7 Essential Films At Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 – With exclusive director interviews

7 Essential Films At Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 –  With exclusive director interviews

The UK’s largest celebration of genre cinema is back, taking place at Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema between Thurs Aug 24 & Mon Aug 28, 2017.

The line up is unequivocally diverse and brave this year, utilising five screens to showcase 63 films including 17 World, 20 European and 17 UK Premieres.

Gorged to the gory gills with full blooded fright flicks, alongside fusillades of art house offerings echoing the current trend towards more cerebral chillers, this year’s festival promises to be a classic.

With single tickets on sale online from Saturday 29th June – here is my selection, replete with exclusive insights from the directors, of 7 festival slayers that explore the core ideologies of the modern genre movie with imagination, conviction and heart.

As well as providing a plethora of talking points around the festival these sensational flicks deserve a spot on every movie fans watch list.

– VERONICA –

Psychological Thriller

Directors: Carlos Algara & Alejandro Martinez-Beltran

Mexico 2017. 81 mins.     European Premiere

This visionary black & White thriller is a master class in cinematic misdirection. The immaculate acting, pristine cinematography and volatile script forge a timeless sexual psychodrama crowned with a searingly creative final reel.

The film is a little buried in the schedule but take the time to dig it out and you will be rewarded with a highly polished genre gem.

What Frightfest says 

A reclusive female psychologist who has stopped practising medicine decides against her better judgment to take the case of disturbed Veronica de la Serna, a young woman whose previous therapist has mysteriously disappeared. As a condition of their cure agreement, the intrigued psychologist requires Veronica to stay with her in her remote country house for the duration of the treatment. But Veronica proves to be a stubborn patient trying to outsmart her doctor every chance she gets.

What the directors say 

Carlos Algara & Alejandro Martinez-Beltran

How does it feel to be selected?

It’s an honour and a privilege. We know that probably everyone says this, but we’ve been following FrightFest for quite some time now (from afar, unfortunately), and we are huge fans. We actually sent an invite to Alan Jones when the film was at the European Film Market at Berlinale, because we were eager to have someone from FrightFest watch the film. What a surprise it was to get an e-mail back from Alan, telling us that he’d already seen the film a year and a half back at 2015’s Ventana Sur Film Market in Argentina and not only did he remember it, but he actually liked it back then as an early first cut. We were flabbergasted and immediately asked for a meeting with him in Berlin. It is always nice to know that people are watching the film. The rest, as they say, is history.

What were the biggest influences on VERONICA?

First and foremost, we’re both huge Alfred Hitchcock fans, and maybe that shows a bit in the film (sarcasm). Also, we’re both very influential. We come from a late 80’s / early 90’s generation of aspiring filmmakers that, as we see it, are desperately nostalgic in terms of their narrative styles. When we were in the midst of writing and discussing the first draft of the script, we wanted to do something that felt somewhat between classical and modern. We wanted the narrative of classic directors such as Hitchcock, Bergman and Polanski, to combine with modern storytellers like Chan-wook Park, Fincher or The Wachowskis. We never saw our being influenced as a bad thing, on the contrary, we tried to use those influences in our favour, in favour of the story. We’ve always been fans of films that have traces of other films we love but have a different approach and a plot twist that we didn’t see coming. This is what we tried to do with VERONICA.

The best moment of making the movie?

Carlos:

For me, the best moment is being on set, directing. That’s my favourite part because it’s the part where I actually get to play with what was written, I get to live inside the characters’ world, be in their shoes and interpret their words. The set can be a nightmare, but it can also be the most fun, and in the case of VERONICA it was the latter. The editing and music scoring was also amazing, but it can be frustrating at times to watch the film in an unfinished state for so long.

Alejandro:

I really enjoy the preproduction. The reason is that it’s kind of scary to do the planning, because you’re never really sure if it’s going to work, but you try your best to address whatever it is you want to say, or however you want people to feel in a specific moment, once the film is finished and they’re watching it in the theaters. It’s kind of crazy, but we actually think that far even from the planning stages. Also, music scoring was very special. When you hear the music, it all comes together. It’s the first time you feel the film is actually alive.

