Arrow Video FrightFest, which had to change its original October live and online event plans to a fully digital version because of COVID restrictions in London, has announced an astounding lineup of 45 — that’s right, 45 — feature films for its October 21–25 lineup, along with an enticing array of short films. From slashers to the supernatural to science fiction and almost every horror subgenre inbetween, Arrow Video FrightFest has something for virtually every fright-fare fanatic.
Gruesome Magazine has taken on the daunting task of choosing seven films from the almost four dozen offerings on tap that we are extra excited about — but let’s face it, we want to see all of these incredible-sounding movies! Our comments follow in italics after the fest’s official description of each film.
The festival’s official press announcement follows our picks.
HELD (World Premiere)
Directors: Chris Lofting & Travis Cluff. With Jill Awbrey, Bart Johnson, Rez Kempton, Zack Gold. USA 2020. 94 mins.
Emma and Henry’s marriage is losing its spark. In an effort to reconnect on their 9-year anniversary, they vacation to a remote luxury rental, complete with automated smart house features and integrated security. After suspecting a nighttime intruder however, they decide to flee, only to become forcibly trapped inside by the all-encompassing technology. Then a Voice tells them their entire movements are being watched, revealing intimate knowledge about their relationship. As events get more brutal and dehumanizing, Emma and Henry must work together to uncover the truth and find a way out before it’s too late.
What’s worse than a married couple with troubles trapped in their own home? Being trapped in someone else’s and subjected to all kinds of horrible stuff, it sounds like! The Gallows and The Gallows Act II codirectors Lofting and Cluft helm star Awbrey’s debut feature script.
SACRIFICE (World Premiere)
Directors: Andy Collier & Toor Mian. With: Barbara Crampton, Sophie Stevens, Ludovic Hughes, Lukas Loughran. USA 2020. 87 mins.
Barbara Crampton, the hardest working horror actor and The First Lady of FrightFest, returns to her UK homebase with a cosmic chiller from directors Andy Collier and Toor MIan, the team behind CHARISMATA. After the death of his mother, New York-based Isaac and his pregnant wife Emma return to the Norwegian village on a remote island of his birth to deal with an unexpected inheritance. There they find themselves caught in a waking nightmare as an ancient frightening evil is awakened to claim the colour of madness in a birthright of its own.
You had us at Barbara Crampton, but then you threw in the cosmic evil angle and a Norwegian setting to really seal the deal! We’re looking forward to this one being a mind-blower.
STRANGER (UK Premiere)
Director: Dmitriy Tomapolskiy. With: Anastasiya Yevtushenko, Darya Tregubova, Maria Bruni. Ukraine 2019 85 mins
Inspector Gluhovsky, whose track record in solving cases is unrivalled, is assigned the case of the mysterious disappearance of a team of six synchronized swimmers during their performance at a water therapy clinic. How could they suddenly vanish into thin air? Five years later, she dives into an apparently similar case: the unexplained evaporation of a woman from a bath in a locked room built alongside a sewage purifying treatment facility. How are these cases connected and how does a doll with real hair relate to it? As Gluhovsky investigates, she also has to find out who she really is.
Sounds like a Fortean mystery, which is enough to hook us.
THE BANISHING (UK Premiere)
Director: Chris Smith. With: Jessica Brown Findlay, John Lynch, Sean Harris, John Heffernan. UK 2020. 97 mins.
Hosting the premieres of CREEP, SEVERANCE, BLACK DEATH, TRIANGLE and DETOUR, FrightFest has a long history with director Chris Smith. So we are delighted to showcase his latest pre World War II horror about the most haunted house in England. Reverend Linus, his scandal-ridden new wife Marianne and her daughter move into a manor with a terrifying secret. When a vengeful spirit haunts the little girl and threatens to tear the family apart, they are forced to confront their beliefs and turn to black magic by seeking the help of famous occultist Harry Price or risk losing their daughter.
