I’ve just returned back to the land of HCF after my terrifying trip to Grimmfest 2013, and I have such sights to show you… well, to tell you about!
2013 marks the fifth anniversary of the festival, which has snowballed into a bigger and better festival over the years and has a dedicated horror fan following in the North as well as gaining virgin ‘Grimmlins’ each and every year.
A preview night kicked off the Grimmfest 2013 festival on Wednesday 2nd October 2013 at one of Grimm’s regular venues, art-decor delight, the Plaza at Stockport. Unfortunately I missed the evening, but the audiences were treated to a screening of Hansel and Gretel Get Baked, Curse of Chucky, short film Radio Silence and the much-anticipated 40th anniversary final cut of The Wicker Man, followed by a Q+A with the film’s director Robin Hardy.
This year, the Grimm team decided to put on a fringe festival from Thursday 3rd to Sunday 7th October 2013 , running from the early morning to mid/late afternoon. The Grimm Fringe was held at the Lass O’Gowrie pub in Manchester city centre, where both the downstairs and upstairs rooms where reserved for the screening of the films – independent features and short movies from a wealth of talent, and though they may not have screened at the larger venue of The Dancehouse, just five minutes away, the quality remained as high.
The Dancehouse, situated on Oxford Road in Manchester, played host to the late afternoon and evening’s entertainment, with each night culminating in a much-talked about feature film of the year. The Dancehouse also hosts a ballet school, and away from the main stairwell and screen, the building becomes a maze of corridors, ones that wouldn’t go amiss in Suspiria or the Overlook Hotel, which adds to the charm of the festival.
The Grimm team were on hand throughout the day to assist with visitors, handing out free festival programmes and manning the various DVD/Blu-Ray stalls, including one featuring a mass of steelbooks and special releases from Arrow. Many a wallet ended up empty that day. The Grimm team also teased visitors with special prizes including a signed and framed The Wicker Man poster and artwork of Don Coscarelli’s, John Dies at the End, to be won during the festival. Watching films back to back is hungry work, but thankfully The Lass O’Gowrie served food and The Dancehouse had a little cafe with cheap but delicious hotdogs and popcorn for visitors. Being centred in Manchester city centre, 10/15 minutes walk from the bus station at Picadilly Gardens, meant that the venues were surrounded by takeaways, sandwich shops, coffee shops and restaurants to satisfy the grumbling bellies of Grimmlins.
Simeon Halligan, curator of Grimmfest, introduced many of the films to be screened, whilst Zombie Hamster’s Colin McCracken and authors David Moody and Wayne Simmons hosted Q+A’s on stage with the directors of the short and feature length films that screened. Guests included short film directors James Moran, Randal Plunkett, Gavin Williams and Emmerdale’s Dominic Brunt, Hellraiser stars Barbie Wilde and Nicholas Vince, and visual FX guru Shaune Harrison, who even did a live and intimate workshop for the audience to watch him turn a Grimmlin into a zombie.
As with any film festival, the main draw is the films on show. Grimmfest have a pretty good track record with film selection, but I believe this year’s might have been the best yet!
Day 1 of Grimmfest launched at 11am at the Lass O’Gowrie with James Cullen Bressack’s TO JENNIFER, a feature film shot entirely on an iPhone. Having screened Bressack’s HATE CRIME last year, it was great to see the return of this director’s work. To Jennifer was followed by a couple of outstanding short films, Irish Nosferatu horror The Gloaming and sat nav thriller, Next Exit. A brutal home invasion horror feature HOME SWEET HOME made the audience wince at the killer’s exploits, whilst the shorts that followed, Girl at the Door and Attack of the Brainsucker captivated the audience. Norwegian short Angst, Piss and Drid was shocking but had its funny moments, and was perfectly situated in the Grimmfest programme, screening prior to THE HOUSE WITH 100 EYES, a tale of creating the ultimate triple bill of snuff porn at the hands of a seemingly normal, suburban American couple, that provided laughs albeit through its dark and twisted imagery. An evening break for 2 hours left the Grimmlins to fill their bellies before resuming the film watching at The Dancehouse around the corner and the festival continued its string of hits with James Moran’s entertaining horror rom-com short, Crazy For You, and Elliot Goldner’s terrific, Wicker Man-esque found footage feature, THE BORDERLANDS. Both filmmakers took to the stage after the screening for an insightful Q+A with the audience. Rounding off the first day of Grimmfest was the European premiere of German thriller, ON AIR.
