Grimmfest 2014: Five Things We Learned
Every year, at the beginning of October, a dark cloud descends over the fair city of Manchester as Grimmfest, one of the UK’s premier horror/cult film festivals rolls into town. It has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for its attendees over the years, but with record crowds attending the festival this year, it is a testament to the gradual rise of the Grimm brand in the North West and the audience’s continued appetite for scares, jumps and plenty of blood and guts.
There’s an atmosphere & community spirit that few genre festivals can match, all set in the unique setting of an art deco theatre, housed within a ballet school. Grimmfest 2014 was their strongest line-up yet with critically acclaimed chillers such as The Babadook and Starry Eyes playing alongside comedy/horror gems such as Zombeavers, WolfCop and What We Do In The Shadows.
As the dust settles on another festival, here are five things we learned from Grimmfest 2014…
If you think you can’t be shocked, you’re wrong…
It would be easy to assume that with censorship now more lenient than ever, horror cinema would lose its ability to shock and surprise, or that writers have simply run out of ideas. But we can safely say that the likes of James Ward Byrkit’s puzzle-box Coherence was a fantastic example of the kind of imaginative, inventive filmmaking going on in the independent scene right now, a truly shocking film.
Not only that, but we can also say that Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmeyer’s tense, disturbing Starry Eyes is hands-down one of the most intelligent and thought provoking mediations on society’s obsession with fame we’ve seen anywhere for years.
We're in a golden age of comedy horror...
If there was one thing we learned for sure, the horror/comedy (think Shaun Of The Dead or An American Werewolf In London) is back in a big way. Speaking to many people in and around the festival, one film that appeared in most Top three’s was What We Do In The Shadows, which has been made by Flight Of The Conchords star Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Imagine This Is Spinal Tap with vampires and bad dancing. Outrageously funny with a decent helping of gore for good measure.
Another horror/comedy gem from New Zealand came in the shape of Housebound, which was made in the tradition of early Peter Jackson (Bad Taste, Braindead) and proved to be a big hit with festival goers. Elsewhere, the likes of witty Rom-zom-com Life After Beth, starring The Amazing Spider-Man 2's Dane DeHaan and Parks And Recreation's Aubrey Plaza, absurd monster movie Zombeavers and the frankly ridiculous (and hilarious) WolfCop proved that horror and comedy are a perfect match.
British Horror is alive and well...
Attending a festival like Grimmfest gives you a good picture of where horror currently stands as a genre and it’s where some of the best new filmmakers are coming from. It is refreshing to see that some of the most accomplished, thought provoking and genuinely scary films of the whole weekend were produced right here in the UK. Simeon Halligan’s taut home invasion thriller White Settlers wowed crowds in a series of preview screenings and the main festival itself unveiled some outstanding work.
There was Oliver Frampton’s urban- chiller The Forgotten, Brian O Malley’s claustrophobic, action packed shocker Let Us Prey (starring Game Of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham) before Ivan Kavanagh’s terrifying festival closer The Canal left the Grimmfest audience in a stunned silence.
Watch a film with a live soundtrack is something you must experience
One of the undoubted highlights of the festival was a screening of Dario Argento’s cult horror masterpiece Suspiria with the film’s notorious, punishing score performed live by composer ‘Goblin’. Seeing the film in the surroundings of a real life ballet school was something special indeed. The band left the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd, who were in no doubt that they had just seen something very special. It is a unique experience that we highly recommend.
Watch this space...
Some of cinema’s hottest up and coming filmmakers such as Adam Wingard (VHS, The Guest), Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) cut their teeth with horror/genre movies. Marvel Studios recently announced Sinister director Scott Derrickson would be taking the hot-seat for Doctor Strange and Ti West (VHS, The Sacrament)’s next film In A Valley Of Violence has been garnering huge buzz from inside Hollywood.
Amongst the impressive array of short films screened at Grimmfest, Norwegian director Fredrik Hana proved again that he is certainly a talent to keep an eye on, whilst the directorial debut of Alice Lowe (Sightseers, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) Solitudo had everyone on the edge of their seats. If we had to pick one, it would be Jennifer Kent, whose terrifying ghost story The Babadook has won over critics and audiences all over the world. Her expertly crafted chiller will leave you thinking about it’s ending for days and she seems destined for much bigger things.