As big fans of good ghost stories and supernatural tales, this one has our attention, especially coming from Smith, who has a proven track record with terrific mind-boggling fright films.
THE WORLD WE KNEW (World Premiere)
Directors: Matthew Benjamin Jones & Luke Skinner. With: Struan Rodger, Johann Myers, Finbar Lynch, Kirk Lake. UK 2020. 78 mins
Gangsters versus Ghosts in a neo Film Noir with a dark existentialist twist, a mile-wide streak of hypnotic originality and an exclusive soundtrack by the cult French band The Limiñanas. After a job goes bad, six armed robbers must spend a single night at a deserted safe house. But during the stay their pasts come back to haunt them and the men find themselves fighting for their lives and their sanity. What is real and what is the product of their tormented minds? And is it guilt or ghosts that will finally push them over the edge?
Speaking of ghost tales, we can’t get enough of them. Add to that a neo-noir ambience and you are serving up a one-two punch that has us salivating.
DON’T LOOK BACK (European Premiere)
Director: Jeffrey Reddick. With: Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jeffrey Holm. USA 2020. 90 mins.
From Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the FINAL DESTINATION franchise, a thrilling new take on supernatural karma and its horrific consequences. Caitlin Kramer is a young woman trying to overcome her traumatic past. Walking through the park one day she sees a man brutally assaulted. But, instead of becoming a Good Samaritan, like her, no one intervenes to stop the attack. Instead they all start filming the shocking event with their smart phones, recording every bloody detail. Soon the uncaring witnesses find themselves targeted by someone – or something – out for revenge. Can Caitlin avoid her inevitable fate?
This sounds like an intriguing variation on the Final Destination franchise set-ups. Reddick knows how to write good horror films, so it will be fun to see what he has in store as he steps behind the camera to helm a feature film for the first time.
BABYSITTER MUST DIE (World Premiere)
Director: Kohl Glass. With: Kristen Marie Jensen, Nathan Stevens, Scarlett Hazen, Riley Scott. USA 2020. 90 mins
When a Mustard Scout faces a life or death test will she have what it takes to survive? Babysitter Josie Jane just found the perfect hiding spot for a game of hide-and-seek with the child in her care. Seconds later, the family’s home is invaded by a pack of brutal cultists, hunting down an apocalyptic secret hidden within its walls. They terrorize the family. But they don’t know about Josie. Armed with useful skills she learned in childhood, Josie fights the cult – and her own fears – through a long night of terror and a world of shattering twists.
Poor babysitters. If it isn’t a slasher after them, it’s a cult. Many final girl babysitters are lucky to make it out of their horrid situation alive, but this one sounds like she can handle herself well. We can’t wait to see how!
Arrow Video FrightFest will go virtual for the second time in 2020, having taken the decision to cancel its planned physical event at the Cineworld, Leicester Square, due to continuing COVID restrictions. The forty-five feature film line-up will merge the in-cinema selection with brand new titles to provide an online festival experience from Oct 21-Oct 25.
As with the August Digital event, the programme will be split between The Arrow and Horror Channel Screens, with the addition of a third, the Zavvi Discovery Screen. Pass holders will be able to choose what to watch across all three screens with the additional bonus of the Wednesday night features. All films, including the two Short Film Showcases, will be streamed as live, and only once. All films are geo-locked and can only be viewed in the UK.
Passes and tickets are currently on sale. For detailed information on the line-up, ticketing details & event guidelines: https://frightfest.co.uk
The monstrous menu kicks off on Wednesday night with the World Premiere of HELD, described as “Parasite and Get Out meets The Stepford Wives”, from The Gallows franchise directors Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff. It’s followed by the UK Premiere of Courtney Paige’s THE SINNERS, a gripping occult take on the Seven Deadly Sins,
On Thursday be prepared for vengeful spirits, evil awakenings, ghost cops and disappearing synchronised swimmers as four UK Premieres are presented, including Chris Smith’s pre-World War II horror THE BANISHING, Hayden J. Weal’s hilariously ghoulish murder mystery DEAD, the terrifying cosmic chiller SACRIFICE, starring Barbara Crampton, the trippy and the Lynchian fantasy thriller STRANGER. There is also a European Premiere for THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, a pitch-perfect recreation of the 1962 cult classic and a World Premiere for DANGEROUS TO KNOW, David Simpson’s mesmerising three-hour journey into a dark psychological labyrinth of murder, madness and revenge.