Day 2 of Grimmfest kicked off with MY AMITYVILLE HORROR at the Lass O’Gowrie, a documentary featuring Daniel Lutz, and exploring his account of the Amityville Haunting events which happened to his family when he was a child. This was followed by a screening of cyber slasher SMILEY, who’s trailer on YouTube has amassed over 30 million views and counting. Taking a surreal turn after the two features was Israeli short The Plan before a virus outbreak occurred in the Northern Premiere of Canadian horror feature ANTISOCIAL. At the end of the Grimmfest Fringe at the Lass O’Gowrie, SFX master Shaune Harrison treated the audience to a demonstration of his make-up application and prosthetic techniques to turn one lucky guest into a zombie! Shaune answered audience’s questions regarding the films he worked on, particularly World War Z, as well as giving a running commentary as he transformed the Grimmlin into a decaying member of the walking undead. Following an evening break, the festival goers settled down at The Dancehouse for a special screening of HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II and a Q+A with Cenobites, Nicholas Vince (Chatterer) and Barbie Wilde (female Cenobite), who also filmed the entire Grimmfest audience singing Happy Birthday to Hellraiser creator, Clive Barker! After that fun episode, Colin McCracken hosted a Q+A with SFX artist Shaune Harrison, whilst some of his handywork graced the stage for guests to look at. Shaune discussed his time crafting for blockbusters World War Z, and the Star Wars and Harry Potter films whilst the audience eagerly listened with interest. Completing the second day was the UK premiere of American short film, The Guest, and the English premiere of atmospheric, sacrificial feature film, JUG FACE.
Indonesian psychological thriller, MODUS ANOMALI opened Day 3 of Grimmfest at the Lass O’Gowrie, followed by a Q+A with author, Chris Fowler, discussing his new book, Film Freak, before the festival entertainment moved to The Dancehouse for a back-to-back showing of two shorts familiar to HCF, Randal Plunkett’s horror short Out There and Gavin Williams’ sci-fi thriller short Sleepworking. Both directors took to the stage post-screening and gave a great insight into their ideas behind their films. An indie feature from director Paul Hough by the name of THE HUMAN RACE followed, a film we’ve spoke about in the news section before now, and it did not disappoint with its Battle Royale-style death foot race between 80 strangers from all walks of life. During the afternoon, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randal Plunkett and Gavin Williams on their short films and future works, whilst Nick Gillespie’s post-apocalyptic short, Samuel and Emily vs. The World, and disturbing horror feature FOUND played on the main screen. Though I missed these, fellow press remarked on how FOUND contained the most shocking scene of the festival, so if you like your horror dark, this may be the one! Back in my seat, I settled down for a string of hit features. Taking vampires away from sparkling Twilight teens, KISS OF THE DAMNED captured the audience with its sexy, emotional love story, laced with the horror of the genre. From romance to conspiracy theories, Christopher MacBride’s faux documentary, THE CONSPIRACY, seeked to reveal all about the powerful, secret organisation The Tarsus Club. Before the screening of acclaimed Israeli film, BIG BAD WOLVES, Grimmfest treated the audience to a world exclusive sneak preview of WHITE SETTLERS, Grimm Up North Production‘s new film directed by Simeon Halligan. With the preview whetting the appetites of fans, the Grimmlins then enjoyed BIG BAD WOLVES before the night climaxed with Don Coscarelli’s JOHN DIES AT THE END.
Grimmfest is more than just a film festival – it’s a chance to make new friends and to discuss and enjoy movies with like-minded individuals. After each film screening and guest Q+A, the Grimmlins eagerly applauded in appreciation of what they’d witnessed – such a rare sight, only seen at a festival like this. The Grimmfest team were only too pleased to talk with festival goers about movies, past, present and future. Grimmfest 2013 was not just a weekend where new films were discovered and enjoyed, but a place were friendships were forged and for many, the start of their life as a Grimmfest Grimmlin.
As a Northerner, it’s great to see such a thriving film festival in Manchester. Grimmfest fills a void and is at the heart of the North West horror community and long may it reign. With its high quality selection of horror films, many of which are premieres, engaging Q+A’s with a host of special guests eager to indulge the audience with tales of their work, and a horror-lovin community dying to see the next best thing in horror, Grimmfest is an absolute must-attend event on the genre film fan’s calendar.