So the festival of fantastic films is 25 years old and with such an illustrious anniversary the organisers have decided to charge the entire weekend ticket for the festival for £25, which is probably the best and cheapest ticket price for any festival especially in this day and age, and is a nice reflection of the price of the first ever festival back in 1990. Alongside this there is the fantastic line up of guests involved especially for the horror crowd with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST director Ruggero Deodato and HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 star Laurence Harvey, who this very writer had the chance to interview on stage, making this a weekend for any genre fan not to miss.
Starting on the FRIDAY I turned up straight after finishing my “normal job”, and had a chance to see Pete Walker’s classic FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, which I’ve seen ages ago and cause its Walker its always worth seeing. After this and due to the late start of the film it was straight over to the main room for the opening ceremony and a chance for some of the weekends guests to be introduced, and also a nice little compilation video made up by Elmer Podlasly, to celebrate the 25th year. It’s also a chance to see Carl Whiteley’s short comedy film called THE EMPIRE, which is a nice spoof on THE OFFICE (the American version, as opposed to the English version, as Carl told me), where Star War’s characters go about their daily routine in an office, and Darth Vader is the jolly David Brent/Michael Scott kind of boss. After a brief trip to the bar, it was back into the main room for an interesting talk from David Hyman, a representative from the BBFC, who was talking about the ways of classifying horror, which turned out to be interesting, in getting a view of how horror films are perceived by the censors, and even how the distributors, especially in the current age, can have such a say over what is shown in the film and effectively edit their own films to get a lower rating.
The only thing I felt that could have been added into the talk was more of a Q&A session, as it only lasted a few minutes at the end of Hyman’s talk, which is a shame as I had a question in mind. Ironically enough in the bar after, Hyman did come over to the table I was sat at with some friends, and this is where we spent most of the rest of the Friday at the festival speaking to Laurence Harvey and the BBFC representative, as well as drinking plenty of Boddingtons. Though at the end of the night after they showed (and as its Halloween why not) the superb GHOSTWATCH they screened EUROCRIME: THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE 70’S (2012), which I’ve already seen twice, once at Frightfest 2012 and in a special screening at the Moston Small Cinema last year and it’s still a superb watch and if you love documentary’s on genre cinema then you need to see this film, it’s essential viewing. After this it was time to call it a night and get a taxi home, and sleep for at least a couple of hours.
I usually get in early on the first full day as one of the screens always puts on the superbly bad Japanese series SPECTREMAN, but as I wake up late I arrive with a coffee in hand and take a look at the film fair, that is on in the big hall area. The first thing I want to check out of the day is a screening of a brand new recently completed horror film NOCTURNAL ACTIVITY directed by Steve Lawson, who previously submitted a short film into the festival 15 years ago. In all honesty I went into it expecting not much and to be honest this was a bit of a strain to watch, and even at 75 minutes it drags quite badly, and this is not hampered by the clunky and wooden dialogue. Though as the director explained he was approached by some American investors to make a sort of trashy horror, with plenty of nudity, which it does have, it’s just that it has no pace or flow, that makes it a disappointment. After this, we had the first UK screening of the ZOMBIE KING, which I will be making a full review soon. Made almost three years ago and still trying to get a release here in the UK, the film actually turned out to be much better than expected. The cast and crew where there and I managed to interview some of them, and hopefully we can find the footage to put up on the website.
Then it was onto a screening of VHS FOREVER, a documentary looking at the explosion of video tape industry in the UK and of course, the ever immortal video nasties, which as its the celebration of another anniversary, that being the 30th year since the video recordings act, is another nice co-incidence with the festivals current anniversary. An interesting documentary that comprises mostly of talking head interviews, it is slightly over long and could do with possibly 20 minutes or 30 minutes being cut down, though it does come up with some interesting insights, especially when its revealed that people who were buying videos through dark side magazine from tape traders, in the early 90’s where getting stung and arrested by the police, which shocked me as I was buying films through dark side magazine at the same time, and I was only 11 at the time! After the documentary, it was a chance to grab some food, of the takeaway kind to soak up the alcohol in my body, and it was onto one of the talks of the day and that was with Ruggero Deodato, who has been at the festival before and Me Me Lai, who has appeared in LAST CANNIBAL WORLD and EATEN ALIVE.