Crazy cultists, wicked witch hunters and brutal home invaders are on show in Friday’s action-packed line-up, headed by the UK premieres of Neil Marshall’s plague-driven tour-de-force THE RECKONING and Julius Berg’s THE OWNERS, in which the seventh ‘Doctor Who’ Sylvester McCoy and Swinging Sixties icon Rita Tushingham take on Maisie Williams and her invading gang. Also taking on some nasty home invaders is feisty babysitter in the World Premiere of Kohl Glass’ nerve-shattering BABYSITTER MUST DIE.
Then there are UK premieres for Andrew Thomas Hurt’s crazy action body horror SPARE PARTS, Aaron B Koontz’s bloodthirsty hybrid Western horror THE PALE DOOR, Takeshi Kushida’s captivating and visually mesmerizing WOMAN OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS, Lodewijk Crijins’ TAILGATE, a Dutch Duel with a ferocious bite, Adrian Langley’s brutally served dish BUTCHERS, Jens Dahl’s sinister biohacking thriller BREEDER and the Argentina powerhouse writer/director Laura Casabé is back with THE RETURNED, her most shocking film to date. There is also a European Premiere for Jeffrey Reddick’s DON’T LOOK BACK, a new take on supernatural karma and its horrific consequences, and a World Premiere for Will Jewell’s CONCRETE PLANS, in which class war tips five builders into bloody warfare.
Saturday’s programme brings fourteen more deadly choices, highlighted by the banner FrightFest Presents title RELIC, first time writer/director Natalie Erika’s unforgettable new spin on the haunted-house movie – a theme that, laced with isolation and murderous desperation, runs through LET’S SCARE JULIE, which is cleverly filmed in one uninterrupted continuous take. Home invasion is taken to new gory heights in Canadian entry FOR THE SAKE OF VICIOUS, and family secrets trigger explosively violent consequences in BROIL, from the producer of It Follows, and BLOOD HARVEST – Thomas Robert Lee’s dark, coming-of-age shocker (US Title: The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw),
Home-grown talent rises to the fore. Marc Price is back with the World Premiere of his space survival thriller DUNE DRIFTER and a home-grown survival thriller with a more pernicious intent is Adam Leader and Richard Oakes’ possession pandemic debut feature HOSTS, which also enjoys a World Premiere. Two more Brit entries with powerful punchlines are HECKLE, which stars Steve Guttenberg, Toyah Wilcox, Nicholas Vince and Dani Dyer, and THE WORLD WE KNEW, where gangsters battle demons in a Neo Film Noir with a dark, existentialist twist. Then we have Patricio Valladares’ EMBRYO, a deliriously twisted tale of alien insemination, cannibalism and true love, and the World Premiere of Tyler Russell’s CYST, where a giant cyst monster goes on the rampage.
Plus we have three Horror Channel sponsored ‘First Blood’ entries: the World Premieres of Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey’s wonderfully infectious ALIEN ON STAGE, David Ryan’s blood-soaked REDWOOD MASSACRE: ANNIHILATION, starring Danielle Harris. And the UK Premiere of Karl Holt’s BENNY LOVES YOU, where Chucky meets Fatal Attraction. Horror Channel’s Manager, Stewart Bridle, will declare the winner of the inaugural FrightFest First Blood: Horror Channel Best Film Award 2020, via a filmed presentation. Also in the frame for the award are THEY’RE OUTSIDE and PLAYHOUSE, which played at the August Digital event.
