Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark
Mexico’s hobbit of horror Guillermo del Toro has spent his entire career practising the black arts. After producing shiversome Spanish classics such as The Orphanage , he’s backing Troy Nixey’s debut, a remake of a 1973 TV movie that traumatised an entire generation.
Young Bailee Madison is sent to live with dad Guy Pearce and stepmum Katie Holmes in their creepy mansion. In the basement she discovers all kinds of Pan’s Labyrinth -alike creatures bent on persuading her – and FrightFesters – to completely disregard that title.
A Horrible Way To Die
Sounding rather like torture porn, of which there is plenty elsewhere, but proving a much more enticing proposition, Adam Wingard’s chilly indie is one of FrightFest’s best off-radar offerings.
Starring AJ Bowen (from House Of The Dead and The Signal ) as a serial killer who’s recently escaped from jail and Amy Seimertz as his alcoholic ex-girlfriend who’s trying to build herself a new life, it draws fascinating parallels between different kinds of compulsive, destructive behaviour. Laughs are, admittedly, not high on the agenda.
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil
Not to be confused with Ch-Ch-Ch-Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, this shaft of light among the FrightFest gloom is a spoof slasher turned on its severed head.
The eponymous rednecks (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) are minding their own cotton-picking business when, true to the formula, a bunch of skinny-dipping, pot-smoking, fornicating teenagers turn up and start meeting various implement-related – but accidental – deaths.
The teens are sure these backwards backwoodsmen are up to no good; Tucker and Dale just wish they’d shut their purty mouths.
This engaging Euro oddity – think Cloverfield meets Scooby-Doo – has been doing the rounds in trailer form for months, so you should have some idea what you’re going to get: namely a troupe of nutty Norwegian documentarians combing the Fjordlands for hulking great ogres.
Needless to say, they don’t have to comb too hard. Though the fi-fo-ho-hum hunting may not be to everyone’s tastes, the trolls themselves are so gob-smacking it’s like watching found footage beamed back from planet Fairytale.
The Wicker Tree
Nobody expected this sort-of sequel to The Wicker Man , so it’s with a mixture of awe and suspicion we approach director Robin Hardy and star Christopher Lee’s (now 81 and 89 respectively) similarly themed The Wicker Tree . Apparently that’s just how they like it in Scotland’s pagan outlands.
Although revisiting past glories (after 38 years!) can be a risk, the original created such a rich mythos of sauciness and eccentricity that only a fool, or perhaps Nicolas Cage, would decline a second visit.
Fright Night 3D
A stone-cold crowd-pleaser, Craig Gillespie’s pacey nostalgia-fest recasts one of the '80s' best-loved genre flicks with a great, geek-friendly ensemble – in 3D.
Anton Yelchin ( Terminator Salvation ) is the schoolboy who decides that neighbour Colin (Daredevil) Farrell is a vampire; meanwhile David (Doctor Who) Tennant is the hammy horror star Yelchin begs for help, Toni (The Sixth Sense) Collette plays his mum, and Christopher (McLovin’) Mintz-Plasse is his best mate.
“You read too much Twilight ,” Yelchin warns McLovin’. Anyone who agrees is definitely in the right place.
FrightFest is no stranger to controversy – remember the last-minute withdrawal of the ultra-nasty A Serbian Film in 2010? – but even the hardiest of horror fans will find the sexual politics of The Woman polarising.
The latest from May director Lucky McKee, who takes part in a debate on American horror (after the Larry Fessenden interview at 3.05pm on Friday), it tells of a savage (Polyanna McIntosh) taken in to be civilised by a well-meaning all-American family (including May ’s Angela Bettis). Needless to say, things soon go irretrievably tits-up.
Combining well-judged winks to '80s horror with a creeping dread all of its own, Ti West’s The House Of The Devil , which premiered at FF 2009, was a corker, and exactly what the festival is all about.
His follow-up, which stars Kelly Top Gun McGillis and has been likened to an indie-inflected The Shining , takes place in a creepy hotel about to close its doors after 100 years.
West will also be taking part in the American horror debate with Innkeepers producer Larry Fessenden, so pop by to shoot the breeze/share the love.
That rarest and most highly prized of creatures – a Total Film five-starrer – writer/director Ben Wheatley’s dissonant hitman horror, the follow-up to his well-received gangster debut Down Terrace , would generate heat at any film shindig.
At FrightFest, however, where tales of spiralling violence are welcomed with open – if heavily tattooed – arms, the reactions will be positively nuclear.
We’re not going to spoiler one of the most hyped films of the year, but don your thinking cap and be prepared to be blown away.
Sennenntuntschi: Curse Of The Alps
Still rare, but perhaps less highly prized, is the lesser-spotted Swiss horror film, of which Sennenntuntschi is a fascinating example.
Directed by Michael Steiner, Sennenntuntschi is based on a genuine Alpine legend about lonely, horny shepherds who create a female companion with just a broom, straw, rags and some devilry.
FrightFesters or, indeed, anyone who’s seen Frankenstein / Mannequin / Weird Science , won’t be surprised to learn she soon runs amok, although Steiner and lead actress Roxane Mesquida have several nasty surprises up their sleeves.