The biggest obstacle?

Probably getting the funds to make the film in the first place. Nothing is more discouraging, more challenging and there’s no other process in which you have to be more patient. Not even while writing the script. We truly hope it gets easier in time and with experience, but so far it’s simply exhausting to find the means to make a feature. If you don’t apply for government funds (or even if you do but don’t get them), the amount of producers that are actually willing to bet on a new filmmaker (or filmmakers in this case) is really low. We were fortunate enough to find Juan Carlos Segura, who believed in the script from the beginning and gave us complete creative freedom in the whole process.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

Hopefully, it will bring a fresh look on independent psychological thrillers, and give a boost to new and aspiring filmmakers to write controlled, one-location, few-character-based stories that can be done cheaper but can also be complex in their own right.

Who is attending the showing?

Unfortunately, as we are still aspiring filmmakers ourselves (from Mexico!) and this is our first feature, we don’t have the means to travel to London for the showings. But we truly hope you enjoy, and if you do, let us know by posting or writing us a message on our film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/veronicamovie/

Screening details

CINEWORLD DISCOVERY – Fri 25th Aug –  11.25PM  &  Mon 28th Aug – 11AM

 

– TRAGEDY GIRLS –

Slasher Satire

Director: Tyler MacIntyre

USA 2017. 90 mins.          UK Premiere. 

This hilarious scalpel sharp satire will be bloody nectar to the Frightfest crowd and it’s the perfect Monday night closing movie. A dead cert for the end of year best of lists, Tragedy Girls is a finely tuned balancing act between savage gore and impeccable comic timing, not to mention a deliriously entertaining boot to the ball sacks of social media. Do not miss it.

What Frightfest says 

The freshest, funniest, most frightening slasher send-up since SCREAM. High school seniors Makayla and Sadie are obsessed with their social media presence as authorities on crime. Their interest in murder is more than just academic though as they are the hands-on type. Trapping a serial killer to foster a mutually beneficial partnership, they see their profile rise, along with the brutal slayings in their small town.

What the director says

Tyler MacIntyre

How does it feel to be selected?

It feels great! Frightfest has some of the best programmers around, so it is an honour to be among these amazing films and filmmakers. I was fortunate enough to have an awesome screening at Frightfest in Glasgow last year with my first feature PATCHWORK, so I got a little taste of what the London version might be like, and am very excited to see the main event back in Leicester Square.

What were the biggest influences on TRAGEDY GIRLS?

For us, it was a balance of horror and high school movies, but I’d say the single biggest influence was HEATHERS, which is the quintessential dark teen movie that no one seems to be making any more. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to CLUELESS and MEAN GIRLS, which makes sense on a certain level, but I’ve always thought we were closer to JAWBREAKER, which is one of my favourites and very underrated. We were fortunate enough to get the same casting directors (Lisa Beach and Sarah Katzman) who did that film and SCREAM because we wanted to build a similarly strong teen ensemble. We’re obviously pulling from a lot of different slashers as well, but Chris and I didn’t want to get too bogged down in referential material. Our goal was to sprinkle just enough in that other fans could pick up that we were fans ourselves, and hopefully find some attritional elements to enjoy.

The best moment of making the movie?

The shoot itself is always such a blur for me, so it is difficult to pinpoint. My favourite moment is probably on the first day when you finally see the actors stepping on set, in full wardrobe, makeup and everything, rehearsing the lines, and you can see the characters you imagined embodied. Then everything starts to get crazy!

The biggest obstacle?

The trickiest obstacle, starting from the script and lasting through post was definitely the tone. When you’re doing a horror/comedy film it is something you have to constantly keep in mind, and the audience can turn against you very quickly. Over the years I’ve started shooting more options on the day so that we have the ability to shape the film moment-to-moment a little more in the edit. As an example, the first version of our ending was way too dark, so we were able to back it off a little with material we already had.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

As the closing night selection, I hope we can end it off with a bang! Frightfest has some of the best audiences in the world, and it’s a really special community that Paul, Alan, Ian and Greg have built over the years, so it is incredibly easy to have a great screening because everyone is so into it. One of my personal goals with this film was to make a bit of a “gateway” horror film that might work for newer fans. Our film definitely won’t be the most hardcore movie there, but maybe it can be the most fun!