On Sunday, FrightFest’s global celebration of the genre comes to an action-packed conclusion with entries from three continents. From South America there are three gems: Luciana Garraza’s SCAVENGER, a slice of cruel Argentinian sci-fi action horror, FUNERAL HOME, a harsh and heart-breaking Argentinian haunted house horror and ORIGIN UNKNOWN, an innovative dark action fantasy from Mexico’s Rigoberto Castañeda.
From the USA and closing the festival, is the World Premiere of SKYLIN3S, the thrilling third entry in the epic sci-fi Skyline franchise. Once again written and directed by co-creator Liam O’Donnell, we see Captain Rose Corley on a nerve-shedding 72-hour mission to save humanity.
Continuing Stateside, we have UK Premieres for HONEYDEW, where a young couple seek refuge in a house belonging to an unforgettable new geriatric horror villain, and murder has a new cutting edge in Jill Gevargizian’s stunning debut feature THE STYLIST, starring Brea Grant and Najarra Townsend, Another American female director continuing to make her mark is Imitation Girl helmer Natasha Kermani, back with LUCKY, a clever slasher satire; a disturbing potent metaphor for our troubling times. The ever prolific Brea Grant not only stars but also wrote the script.
Canada has come up with the on-trend couture horror comedy of the year, so get ready for the UK Premiere of Elza Kephart’s SLAXX, the tightest fitting bloodbath in history as a pair of vengeful jeans goes on the rampage. Another Canadian selection is THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS, where an FBI agent is tasked to track down a psychotic couple posing as Santa and Mrs. Claus. There is also a great British debut from director Damian McCarthy with CAVEAT, a terrifying journey through madness and memory loss.
The Short Film Showcases are back as part of the programme, and the UK is represented by twelve chilling choices, including the world premieres of Dan Auty’s detection thriller WATCH, William Allum’s lock-down horror NIGHT FEED, Crystal Yu’s waking nightmare ARE YOU SLEEPING, James Charalambides’ journey into musical madness with MELOMANIAC and Daniel Rands’ PEEKING, where sounds take on an ominous meaning. There are also entries from USA, Cuba, South Korea, The Netherlands, Canada and Spain.
Programmer Shelagh Rowan said today: “We were thrilled with the reception of the shorts showcases in August, and we’re delighted to bring you even more amazing shorts for October. With films from home and abroad, there’s horror, sci-fi, animation, comedies and dramas with monsters and ghouls, all to frighten and amaze you.”
Four extra shorts have been added to the programme: Italian director Federico Zampaglione’s BIANCA: PHASE 1 and BIANCA: PHASE 2 – a double-bill of creepy family stories set in Rome under lockdown, which Zampaglione shot single-handedly on his iPhone, LITTLE WILLY, Andrew Bowser’s dark comedy about a failed actor’s distorted relationship with the puppet he found fame with and WHY WAKE A SLEEPING CHINCHILLA?, a supernatural horror oozing classic 70s vibes, with a pinch of J-horror.
Of course, FrightFest wouldn’t be the same without some sneak previews and tantalising trailers. Plus they’ll be plenty of guests popping up to introduce their films and the FrightFest directors will be there to preside over proceedings.
FrightFest co-director Alan Jones said: “The latest safety regulations and social distancing measures brought in to contain the spread of Covid-19 meant we had no other choice but to cancel our much-anticipated physical edition of FrightFest in October. So the only option open to Team FrightFest, despite all the hard work everyone has put in over the past months, was to take the new normal by its devil horns and reconfigure FrightFest 2020 once more to give everyone an important horror fantasy lifeline. Our virtual event in August was so well received that we knew we had to do it again – with even more picks of want-to-see new releases, hot previews, unusual options and first-rate titles. Enjoy”.
For detailed information on the line-up, ticketing details & event guidelines:
We’d like to thank our main sponsors: Arrow Video, Horror Channel, Zavvi & Den of Geek.