White Settlers is a superb twist on the home invasion horror which gave us some of the smartest shocks of the whole festival.

If you wanted more originality you needed to be at the Show Pieces screening. This anthology from the legendary writer Alan Moore is brimming with inventiveness and originality. For me The House At The End Of Time takes the prize for the most emotional piece of the whole event. Directed by Alejandro Hidalgo it’s the first horror film produced in Venezuela to reach an international audience and is a superbly plotted science fiction themed feature that is as emotionally engaging as it is intelligent. A real highlight.

Guest wise there were plenty of directors and actors to say hello to but the stand out has to be Robert Englund who was here for his new movie The Last Showing and for an anniversary screening of A Nightmare On Elm Street. This true gentleman of horror was charming to speak to and gave us a cracking interview which you can see soon on the Horror Channel along with many of the other talent that attended FrightFest.

Facebook and Twitter played a big part in my blogs this year so if you missed any updates go and check the exclusive pictures taken as the festival unfolded. All the blogs I wrote for the Horror Channel website will remain live so if you need reminding just how good this year or past festivals have been then check them out. There are more interviews to come over the next few weeks so look out for those too.

So, all that remains for me to say is from all of the Horror Channel crew Ivo, Giovanna, Rich, Jolon and myself, we say an emotional farewell to FrightFest 2014 and are already looking forward to teaming up again for FrightFest 2015.

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