Chaired by Callum Waddell, it was a chance for both guests to look over there distinguished career, and of course CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was brought up naturally. It was a very good talk and was great to see Deodato in person, especially as he is the man behind one of the most notorious horror flicks of all time, and with Eli Roth’s GREEN INFERNO coming up, one of the most well known cannibal horrors of all time. On top of that Deodato can lay claim to fame for being the godfather of the found footage film, with HOLOCAUST. Who would have known that a film like that would still being talked about to this day and still be as strongly influential and controversial. HOLOCAUST was also shown later on in the night. Before that though was a documentary, called YELLOW FEVER directed by one of the festival interviewees, Callum Waddell, again another fascinating genre documentary, this time focusing on the Italian giallo, and it’s about time someone made a documentary about this genre and again another well made documentary, one that I would like to get another repeat viewing of as it was approaching past the witching hour, and with the alcohol intake and the fact that I have been up for so long, tiredness was setting in fast, still it didn’t deter form ending the night with one of the original nasties, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and then slowly but surely home to bed.
Again I woke up late, and missed SPECTREMAN (will have to make up for that next year) much of the first part of Sunday was spent walking around chatting to friends who where there, admiring a massive collection of VHS tapes on sale that were in the film fair hall (that included both pre and post certificate VHS) and also watching the City and Utd derby, as this was the second time in two years where I’ve been to the festival and where the annual 1st of 2 clashes between Manchester’s two footy sides, somehow co-insides with the festival. Though this year It was interrupted for me, as I was scheduled to interview Laurence R Harvey at 2.30pm, the same time as the second half of the derby kicked off, and even though City where still 0-0 with Utd, I of course had to do my interviewing duties, though as festival organiser Gil knew, being a City fan that I would be watching the derby, he did say to me that he deliberately schedule the interview at this time (thanks Gil).
The interview was excellent and is available to view here (CLICK HERE), and for my first interview it went very well, it was good to hear some positive feedback from the festival goers in regards to the interview (that’s enough showing off- editor). Also Harvey himself proved to be a fantastic guest, and even though he was right in saying that there was no point in asking the actor when the Human Centipede 3 was out, we are still waiting for Tom Six to reveal that, but he did promise that there is a 500 person centipede!!! (Watch the interview). This was followed by a screening of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, which is certainly a decisive film, even for horror audiences, as I’ve met fans who love the film and those who hate it, along with a good majority of the critics, yet I feel it’s actually an interesting sequel.
Yes it’s crude vulgar, and Tom Six might be aiming for the shock tactics deliberately, but like any good horror sequel it piles on the gore, and has a slight satirical or darkly comic swipe at the supposed corrupted influence on horror fans, as Laurence’s character of Martin Lomax, is obsessed with the first film and sets about doing his own crude version of a human centipede, but without the surgical know how of the first films mad doctor. After this was another brief break before a screening of an interesting recent documentary on scream queens entitled SCREAM QUEENS, and then one of the final screenings which was Deodato’s sleazy giallo thriller THE WASHING MACHINE (1993). One more final event and that was the traditional closing ceremony, where the remaining guests where thanked for their attendance along with the festival organisers, the venue and obviously the attendees.
So overall a great weekend, filled with films, guests and plenty of Boddingtons. Even after 25 years the festival is still attracting attention, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future for the festival. Yes there are mistakes and cancellations in the festival, sometimes the films don’t run, there’s always delays, and yes the festival does not have the gravitas, of something like Frightfest for instance, or even the pull of films that GrimmFest can conjure up, but then even those festivals can suffer from technical gremlins and other glitches, human or otherwise. But the fact the festival has a great laid back vibe, where you can mingle with the guests at the bar, enjoy numerous talks, find odd and rare DVD’s or even VHS to buy, and catch some films as well, that makes the event an entertaining gathering and shared meeting of like minded individuals, old and new, and a testament to how it has stood up for 25 years!