London’s weather provided a bright start to FrightFest Sunday. The only dark cloud I felt was checking the programme to discover the newly restored print of ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ was being shown in the tiny Rediscovery Screen at the exact same time as Scott Derrickson’s ‘Sinister’. But if missing ‘Bride’ is the toughest decision I have to make over the next two days, I’m not doing badly.

The afternoon began with the legendarily difficult FrightFest Quiz From Hell, hosted by actor Andy Nyman (who has just been cast as ‘The Tumour’ in ‘Kick Ass 2’). I expected to be decimated – there are people in the FrightFest audience with truly scary amounts of trivia knowledge about movies that I’m beginning to suspect haven’t even been made yet! – but the concluding soundtrack round really separated the Counts from the ghouls and before I come back next year (please!) I’m going to have to do a whole lot of homework.

Still, I gave myself an extra point for recognising the image to ‘The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane’ during the poster round. Just to make me feel better.

And then began the Horror Channel FrightFest International Short Film Showcase, introduced by Horror Channel scream queen Emily Booth.

I was looking forward to this and there were some little gems among the nine entries. In no particular order,  the films I particularly liked were Axelle Carolyn’s enchanting and very Tim Burtonesque ‘The Halloween Kid’ about a lonely 8 year old boy who only finds real happiness on the spookiest night of the year. It’s a great little fairytale, told like a poem and narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi with Julian Glover making a brief appearance as one of the little boy’s exasperated teachers. ‘The Halloween Kid’ is a magical ten minutes I hope more people get the chance to experience.

‘Lot 254’, running only three minutes, was easily the shortest of all the films but – personally – I thought it was the creepiest. ‘Lot 254’ is a vintage cine camera bought in an auction, and when the collector begins to repair it he unlocks something very scary indeed. Director Toby Meakin knows how to make you jump, and wastes no time in doing it. Like ‘The Halloween Kid’, it’s a story that more audiences deserve to see.

And both of those films are from the UK, which bodes very very well for the future of our horror industry.

And then there’s ‘The Captured Bird’ from Canadian director Jovanka Vuckovic. This film, about a little girl who draws chalk figures in the playground and then suddenly finds herself walking through one of the most magnificently gothic locations I’ve ever seen where she ultimately encounters some floating, demonic-looking buglike creatures, is quite beautiful to look at. And when the executive producer is Guillermo del Toro, and the heap of names further down the end credits list include George Romero, John Landis and Lucky McKee, well, I think Jovanka Vuckovic is someone we’ll be hearing from again.

Those were my favourites of the nine short films.

For the remainder, honourable mention goes to a very stylish homage to monster movies – ‘Gargols!’ (‘Snails!’), a Spanish production directed by Geoffrey Cowper about an unlucky-in-love teenager who has to stop the onslaught of a massive King Kong-sized snail before he can win back the heart of his girl. It’s a very funny, very well put together little film, with some impressive computer animation.

And the next film I enjoyed was also Spanish – J Oskura Najera and Adrian Cardona’s ‘Metal Creepers’ , about a glam metal rock band who record a mysterious song that opens the gateway to Hell. It’s funny, with some very cheesy gore effects, and when the demons finally appear, bursting out of the musician’s bodies to take over playing the instruments, the whole idea reminded me a bit of ‘Spinal Taps’ meets ‘Critters’. But I’m a sucker for stories that involve rock music and the supernatural (‘Rock & Rule’ anybody?) so this little movie was exactly what the mortician ordered.

‘My Brother’s Keeper (Or How Not To Survive The Apocalypse)’, directed by Jen Moss, was a British film about a teenage brother and sister taking refuge among the ruins at the end of the world, waiting for the (unseen) zombies to find them. When well-meaning but clueless Jo (Alex Esmail) goes scavenging for food and returns loaded with nothing but crisps and alcohol, Jess (April Pearson) reaches the end of her tether and realises there’s no point in trying to survive anymore. But when she tries to do something about it, that doesn’t go exactly to plan either. ‘ My Brother’s Keeper’ looks great, but was spoilt for me by the punchline ending.

As for the rest: ‘Un Jour Sang’, directed by Steven Pravong, is an interesting experiment – a beautiful woman showers and dresses as she prepares herself for the day… in another apartment, a man goes through a similar routine… if we didn’t already know this movie is French, we’d quickly realise it from the clean, stylish, fashion shoot-type visuals. But, on the soundtrack, an entirely different scene is playing itself out. A man is torturing a woman with various different devices and the woman is screaming. You can probably guess where this is going, and the point where images and soundtrack will meet, and it’s very well done but most of us have seen it before. There are no surprises here. It’s an empty exercise.

‘Alexis’, directed by Alberto Evangelio, is about a nine year old boy whose metaphysical abilities are being monitored by scientists in some kind of underground laboratory but, even when he’s bound to his coffin-shaped table, little Alexis’s supernatural violence can’t be contained. Well made but derivative, and without any kind of shock or tension, and when ‘Alexis’ finally breaks free to turn on his captors, the result is hardly convincing.

‘Tokophobia’ directed by Evrim Ersoy, James Pearcey and Russell Would, was easily the worst and most unnecessary short film of the nine. Unfortunately, it’s British. A young woman discovers she’s pregnant and decides to do something about it. The climax involves a coat hanger. I’m not going to say any more except it’s a nasty pointless little film without any creative merit and very lazily executed.

On the whole, with the exception of the final three movies (particularly the abysmal ‘Tokophobia’) it was a very successful showcase and nicely set us up for the rest of the day.

Watch this space. My reviews of ‘Sleep Tight’, ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ and ‘Sinister’ are coming up very soon…

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white