Who is attending the showing?

I will definitely be there, and we’re working on trying to get some other people out but since we’re all US-based and often working, the schedules are up in the air. We’ll do our best!

Screening details

HORROR CHANNEL SCREEN – Mon 28th Aug – 8.30PM  

ARROW VIDEO SCREEN – Mon 28th Aug – 9.00PM

– BAD MATCH –

Thriller Drama

Director: David Chirchirillo

USA 2017. 90 mins.        European Premiere. 

With dating apps dictating the trajectory of Cupid’s arrow in modern society this film could be the stark emoji-boiling wake-up call the swipe right generation needs. A visually intense stalk-fest that emanates from the same twisted mind that gave us Cheap Thrills – one of the best midnight movies of the last decade.

What Frightfest says 

An Internet-dating playboy’s life spirals out of control after meeting a woman online in a darkly funny, yet disturbing horror suspense thriller. A look at modern dating techniques and the way people use the Internet to inform and often needlessly complicate their lives.

What the director says

David Chirchirillo

How does it feel to be selected?

Amazing! After living with the film in a vacuum for so long, it’ll be great to finally share it with an audience. Plus I like to drink beer, which I understand happens a lot over there.

What were the biggest influences on BAD MATCH?

Brian De Palma was definitely the principal stylistic influence – specifically BLOW OUT, DRESSED TO KILL, and BODY DOUBLE. I wanted the camera to tell the story as much as the actors and script – and for my money, De Palma is one of the best visual storytellers out there. FATAL ATTRACTION was, of course, in my head while making it, but less as a direct influence and more as a foundation for which to play off.

The best moment of making the movie?

Hard to say, really. Being able to make the movie at all is pretty remarkable. I remember going to the first production meeting with our department heads, which was about 10-12 of us, and thinking “Holy shit, this is really happening!” I don’t know if that was the BEST moment, but it was certainly one of the most surreal. Honestly, I’m hoping the best moment is watching it with a great crowd at FrightFest. Although, if they hate it, it could be the worst moment too…

The biggest obstacle?

From pre-production through production, I don’t think I had a single day off. It was exhilarating but exhausting. I learned that directing a low budget movie isn’t purely about being creative, it’s about being creative while subsisting on Cup O’Noodles and no sleep. All that sodium…not good for the brain.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

My goal with BAD MATCH was to make something different and a little challenging, while also being fun and entertaining. Also, our main character wears a shirt that says “Fart Loading” on it, so there’s that too.

Who is attending the showing?

Hopefully, everyone reading this article! We want a packed house! I’ll also be there for you to heap praise or rage on; I’m a vessel for both.

Screening details

CINEWORLD DISCOVERY SCREEN – Fri 25th Aug – 1.30PM  &   Sun 27th Aug – 11.00AM

 

– DEAD SHACK –

Dark Cabin in The Woods Comedy

Director: Peter Ricq

 Canada 2017. 85 mins.       UK Premiere

This brisk blast of old-school horror goodness revels in its own quick witted script that positively sparkles with quotable one-liners. With a palpable cast dynamic and Amblin slanted sentiments mixed with outrageous splattery carnage, it’s not a million miles away from being the nastier cousin of Stranger Things.

It occupies the perfect time slot for its parents who like to party shenanigans and luxurious undead offings that will make this one of the most boisterous screenings of the festival.

And always, always remember – ” When the blood is black….there’s no going back.

What Frightfest says 

” A group of teens on a weekend getaway at a secluded cabin in the woods soon find themselves fighting off a serious threat to their lives. Not only that they must save their hard-partying, drunk and stoned parents from a predatory neighbour who is hellbent on feeding them all to her undead family.

