Arrow Video FrightFest in London came to an end for another year yesterday and we managed to pack in an incredible 68 films out of the 78 on offer.
Showcasing the breadth of the horror genre, the festival showcased everything from serial killers and creature features through to aliens and satanic cults. There really was something for every horror fan across the five packed days.
After careful consideration, we’ve selected our Top 30 films from the festival so keep reading to find out what made the cut…
30. Here Comes Hell
Jack McHenry’s wonderfully playful black-and-white film Here Comes Hell was a hit at Arrow Video FrightFest in Glasgow and it enjoyed an encore over the weekend in London. Set in the 1930s, the film finds a group of friends’ dinner party interrupted when supernatural goings-on and possession takes over. It’s a riot from start to finish with a scene-stealing turn from Timothy Renouf.
29. The Black String
Frankie Muniz takes on the lead role of Jonathan in director Brian Hanson’s film The Black String, which was co-written with Richard Handley (who stars in the film and is the lead producer). Jonathan is lonely and calls a late-night sex line, which results in a sexual encounter. The following day Jonathan starts to feel unwell and his life is thrown into turmoil as his sanity is questioned by those around him. Unsettling and creepy, The Black String really showcases what Muniz can do and draws on mental health and addiction themes.
Written by brothers Tony Dean Smith and Ryan W. Smith, and directed by the former, Volition is a mind-bending and genre-bending film about a clairvoyant who foresees, and tries to avoid, his own death. Big on ideas and visually impressive, the film features a stunning turn from Adrian Glynn McMorran as lead character James and it will definitely surprise you.
27. The Perished
Paddy Murphy’s latest film The Perished tells the tale of a young woman recovering from the trauma of an abortion after being shunned by her religious family. Inspired by Hellraiser, The Perished is a seriously chilling watch that packs in ambitious ideas and special effects. It’s nightmarish and could well leave you having some bad dreams after you’ve seen it!
26. Criminal Audition
First-time director Samuel Gridley co-wrote this British gem with Luke Kaile, who originated the idea as a stage play and also stars in the film. An original premise focusing on three people auditioning to take the fall for a crime they didn’t commit in return for money, Criminal Audition is an enjoyable ride that showcases Gridley and Kaile as film-makers with plenty of potential.
25. True Fiction
No film this year had more twists and turns than Braden Croft’s True Fiction. With shades of Stephen King’s Misery, this tale of an aspiring writer offering to help her favourite author with research for his next book will leave you finding it hard to separate reality from fiction. It’s a slow-burning and thought-provoking watch with standout performances from John Cassini and Sara Garcia.
24. Ghost Killers Vs. Bloody Mary
Fabrício Bittar’s film was very divisive over the course of the festival. It’s un-PC humour didn’t go down well with everyone but I enjoyed it. A team of YouTube ghost hunters tackle Bloody Mary in a local school and everything goes horribly wrong when they, along with the teaching staff, get locked inside. The film is OTT but that’s kind of the point. If you choose to embrace the absurdity, you’ll have a lot of fun.
Three wannabe film-makers travel to the mysterious town of Dachra for a film project and find much more than they bargained for. Encouraged to stay by the locals, which includes a very overly friendly man and a group of silent women, the trio are pulled into a dark world they might never get out of. The climax to Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s film is intense and it gives you a very satisfying payoff.
22. Critters Attack!
Bobby Miller is at the helm for the latest Critters film, Critters Attack!, which celebrates the beloved franchise and serves fans exactly what they want. It’s campy, silly and fun – exactly what you’d expect from the franchise! Keep an eye out for Dee Wallace who plays bounty hunter Aunt Dee.
21. Tales From the Lodge
A who’s who of British comedy/film star in Tales From the Lodge, a very funny film from Abigail Blackmore. Five friends get together to remember their late friend and share scary stories, unaware that there’s a real horror story unfolding around them. It’s clever, very funny and packs in a decent amount of scares too.
Genre favourite Alexandre Aja shreds your nerves with the tense creature feature Crawl starring Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper. Pitting a daughter and father against alligators in the crawl space of a house during a hurricane, Crawl is incredibly effective and very silly, which makes it a must-see!
Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s Freaks was such a hit at Arrow FrightFest Glasgow that the film was invited to be part of the London festival. A sci-fi drama that puts a new take on the superhero genre, Freaks features a brilliant performance from Emile Hirsch and a star-making one from Lexy Kolker.
18. Why Don’t You Just Die!
Ever felt nervous about meeting your other half’s dad? Well Why Don’t You Just Die! will make you breathe a sigh of relief that your experience was never this bad. The Russian film is full of stylised action/fight sequences, plenty of humour and slowly unfolding plot. Visually one of the best films at the festival, it’s an absolute hoot!
17. Come to Daddy
Ant Timpson’s directorial debut stars Elijah Wood and is a slow-burning and quirky story of a man who visits his estranged father. Once in his house, tensions escalate and a tragic event turns things on its head. Darkly humorous and with a strong performance from Wood, Come to Daddy is an unusual and surprising film.
16. Rabid (2019)
It takes a brave person to remake Cronenberg and The Soska Sisters have risen to the challenge. Taking on the classic 1977 Rabid, the sisters have kept the essence of the original film but put a whole new spin on it. They get a career-best performance from Laura Vandervoort (Smallville) who plays Rose, a woman with a thirst for blood following surgery to repair her face after an accident. It’s bold, nightmarish and feels brilliantly fresh.
