In Haunt

Grimmfest 2019 (3-6 October) recently wrapped up its 11th year of screening the latest horror and cult films - including an impressive number of European and UK premieres - at the Great Northern Warehouse’s ODEON cinemas. Heather Oriana Petrocelli gives her account...

Grimmfest

The auditorium was full for each screening and the audience rewarded every film with applause. This carefully curated journey through genre film is the work of Festival Directors  Simeon Halligan and Rachel Richardson-Jones, as well as Chief Film Programmer Steve Balshaw. 2019’s curatorial focus held women at the centre—with nearly half of the screenings featuring F-rated films (those written and/or directed by a woman). Diversity and inclusion do not simply happen; representation is fostered when people in power make space for underrepresented voices—and Grimmfest was definitely strengthened by the diversity of perspectives. 

Harpoon

[Harpoon director Rob Grant answering audience questions]

One of the great aspects of film festivals is the large number of screenings that feature introductions and filmmaker Q&As. This gives the audience the opportunity to expand their understanding of the film and to personally engage with the filmmakers. Standouts include Abigail Blackmore and Johnny Vegas, who were on hand to kick off Grimmfest 2019 and introduce their delightful horror comedy Tales from the Lodge. Abigail was quite informative about getting the film made—and Johnny was simply hilarious. Also, it was inspirational to hear how Staten Cousins Roe and Poppy Roe made the darkly funny and poignant A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life with a micro budget; a reminder of just how much practical limitations can open up creative possibilities.

Another highlight was hearing Justin Dix talk about how he made his vampiric practical effects film Blood Vessel around the availability of a WWII ship in his hometown—showcasing how a film can still be made around easy points of access without compromising one’s overall vision. And a delightful tidbit came from the Soska Sisters (also known as 'The Twisted Twins'), who discussed remaking Rabid as ‘fan’ directors who made the film for an audience of one: David Cronenberg.

Road Trash

[Natasha Pascetta’s Road Trash]

While all of the anticipated festival feature film highlights were crowd pleasers, I was especially impressed with the variety and quality of the short films programmed throughout the long weekend. Short films are a valuable part of festivals for both filmmakers and audiences alike, offering filmmakers important exposure and audiences a chance to see the next generation of horror filmmakers before the general public. Moreover, short films demonstrate how effective storytelling can be in 3, 6, or 15 minutes. I particularly enjoyed Natasha Pascetta’s Road Trash and Thomas Nelstrop’s The Cabinet; I will definitely be keeping an eye out for their next films. 

Grimmfest awards

[The 2019 award recipients will be announced in approximately one week on the Grimmfest website]

No film festival is complete without awards. This year’s festival Awards Jury was helmed by horror icon Barbara Crampton and the winners reap the rewards of receiving a Grimm statuette—arguably the best statuette of the international horror festival circuit. One of the festival’s true highlights was seeing the Horror Channel present Jen and Sylvia Soska with the much-deserved Achievement in Horror Award for “representing and furthering the cause of female filmmakers both in the industry and the genre”. Sylvia Soska got emotional and stated that she nearly quit filmmaking because the industry has beat her up so much, but then explained the Rabid experience has turned this around for her. Hearing this was not only a reminder that there’s still more opportunity for the industry to improve its treatment of women both behind and in front of the camera, but also a relief that we haven’t lost a respected horror director.

After attending nearly all the film screenings, it is easy to understand why MovieMaker Magazine declared Grimmfest one of the ‘30 Bloody Best Genre Fests in the World’. Between seeing great independent horror films, making new friends, meeting favourite filmmakers, and supporting independent horror vendors and artists, I experienced four frightfully fulfilling days at Grimmfest. Manchester has much to be proud of with this gem of a horror film festival and I look forward to returning to the UK in future years to see how this festival continues to develop and grow. Here’s to Grimmfest 2020—and its celebration of horror films from increasingly diverse perspectives.

By Heather Oriana Petrocelli

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