What the director says

Peter Ricq

How does it feel to be selected?

It feels wonderful! Being new to this scene with Dead Shack being my first feature, I didn’t know many genre film festivals but London Frightfest was always on the top of the list.

The shoot for Dead Shack wasn’t easy and no one knew exactly how it would turn out in the end. We were just hoping for the best. In the end, with everyone’s hard work, we managed to assemble something we are all proud of and the best part is seeing that people around the world enjoy the film as much as we do. We now get to share it with everyone across the world like London.

What were the biggest influences on DEAD SHACK?

After seeing the Fright Night remake, I thought to myself “I love horror movies with clever comedy beats, stop trying to produce huge expensive films because watching small horror films is the best”.

So films like An American werewolf in London, Fright Night (original), Dead Alive, Evil Dead 2 and obviously things like the 80’s Amblin films and Night of the Living Dead (90’s remake).

The best moment of making the movie?

When shooting scenes and seeing the crew laughing at the monitors is definitely the best part. It’s also reassuring that it’s working.

The biggest obstacle?

I think the cold was just brutal. It just made it hard for everyone, we all tried to make the best of it even the actors who couldn’t wear layers. Some actors were covered in blood with just a shirt on when we were outside in minus 15 degrees C.  “you ok?” “No, but could we please shoot real soon?”.
During the shoot, it started pouring rain and then that turned into days of heavy snow. We thought the continuity was really going be all messed up and confusing but in the end, after all the stress, it worked and added production value somehow.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

I believe that it’ll bring something that people will be eager to experience, gore paired with laughter is always a good time.

I think with a festival like Frightfest and it’s fans, Dead Shack is in the right place.

Who is attending the showing?

I think it’ll just be me. I could always try and pretend to be someone else if you have someone specific in mind that you wanted to see or meet or have a pint with.

Screening details

HORROR CHANNEL SCREEN – Fri 25th Aug – 11.15PM  

ARROW VIDEO SCREEN – Fri 25th Aug – 11.35PM

– DHOGS –

Surealist Drama

Director: Andrés Goteira

 Spain 2017. 85 mins         European Premiere. 

This audacious cinematic delirium rainbow is a seriously brave piece of programming. Dhogs proves dazzling in its use of cinematic language and utterly single minded in its mission to burrow under your skin…. and stay there. No familiar movie world walls are safe as it unleashes its unique narrative.

If you do seek it out you will be treated to what will surely be the most disturbing and controversial scene of the entire festival.

What Frightfest says 

The intimacy of a hotel room. The immensity of a desert. A desolate gas station. In these picturesque settings, hideous crimes occur under the cold stare of unexpected protagonists that show the dark, twisted and perverse sides of human existence. But what if there was only a thin line between victims, criminals and spectators? Aren’t we all morbid monsters when you get down to the nightmare nitty-gritty? Dazzling and provocative, DHOGS is a very borderline and compelling mind disorder, marking the impressive debut of a director destined to become a major talent in the genre universe.”

What the director says

Andrés Goteira

How does it feel to be selected?

We are very happy to be selected in this incredible festival, the whole team and all the collaborators are very happy. This is a small film, made from a Galician village and thinking about listening to a film in Galician at Central London is something to be very proud of it. I think it is one of the most authentic festivals in the world and I am very surprised to see that our film can taste in a festival of clear content fantastic and terror, it is great!!

What were the biggest influences on DHOGS?

Things of Murakami or Paintings of Jack Vettriano, films of Leox Carax, Gaspar Noé, Coen Brothers, Tarantino, David Lynch, I love the Spanish director Carlos Vermut … Many references! But it’s difficult, maybe it’s just a feeling, or maybe things that they do and that hits hard inside of me. I love these authors and many others, perhaps for a film of theirs, perhaps for their careful details… I think they are part of my visual and atmospheric inspiration. I feel good watching their films, although I have to say that I’m not a great movie expert. I would like to be.
Under the skin“, “Holy Motors“, “Enter the Void“, “Only God Forgives“, “After hours“, “Opening Night“…

The best moment of making the movie?