15. Red Letter Day
Cameron Macgowan’s brilliantly clever film tells the story of Melanie Edwards (Dawn Van de Schoot) and her family, who receive letters instructing them to kill their neighbours. Initially dismissing it as a prank, they soon realise they have to kill or be killed! A nice twist on The Purge-style storyline, Red Letter Day is a fun watch with a strong performance from Dawn Van de Schoot.
14. Mutant Blast
Nothing was as fun as Fernando Alle’s Mutant Blast. Frequently hilarious, the film pairs up hapless Pedro (Pedro Barão Dias) with solider Maria (Maria Leite) as a zombie apocalypse breaks out. It’s bonkers, visually brilliant and zips along at such a fast-pace, you never get bored. You’ll also be shouting WTF? at the screen frequently.
Taking place almost entirely in a car, Driven is an inventive and creative film written by and starring Casey Dillard as cab driver Emerson. One night she picks up the mysterious Roger (Richard Speight Jr.) and is taken on an unexpected trip to help him battle evil. Driven is so funny and one of the most original films that showed this year.
12. Death of a Vlogger
Graham Hughes wowed FrightFest with his latest feature, a mockumentary/found-footage style horror that packs a stronger punch than you’ll expect. It’s a clever commentary on the power of social media and society’s addiction to it. Hughes shows huge potential with this film and it definitely delivers some brilliant scares.
Malik (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and Aaron (Ari Cohen) move to a small town with their daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte) for a fresh start. Once they get their, Malik starts to suspect their neighbours aren’t as lovely as they appear to be as his life starts to fall apart and he seemingly descends into madness. Kurtis David Harder’s new film is stylish, unnerving and incredibly timely.
10. Impossible Crimes
Hernán Findling’s Impossible Crimes stars Federico Bal in a star-making turn as Detective Brandoni, a man who loses his family and sister, and channels his energy into solving seemingly impossible crimes. His work leads him to a young nun (Sofía Del Tuffo) who believes she’s committing the murders. With twists and turns aplenty, Impossible Crimes will have you trying to work out what’s going on and will leave you with your jaw on the floor.
9. Cut Off
Medical examiner Paul Herzfeld (Moritz Bleibtreu) is forced to partake in a cat-and-mouse game when his daughter is abducted. Following clues and aided by a girl he’s never met, Paul is locked in a race against time to save his daughter and stop a sick and twisted killer from hurting any more people. Christian Alvart’s film is intense, gripping and full of twists, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen.
8. Happy Face
Alexandre Franchi’s Happy Face is a genuinely moving and affecting drama about a troubled young boy Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) who deforms his face and attends a support group for people with facial disfiguration. Trying to prepare himself for his mother’s potentially changing appearance as she battles illness, Stan is found out as a fraud but convinces the group to let him stay and help them gain their confidence.
7. Eat Brains Love
The latest film from Rodman Flender, the mastermind behind the classic Idle Hands, Eat Brains Love is rom-zom-com (is that a thing?) about two teenagers who discover they’ve contracted a zombie virus. On the run from the law and a containment unit, the teens adapt to their life as flesh eating zombies. Jake Cannavale is one of the leads and he completely steals the show.
6. The Barge People
You’ll never want to go on a barge again after seeing Charlie Steeds’ superior horror The Barge People. Four unsuspecting friends take a break on a barge, only to discover that there’s a group of mutant fish people out to kill them. A proper slasher with some horrifically scary villains, The Barge People is an adrenaline rush from start to finish.
5. Halloween Party
Jay Dahl’s brilliant horror will make you terrified of receiving an Internet meme in your inbox. The film centres on Grace (Amy Groening), a college student who accidentally unleashes a supernatural entity. Together with computer nerd Spencer (T. Thomason), Grace tries to stop the entity before it kills everyone around her. Halloween Party is a loving ode to good old-fashioned horrors and it’s enormous fun to watch.
4. The Deeper You Dig
The most thought-provoking and intelligent film at this year’s festival, The Deeper You Dig is a stunning exploration of grief. When teenager Echo (Zelda Adams) goes missing, her mother Ivy (Toby Poser) starts searching for answers and recluse neighbour Kurt (John Adams) may just hold all the answers. A family affair (it was written and directed by the three lead stars), The Deeper You Dig is an astonishing piece of film that you should seek out immediately.
3. Ready Or Not
Samara Weaving continues her rise to Scream Queen in the excellent and very funny Ready Or Not. Weaving plays Grace, a young woman marrying into a wealthy family who is forced to play a game of Hide and Seek on her wedding night. The only thing is, she has no idea that Hide and Seek involves her new family trying to kill her to avoid an evil curse.
2. The Wretched
The Pierce Brothers – Brett and Drew – delivered the scariest film at this year’s festival with The Wretched. A visually-stunning and always creepy horror twist on Rear Window about a teenager who is determined to get to the bottom of his neighbours’ strange behaviour, The Wretched is tense, with a strong central performance from John-Paul Howard and it’ll stick with you long after the credits have rolled.
1. The Dark Red
The most gripping film shown at this year’s festival features a breakout performance by April Billingsley who plays central character Sybil, a woman in a mental institution who believes her baby was stolen by a satanic cult. Filled with twists and turns, The Dark Red is a magnificent piece of genre cinema directed by Dan Bush that deserves to be seen far and wide.
For more information about FrightFest and to see upcoming events, please visit http://www.frightfest.co.uk.