The wait is over. The UK's premier horror film festival, Film4 FrightFest, returns tomorrow for a five-day orgy of fear-inducing, nerve-shredding, blood-soaked horror from the four corners of the globe. Frightfest the 13th will be taking over the Empire Leicester Square in London's City Centre from 23-27 August and is showcasing its largest ever programme across three screens. The line-up boasts the very best of 2012's horror output, together with repertory screenings of gorgeously restored classics from the likes of Hammer and Universal. I have flown into town to attend the event (for the very first time), and cannot wait to get stuck in to the terrifying delights ahead.
Before I highlight my most hotly-anticipated films of the festival, here are a few recommendations based on those films I have managed to see already:
Sleep Tight (dir. Jaume Balaguero, Spain)
One of the absolute best films I saw in 2011 is this psychological chiller from one half of the duo that brought us [REC] and its sequel. Luis Tosar is phenomenal as Cesar, the janitor of an upmarket apartment block in Barcelona. While committed to his job, Cesar has a deeply unsettling crush on Clara (Marta Etura), one of the beautiful residents. We soon discover that Cesar hides beneath Clara's bed each evening, awaiting her return before using chloroform to keep her asleep while he acts out his own twisted fantasies. To know anymore about the film would be to spoil the deliciously twisted and shocking surprises Balaguero has in store for his audience. The film is a serious change of pace from the director's previous films and shows a maturity and wonderful talent for suspense and atmosphere that promises great things for the future. Coupled with two exceptional central performances, Sleep Tight deserves to be one of the biggest hits of this year's festival.
V/H/S (dir. Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg and Ti West - USA)
Plenty has already been said about this incredibly ambitious and consistently inventive horror anthology from the cream of the new American Horror Movement. Adam Winguard (A Horrible Way To Die, You're Next) provides the wrap-around story, following a gang of hoodlums hired to break into an apartment and steal a videotape. As they search through a pile of tapes, so we experience the other stories. While V/H/S faces the dual challenges of being not only a horror anthology, but also predominantly a collection of found footage shorts, the filmmakers approach their challenge with imagination and gusto. The results are predictably varied, but the peaks far outweigh the troughs. Highlights include David Bruckner's "Amateur Night", in which a group of obnoxious frat boys attempt to film one of their number losing his virginity, and "10/31/98", an impressive spin on the haunted house scenario from the filmmaking collective Radio Silence. The biggest surprise is that the film's best genuine scare comes from mumblecore maestro Joe Swanberg, during his entry, "The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger."
Dead Sushi (dir. Iguchi Noboru, Japan)
I'm a shameless fan of Iguchi's films ever since first seeing the sublimely ridiculous The Machine Girl back in 2008. Little did I realise at the time that this was far from the most extreme topic Iguchi would tackle and far from his best film. In the subsequent years he has produced such low budget gems as Karate Robo Zaborgar (a big screen reimagining of the famous 70s TV show) and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, a completely ridiculous horror comedy that just keeps on giving. His latest offering sees an assortment of guests at a remote hotel fall foul of a strain of mutated sushi that fights back against those looking to eat it. Rina Takeda, the talented young martial artiste from High Kick Girl, stars as the runaway daughter of a master sushi chef, who channels her culinary discipline into her kung fu. Unsurprisingly, the film features plenty of splatter gore and outrageous make-up effects from Nishimura Yoshihiro, as well as obligatory casual nudity, but wins kudos for the enlightening and educational tone with which it approaches the art of sushi preparation and proper consumption. Dead Sushi guarantees to leave you entertained and more than a little hungry.
And now on to the myriad treats I have yet to experience first hand.
Here are my Top 10 most anticipated films of Film4 FrightFest the 13th:
The Seasoning House (dir. Peter Hyett, UK)
Make-up effects guru Hyett (The Descent) makes his directorial debut with this intense thriller about a deaf-mute brother worker (newcomer Rosie Day) that promises "tense claustrophobia, hard-hitting action and rollercaoster suspense".
Cockneys Vs. Zombies (dir. Matthias Hoene, UK)
Surely the title is reason enough to check out this slice of homegrown talent, but word is there's more to enjoy than simply clever wordplay in this geezer-fuelled caper that pits a couple of likely lad gangsters against an unearthed army of the undead.
Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut (dir. Clive Barker/Russell Charrington, UK/USA)
Confession time - I have never seen Clive Barker's controversial monster mash-up, and if I'm brutally honest I know little more than the fact it stars director David Cronenberg. What better way to experience it for the first time than in this close-to-fully reconstructed version?
Stitches (dir. Conor McMahon, Ireland)
After a twisted children's entertainer accidentally dies while attempting to entertain a particularly obnoxious group of unruly kids, nobody suspects that years later he would return, looking for bloody revenge. Clowns are always scary, right? Stand-up comedian Ross Noble stars.
Eurocrime! (dir. Mike Malloy, USA)
There has been a slew of fascinating documentaries in recent years looking back over different eras of grungy, sleazy cinema from various corners of the globe (think Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood or Jake West's Video Nasties). Now, Mike Malloy gives the same treatment to the Italian poliotteschi thrillers of the 1970s.
Tulpa (dir. Federico Zampaglione, Italy)
The world premiere of this hotly-tipped giallo revival promises to be a hot ticket at this year's festival. Claudia Gerini stars as a driven career woman who spends her nights exploring her sexual inhibitions in an attempt to reach a higher state of consciousness. But then her lovers start turning up dead...with nightmarish consequences!
Berberian Sound Studio (dir. Peter Strickland, UK)
Bride of Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, USA)
Not only one of the greatest horror films of all time, but also a fine example of a sequel that is better than its predecessor, Whale's masterful horror fantasy has been beautifully restored as part of Universal's centenary celebrations and the chance to see it with an audience of horror fanatics on the big screen is surely not to be missed.
American Mary (dir. Jen & Sylvia Soska, Canada)
Chained (dir. Jennifer Chambers Lynch, USA)
There is no sicker premise this year than that of Chained. A serial killer abducts a woman and her young son, only to murder her in front of her child and then raise him, over a number of years, to be his partner in crime. Vincent D'Onofrio stars in a film that is already drawing favourable comparisons to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.