Way back in 2002 or so my better half suggested that we go to a film festival that she’d heard about called FrightFest. While I’m usually reticent about going to music festivals as they’re not really my cup of joe for a plethora of reasons including tents, other people, other people’s hygiene issues and other people, not to mention that vastly disproportionate amount of terrible bands that always seem to play them, film festivals are a completely different monster and I agreed right then and there on the spot that we should indeed go to whatever FrightFest was. I don’t remember why we didn’t end up going, probably some sort of family issue that cropped up, but every couple of years or so after we decided to, and then didn’t, go one of us declares that this year, this will be the one that we’re going to actually make it to FrightFest, only to be stymied by fate at the last possible moment. And after watching Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema, a documentary that charts and tell the story of the “little” festival that could, FrightFest, I’ve wished every single curse and variety of damnation that I can imagine upon fate and the cruel machinations that prevented me attending, because it was and is, everything that I imagined it would be and more.
FrightFest is the brainchild of Alan Jones, Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray, a trio of hugely dissimilar individuals united solely by their rabid love of horror and film. The trio rapidly became a quartet as Greg Day was drafted into the cause, and the Four Musketeers of fringe cinema, slowly but surely, over the last two decades transformed FrightFest into a globally recognised, admired and influential festival . Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema is the funny, acerbic, touching and personal story of the men responsible for creating and guiding the destiny of FrightFest and the fans whose devotion to everything that it represents helped to build it from the ground up. Told via a series of interviews and archive footage and photographs, the snappy narrative thrives due to the intense personalities of the four men, and an ensemble cast of FrightFest devotees, whose absolute faith in what they were doing and were a part of, creating a festival for fans that was run by fans, became the focal point for a global horror obsessed family of friends, directors, actors, fanatics and more.
Chris Collier’s film is a true underdog story of how the single-minded vision(s) of a brace of wildly different people arguably changed the face of horror cinema forever and how a small West End festival became one of the most recognised and respected voices in the world of genre film. It’s also the story of friendships that were forged, and lifelong bonds that were made, in the shadow of the silver screen and the difficulties and real life horror stories behind the success. But more than anything, it’s a celebration of the absolute joy that film and movies can instil in an audience and the small victories and delights that life, in its rare altruistic moments, throws your way. I swear, one day I’ll make it to FrightFest and finally submerge myself in all of the undiluted happiness it inspires. Thoroughly recommended… Tim Cundle
FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema will be released on VOD on March 8th.