This is Madchester: Grimmfest 2013

The biggest UK genre festival outside of That London is back to bring a little bit of horror, a touch of ickiness and a dollop of good old-fashioned strangeness to Manchester

Preview by | 27 Sep 2013

Grimmfest is back, gorehounds. Taking place in Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre, with Opening Night at Stockport’s movie palace, the Plaza, more than 25 features and a number of shorts will be screened to braying galleries from 2-6 October. With so much to choose from, we pick some macabre highlights to sink your fangs into.

The strong first evening houses a couple of gems. Kicking things off, and a fitting introduction, is a reworking of the Brothers Grimm’s tale of witchcraft and eating disorders, Hansel and Gretel Get Baked. Lara Flynn Boyle brings her own special brand of crazy to the cannibalistic child-snatcher, here a weed dealer enticing kids into her oven with super-strength chronic rather than tasty treats. Even if our heroes do manage to evade a fiery demise, they’ll presumably have a nasty bout of paranoia and an awkward trip to McDonald’s to contend with. If they can be bothered.

A special 40th anniversary screening of Robin Hardy’s chiller The Wicker Man follows. This affecting, eerie classic, where a devout copper (a peerless Edward Woodward) unravels in the face of Satanism, Britt Eckland’s weird accent and Christopher Lee’s enormous hair, requires little recommendation after all these years. Needless to say, it’s one of the finest horror pictures ever made, with a denouement that still batters the soul like few others. The director will be available for an audience Q&A afterwards.

Curse of Chucky brings the first day to a close, Don Mancini’s sixth outing for his diminutive ginger maniac a move back to gorier fare after the emphasis on laughs in the franchise’s previous two films. Brad Dourif reclaims the title role, spitting crafty one-liners and dicing flesh with equal aplomb, while daughter Fiona plays Nica, the object of Chucky’s ire. Freudian nightmares ensue. It’s a funny and arch return for the demented doll, with some ingenious kills and smartly played callbacks.

Other great films are scattered about the schedule throughout the remainder of the week. For those who didn’t get their fill of 70s culture and psychosis with The Wicker Man, Stuart Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror is on hand to deliver the odd fright and a good few giggles. LOLs of a more intentional nature can be found in John Dies At The End, a weird and wonderful end of the world saga from Bubba Ho-Tep director Don Coscarelli, and Christian James’ Stalled, where a janitor fights off zombie hordes from the questionable security of a bathroom cubicle. Not much room to swing a chainsaw in there.

A real highlight comes in the form of Big Bad Wolves, from writer-director team Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. A modern fairytale full of torture and gallows humour, the Israeli duo have provided another comic/horror crossover of great skill to follow their well-received debut Rabies. Focusing on the father of a murdered girl who kidnaps the suspected killer to force a confession, this needed to be pitched just right. And for the most part it is. Very, very dark but mercifully absurd, this should prove a big hit with the audience having played to a rapturous crowd at the recent FrightFest.

Grimmfest draws to a close with the intriguing The Machine, where a scientist (Toby Stephens) creates the world’s first self-aware robot only for the shady MoD to snatch his toy for their own nefarious purposes. Echoes of Blade Runner and that masterpiece’s melancholy have been mooted, but a poster campaign and plot alarmingly similar to Species prompt slight caution. Still, this seems to have a gorgeous aesthetic and at least interesting themes at play, so one can be forgiven for remaining optimistic this curious lo-fi sci-fi can round off in style what should be a great few days of genre cinema.

Grimmfest runs 2-6 Oct See website for full details: