GFF 2010: Fright Night
Abandon all hope ye who enter this man’s world. Unless, of course, you’re one of the millions of people for whom horror is not just a genre, but a way of life. And death. And undeath… The man in question is horror and science fiction encyclopedia Alan Jones. He lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and bleeds horror, so who could be better qualified to host the annual feast of fear, flesh and fun that is Frightfest?
“I used to run a festival called Shock Around The Clock at the NFT in London” he tells me as we discuss the origins of the festival. “An old friend of mine, Paul McAvoy, got in touch some time later and said “you should really do that again in 2000”. So we decided to go for the Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square. It just seemed like a much more appropriate venue. I love the NFT of course, but it is very esoteric and I think that can put some horror fans and the regular NFT audience off. I think that’s changed in the last decade or so however, with all the great mainstream horror films that have been released”.
Like the ambassador at a very twisted reception, horror filmmakers have been spoiling us in the last few years. As Guillermo Del Toro has noted, horror always prospers during times of conflict and unease. Japan, South Korea, France, the US and the UK have given us some astonishing work of late. Last year alone was cause for celebration: one of Europe’s prime auteurs confronted us with Antichrist (Jones’ verdict: “pretentiously awful”), while Let The Right One In (“incredible”) and Thirst won awards and critical acclaim, lest we forget the funhouse thrills of Drag Me To Hell and the devastating ordeal that was Martyrs.
“It’s an exciting time for horror. You look at a film like Martyrs: we knew when we saw that that we had to show it at FrightFest. A film like that only comes along once every decade, it’s one of the best films we’ve ever shown”.
It didn’t screen in Glasgow, however, though the Scottish branch is only in its third year. So what does Mr Jones think of this year's batch of fright flicks? “When I look back at last year’s Glasgow round up, it wasn’t great, but this year things have worked out really well: Frozen, Amer, A Lizard In Woman’s Skin. Of course, it was a no-brainer to screen (REC) 2 after the response the first one had in Glasgow a couple of years back. I know the directors definitely got a flavour of the city that night! Obviously, the quality of the films we screen has everything to do with the quality of stuff that’s getting made. The fact that we’re showing such a broad range of material has less to do with us and more to do with the fact that so many interesting films are out there”.
With everything from underground cannibals to classic giallo, there is truly something for everyone, depending on your preferences, or the strength of your stomach (check out that promotional image for Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre in the programme). Jones is enthused about the films, but he’s equally excited about the guests.
“We’ve confirmed Vincenzo Natali (Splice), we’re hoping to get the two girls from 2001 Maniacs, Adam Green (Frozen) was here last year and he can’t wait to come back, and Amer producer Francois Cognard is coming to gauge the reaction from the crowd. It’s just a week before it comes out in France so it’s extremely important to him to be here”.
And as Jones is keen to stress, it’s the audience that matter most: “FrightFest has a unique atmosphere. I love the horror audience: the odder we’re all thought of the better! No seems to be able to equate horror with quality, despite that fact that it’s a centuries old tradition which continues to make an absolute fortune. It’s the best genre to make the lowest budget film and make the most amount of profit.
“And I love the Glasgow venue: the GFT just seems such a fantastic place to show these films, there’s a real community spirit and it’s such a beautiful old building, it’s got that middle ground the Prince Charles has. We get people coming from all over the world for FrightFest, it’s extraordinary. I really can’t imagine that with a sort of rom-com, Love Actually festival!”