When a genre luminary such as Guillermo del Toro describes it as ‘the Woodstock of Gore’, you know it’s the real deal.
Now heading towards its 16th edition, The London FrightFest Film Festival is the UK’s biggest and brightest horror fantasy fest, and more than lives up to its promise to take you into ‘the dark heart of cinema’. For five days – and dank nights – during Great Britain’s annual August Bank Holiday weekend, the festival serves up a gigantic program of carnage, cannibalism, cult gorefests and schlock masterpieces literally spread blood-red over five screens at the iconic Vue Cinema on the prestigious Leicester Square in London’s West End.
First held in 2000, the main goal of FrightFest was to create a UK-based horror fantasy fest which would rival the likes of the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia in Sitges and the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. To say they have achieved that aim is an understatement: the fest has become a truly international event, with 2014 seeing movies from 16 countries screened, with over 60 features and 20 shorts including a record-breaking 11 world premieres and 38 UK or European premieres. Such is its cachet in the festival calendar that genre fans and industry insiders travel from around the globe to share in the experience.
Its packed program contains various strands, including Discovery Screen, World Cinema and Restored Classics – where greats such as Stanley Kubrick’s seminal The Shining have received fresh attention – along with films which blur the boundaries of genre definitions: the fest offers sci-fi, shorts, documentaries and animations too.
George Romero’s Land of the Dead premiered at FrightFest in 2005, with Romero himself attending the screening, while the festival also showcased the second only screening (after Cannes) of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. 2014 saw special screenings of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, and Tommy Wirkola’s cult zombie sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. Countless celebrity guests have walked the red carpet at the festival over the years, including Danny Boyle, John Landis, Oldboy director Park Chan-wook and Tobe ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Hooper.
Supplementing the main program, the FrightFest holds a number of year-round events which make it all the richer: each Halloween the famed horror ‘all-nighter’ runs at the nearby Prince Charles Cinema, while it visits the Glasgow Film Festival for a two day special each February. Special one-offs are also held, with past events including An Evening with Jessica Alba, panel discussions with author/director/renaissance man Clive Barker, and special screenings with guest directors, such as Sam Raimi with Drag Me to Hell.
The 16th annual London FrightFest Film Festival takes place from 27th to the 31st of August 2015, at its home in the Vue West End Cinema, Leicester Square, London, UK.