Real Horror Show: Edinburgh Horror Festival preview

The Skinny chats to Alex Staniforth, one of the co-founders of the Edinburgh Horror Festival, about their third year, why there’s not enough horror theatre, and what makes the genre so unique

Feature by Amy Taylor | 15 Oct 2018
  • Adam Cuerden in Music Hath Power to Soothe the Savage Beasts

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in the supernatural and horror,” says Edinburgh Horror Festival co-founder Alex Staniforth as we begin our chat over the phone. Staniforth’s love of the genre has had an undeniable effect on his life and career and, no matter what he did, horror was the genre that remained a constant.

“I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic of horror," he says as we discuss what horror means to him not only as a fan but as a performer too, "the castle on the hill and the place out of time."

“That’s really what attracts me to horror stories: you can take the familiar and make it unfamiliar. That ability to make the familiar into something just off-kilter, seeing something in the mirror out of the corner of your eye, that’s something that only happens in horror. That’s what draws me to it, that’s what’s unique about horror.”

This passion for all things horror-related, with the exception of what he describes as gorefests (horror that uses a lot of blood and guts to get scares, such as torture porn, although he makes an exception for The Evil Dead trilogy), led to him starting the Edinburgh Horror Festival with two fellow enthusiasts – the magician Ash Pryce, and actor Oliver Giggins. Now into its third year, the festival was created to fill a void in the capital’s cultural calendar and celebrate the best of contemporary horror.

“Our interests all centred around horror,” he explains. “We were all performers, and our interests were very much based in horror. So, we decided that a horror festival in late October would be ideal; people will have recovered from the Fringe by then and looking to put on their shows again.”

And, as he says, the festival has gone from strength to strength. Its programme features a plethora of talks, events, film screenings, and an impressive amount of horror theatre – a genre not often performed on the UK stage. When we ask whether Staniforth has noticed the lack of horror productions being staged or toured around the country, save for the fairly regular revivals of The Woman in Black, he says: “It’s not a common element of theatre, and yet, stuff is out there."

“We [the festival] get people from across the country wanting to put on their horror theatre shows, and I do think theatre lends itself to horror in a way; it’s got that personal feeling that you can’t get from film. So, I really don’t know why there isn’t more horror theatre, people are endlessly putting on their own theatrical versions of Dracula, but there doesn’t seem to be much else!”

“There are a few things that dominate and the rest goes by the wayside, but there is some excellent horror theatre out there and we hope to showcase a lot of it this Horror Fest.”

This year’s programme features nine theatre productions from companies such as Nevermore Theatre and Nightmare Productions, a show on a boat, comedy, storytelling, and Staniforth’s own shows Edinburgh Ghost Stories at Lauriston Castle and Standup Horror. Staniforth’s only concern is, funnily enough, the date of Halloween itself this year.

“Halloween falling on a Wednesday is a little bit awkward," he admits. “It’s always easier for us if it’s on a weekend, but we think we’ve handled it quite well, and we should have excitement for people from the Friday right up until the Wednesday.”

Edinburgh Horror Festival, 26 – 31 Oct, various venues