With bright yellow brochures being handed out at their monthly screenings, you’d have to be blind not to know that the fifth annual Grimmfest horror and cult film festival was taking place in Manchester from 2nd to 5th October 2014. Promising a wide selection of movies from horror to sci-fi and even rom-zom-com, Grimmfest had something to suit all tastes.
To kick things off, the Grimm team hosted a Grimmfest preview night on Tuesday 30th September 2014 at Odeon Printworks in the heart of Manchester city centre, behind the Arndale, opposite Urbis. Horror fans flocked the auditorium to watch one of the greatest horror icons of all time, Freddy Krueger, run his blade-fingered glove over the weary teens of Elm Street in the 30th Anniversary screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street. This was accompanied by a humorous and bloody short Tasha and Friends about a group of kids TV puppets seeking revenge against their diva of a host. The bloodlust from Tasha and Friends set us up nicely for Heather Langenkamp and a fresh Johnny Depp to be hounded by Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger.
After a successful screening, we were ushered out to the hallway, whilst the second film of the night was prepared, to a huge sell-out crowd waiting to get a glimpse of the much anticipated THE BABADOOK. With the film only due out at the end of October in UK cinemas, fans were chomping at the bit to get a look at the critically acclaimed movie. As we filtered back into the auditorium of the Odeon cinema, we settled down to watch a short French zombie flick, Let God Sort Them Out, that displayed a classy approach to the undead genre. With popcorn and drinks fairly nestled away, it was time to meet Mr Babadook…
A terrific turnout for the preview turned up the excitement for the main festival. With a day inbetween before the 4 day festival began, we got our much needed beauty sleep before hitting Gorilla early Thursday morning. Fellow HCF writer Courtney got there for the first screening, THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME, which I was later told was one of the festival favourites. I made it for the screening of Jessica Cameron’s torture porn shocker TRUTH OR DARE that left both men and women’s legs firmly crossed and myself unable to look at wine bottles the same way for the duration of the festival. The fest continued with some feminist shockers that firmly put the women in control and the men at their mercy. Some worked, others felt like they were bashing men for the sake of it, but they both delivered the shot of horror entertainment we were looking for. The evening at The Dancehouse theatre presented vegan horror short The Herd followed by Brian O’Malley’s Scottish horror feature LET US PREY, both starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) in two very different roles. The cast and crew of both films spoke onstage during a Q+A session with the audience, giving their opinion on the films detailing how they were created. SURBURBAN GOTHIC rounded off Grimmfest’s Gala night.
Whilst my journo buddies were busy watching the first screening of the second day, DEVIL’S MILE, a film I’d already had the fortune to review, I arrived a little later to catch the second film of the day, Swedish/Danish effort LFO. A dark yet comedic experience left us with more brain-melting titles in the form of clone movie RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO and Australian giallo homage SORORAL. The Friday fringe fest ended at Odeon Printworks whilst some festival goers prepared for their evening’s entertainment at Grimm’s special event at The Dancehouse: Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin live-scoring a screening of Suspiria, followed by a screening of Dawn of the Dead; The Argento Cut. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the evening’s event but our writer Courtney enthused about the unique experience the day after.
Instead of filling their shopping bags at the Trafford Centre, it seemed like everyone had the better idea of attending Day Three of Grimmfest. A packed out Dancehouse auditorium eagerly consumed a variety of short films from Spanish, American, British and Norwegian filmmakers before settling into Oliver Frampton’s supernatural chiller THE FORGOTTEN. Whilst failing to share my super sour Black Death sweets with Courtney and fellow journo John Townsend after poisoning them with them the day before, we got ready for Kiwi comedy horror HOUSEBOUND whose straight-faced comedy and spooky horror blend went down a treat. Alice Lowe’s short Solitudo played before the mind-bending hit COHERENCE that had the audience captivated and scratching their heads. The festival continued to delight with the pinnacle of the night, vampire mockumentary WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. Playing on the vampire mythos and stereotypes, the film had the crowd roaring with laughter every few seconds. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it, with the film managing to tickle every single person in the room with its punchy script and passionate character performances. Horror STARRY EYES proved to be a dark, twisted tale to sober up the prior giddiness whilst ZOMBEAVERS finished the night with its cheap, trashy, teen horror humour.
Back at Gorilla for the final day of Grimmfest 2014, we sat down to watch mystery horror thriller OPEN GRAVE before moving to The Dancehouse for Nazi zombie horror sequel DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD which proved to outdo its predecessor in both humour and plot. The Horton Brothers’ horror comedy short Get Some effectively blended reality TV with zombie survival and set the audience up nicely for rom-zom-com feature LIFE AFTER BETH, ahead of its UK theatrical release. Experiencing a technical hitch with Der Samurai which saw the film postponed til later in the evening, we all enjoyed a screening of THE WOMAN instead, starring the actress of the festival, Pollyanna McIntosh. Though I’ve seen the movie several times, the first at Grimmfest a couple of years ago, the film still felt fresh and was thoroughly enjoyed by the festival goers. Back on schedule, the audience prepared for the eagerly anticipated WOLFCOP before things took a supernatual turn in Irish flick THE CANAL. A Q+A after the screening with stars Steve Oram and Kelly Byrne brought Grimmfest 2014 to a tremendous close with an optional screening of the postponed Der Samurai for those who wanted to stay and forgo the karaoke after-party.
Constantly bringing the best that the genre has to offer to film loving audiences, Grimmfest improves each and every year, delivering an experience that becomes a main highlight of the year. Their professionalism in handling an unexpected technical glitch was superb and the team, most of whom are volunteers, are always on hand to help out. Whilst many of the festival goers are Northerners, Grimmfest attracts visitors from across the UK with many being festival regulars who attend each and every year without fail. The stellar programming from the Grimmfest team ensure for a film festival that caters to a variety of genre tastes with something for everyone. My particular highlights have to be WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, COHERENCE and LET US PREY.
With Grimmfest 2014 now a beautiful memory, all that’s left is to mark October in our calendar for Grimmfest 2015 and to enjoy the upcoming monthly screenings that the dedicated Grimm team have to offer.