When my friends, the producers, first saw the film and said: “Yes! We have a movie!” I still was not sure… Also when a Galician programmer saw the movie and called us to say it was a good job, take care of it. The shooting was fun, there were many problems and we had little time and very little money, it was a great adventure !! Throughout the process, there were many moments of fun and many horrible moments … as in life.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

I do not know, the movie is strange and you may like it a lot or maybe nothing. We did the movie we wanted and I think I’m prepared for all kinds of opinions, it’s nice! I always told my team that we were making a movie for like 30 percent of people or less, hehe. I hope many people see it. I learned a lot in the production of this movie with my friends. We would like to make another film in better conditions, I hope this helps that.

Who is attending the showing?

I want to go, and some of my producing friends as well. I want to live that experience and see some of those great movies in the line-up. We still do not know if we can go.

Screening details

PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA-SPLICE MEDIA DISCOVERY 1 – Fri 25th Aug – 3.40pm

– IMITATION GIRL –

Sci-Fi Drama   Magical Realism

Director: Natasha Kerman

 USA 2017. 84 mins.       European Premiere. 

This refreshingly simplistic Sci-Fi fable is as starved of exposition as it is nourished by warm and tender emotion. Gorgeous to look at with a hypnotic central performance it oozes empathy without pulling any dramatic punches. Constructed with patient love and care and cocooned within a fierce cinematic intelligence it never forgets its commitment to audience accessibility.

Imitation Girl epitomises grassroots independent cinema at its most fragile, beautiful and honest – try and support it at the festival if you can.

What Frightfest says

The Girl Who Fell To Earth! A mysterious being appears in the desert and assumes the identity of the first person she sees – a magazine cover girl. Taken in by Iranian immigrants, she forms an understanding of her new surroundings, and comes to appreciate the beauty and the sadness of her new world. Now it’s time to reach out to Julianna, her world-weary earthly double, who knows all about glitz and grit working as an entertainer in New York City. For only by sacrificing themselves to each other can the cosmic twins complete the full portrait of a woman.

What the director says

Natasha Kermani

How does it feel to be selected?

We’re incredibly excited to be a part of Fright Fest. As a genre filmmaker, it’s really an honour to be invited! Personally, I am really looking forward to meeting other creative genre people and the conversations that will come out of the experience. We’re thrilled to be able to share our film on such a great platform — and in one of my favourite cities!

What were the biggest influences on IMITATION GIRL?

My approach to this film actually started with musical influences: I was fascinated by the idea of telling a dual-character story and structuring it as though it was a piece of music with two “themes” throughout. I love the dreamy, almost baroque style music of modern composers like Arvo Part, and wove the two halves of the story together as though it was a fugue-style composition. Fans of Andrei Tarkovsky will see plenty of filmic influence in the project, from pacing to compositions and use of camera movement. I also love the work of Wong Kar Wai, and I think my approach to how characters are set up and a more wandering, romantic movement through scenes (and even use of diegetic soundtrack) is definitely influenced by his early films. I also have a visual quote to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey at the beginning of a film, as a small homage to one of the science fiction greats.

The best moment of making the movie?

There were so many magical moments in the making of this film, but I have to say the best moment for me was seeing my friend and collaborator Lauren Ashley Carter take her first steps in the deserts of New Mexico as the ‘Imitation’ alien. It was one of our first days of shooting and she was physically at a far distance from me and the camera, so it was very surreal to see her slowly walking towards us as this alien being. That was definitely a moment that made me catch my breath and think, “Oh, we’re doing something really different and beautiful here.”

The biggest obstacle?

