FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema, 2018
Directed by Chris Collier.
Featuring Greg Day, Alan Jones, Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray, Liam Regan, and Kate Shenton.
A personal and in-depth look behind the scenes at FrightFest, the UK’s leading and one of the world’s most premiere horror film festival.
Running a film festival doesn’t seem easy, but seeing this look at the inner workings of FrightFest shows just how overwhelming this process feels. From finding the right films to dealing with an excessive amount of hungry fans, it’s a tough job even if the four men at the center of this piece make it feel natural. FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema isn’t just about running the biggest horror film festival in the world, though that would make for a compelling documentary in itself. No, this story is about the community that this festival built over the years and the importance to the horror genre.
For someone who is familiar with FrightFest but doesn’t know the impressive history, Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema gave me a proper education on the importance of this festival. Films like Donnie Darko and Audition saw early releases here, while Danny Boyle showcased the first twenty minutes of 28 Days Later to test the waters. They showed Hellboy with the cast and director Guillermo Del Toro Moments there, even though the studios wanted a different premiere event. Del Toro also pushed for FrightFest to get the second screening of the iconic Pan’s Labyrinth, again with push back from studios wanting something with more prestige. A moment like that shows the punk rock nature of the festival, but also how passionate the lovers of horror are for an event like this. If you have “The Godfather of Zombie Movies” George Romero giving you a blessing, you’ve made it.
At the core of this FrightFest documentary are four very different men who come together for the love of horror. Alan Jones is the standout in the beautiful group of organizers. With his background as a film critic and how he first fell in love with the genre, Jones feels the most relatable to my own story and feels like a realistic beacon of hope for anyone looking to do more. He’s calm, but you can see him brighten up when talking about past horror films or something bold the festival did. All of his scenes along with his stories are a perfect counterbalance for the loud and lovable Paul McEvoy. The stories people tell of McEvoy going around and networking, connecting with creators and fans alike, making for some great natural comedy. Ian Rattray and Greg Day round out this bunch with their equal passion for the business and the genre of horror. Together, it feels like the four are precisely the type of voices needed to preach the gospel of this passionate community.
There’s a line from an older fan who attends the convention about how the first time he attended FrightFest he expected everyone to be much more aggressive, but was shocked by how welcoming and relaxed he found the event. That’s a typical mindset about horror fans and these type of festivals. Everyone expects it to be this depraved group of people coming together to be rowdy and hurt people, but in reality, the people who attend are grandparents, children, filmmakers, and newcomers alike. You connect with the other people attending, the films you saw, and the festival itself.
FrightFest’s The Sleepy Queue is the perfect example of the connection between the fans and the festival. For those who aren’t familiar, The Sleepy Queue is where the fans line up the day before tickets go on sale to get the very best seats. But it became more than that. Organizers will come down to share a drink of whiskey with you and give magazines to read through the evening. There’s even a lovely story of a group of friends meeting at the first Sleepy Queue and remaining friends to this day. Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema shows that FrightFest is a family, a real bond crafted through a mutual love of all the same insanity.
If you’ve been to a horror film festival or convention, you know the welcoming nature of the world of horror. For anyone unfamiliar, this documentary will introduce you to that and drive home how important it is for everyone involved. The biggest compliment I can give FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema is the fact it made me want to get up and visit my nearest festival for this type of experience.
If you are in the UK, keep an eye out for FrightFest. For anyone around the world, find the nearest horror festival near you and support it!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★