As a very small independent film, we were constantly battling against the constraints of time and budget. But I think our team’s commitment to making the project as good as it could be really brought us through tricky obstacles — for example, we lost two of our production days due to a huge blizzard that came through New York City, but actually ended up going out as a small camera team to capture some landscapes of snowy New York, and those shots are some of my favorite visual setups to the film and add so much context. So ultimately we were able to be nimble enough to find workable solutions as we moved through production.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

I think our film is unique in a variety of ways, especially since we are a science fiction film and not straight horror. I work in an area in between genres – between horror, science fiction, magical realism – and so I think audiences will experience something new and different with our little film. I’m incredibly proud of the performances we were able to capture, from the Farsi-speaking co leads Neimah Djourabchi and Sanam Erfani, to appearances by sci-fi favourite Catherine Mary Stewart and comedian Lewis Black. And, of course, the MVP of the film is our star, Lauren Ashley Carter, who truly shines as she plays two very different roles effortlessly.

Who is attending the showing?

In attendance will by myself (writer-director) and producer Tim Wu.

                       FACEBOOK LINK
Screening details

PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA-SPLICE MEDIA DISCOVERY 1 – Sun 27th Aug – 6.00PM

 

– BOOTS ON THE GROUND –

Supernatural War Film

Director:  Louis Melville

UK 2017. 86 mins.     World Premiere

This low budget war flick makes up for in innovation what it lacks in resources. Taking POV panic to a radically Neoteric level this intense film distances its self from cliched narrative configurations by way of strenuous editing and claustrophobic perspectives.

It is always satisfying to watch cutting-edge cinema and if you are looking for jump scares at the festival Boots on the Ground is where to find them.

What Frightfest says

Afghanistan October 2014. Five British soldiers, trying to stay alive on the last night of the Afghan War, face not only the Taliban, but also supernatural powers more terrifying than anything they’ve encountered before. As the night unfolds and their mission is finally explained to them, they find themselves engulfed in a labyrinthine nightmare and time-shift forces seemingly from another realm and century. One of the most innovative and challenging British movies of the year, shot with 360 degree style immersion techniques using head-cams, director Louis Melville’s twisting and turning squaddie shocker is a genre ground breaker.

What the director says

Louis Melville

How does it feel to be selected?

In a way it’s like coming home, I co-produced a film called LAST HORROR MOVIE which we had the honour of showing at FrightFest in 2003, so from day one I always hoped that BOOTS ON THE GROUND would have its world premiere at FrightFest 2017, it’s so great to be premiering at one of the world’s top horror and fantasy festivals in front of a home crowd.

What were the biggest influences on BOOTS ON THE GROUND?

There were a number, a big factor was watching the BBC’s OUR WAR series and real combat videos on YouTube loaded up by British soldiers, then of course films such as DOG SOLDIERS, THE BUNKER, PEEPING TOM and the 60’s version of THE HAUNTING, also the found footage films of Blumhouse and video games like CALL OF DUTY.

The best moment of making the movie?

The two that stand out the most are watching of the video playback of our first long action scene, it’s a scene where the actors moved over a mile of rough terrain in each take, once we had watched that playback we knew that our chosen style of filming was really working; the second was viewing the first cut of the film by our editor Lucas Roche, then I knew we really had a picture.at it’s working.

The biggest obstacle?

There were so many, actors filming each other with head cameras, shooting in very low light, choosing to light in a way that gave the actors the freedom to work freely in a total 360 environment, and just to make thing really difficult for ourselves, shoot 90% at night at a location that the only way  in and out for actors, kit and crew is a 30ft long 4ft high tunnel.

What will your film bring to Frightfest?

A little bit of film history by way of BOOTS ON THE GROUND being the first British film to be shot entirely by its actors wearing head cameras, and a new filming style that we feel gives the audience a more immersive viewing experience.

Who is attending the showing?

I, of course, will be attending, as will our five main cast of Ryan McParland, Tom Ainsley, Ian Virgo, Sally Day and Valmike Rampersad, also Lucas Roche our editor, Ben Kent VFX supervisor, and Boyd Skinner the DOP.

Screening details

PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – SPLICE MEDIA DISCOVERY 1 – Sat 26th Aug – 1.15PM

 

Thank you to all the people who helped me put this piece together, especially the film directors for their precious time, insightful responses and professional kindness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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