Frightfest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by 24 Foot Square
Written and directed by Chris Collier
2018, 88 minutes, Rated TBA
European Frightfest premiere on 24th August 2018
Since its inception, the British horror film festival FrightFest has become a genre institution. It’s surprising, then, that it’s taken this long for someone to make a documentary about it. Chris Collier’s FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema is a love letter to Frightfest itself, premiering during 2018’s ‘fest in a work of self-reflection so bold that they might as well have just replaced the screen with a giant set of carnival mirrors.
Preventing this from feeling like one great big circle jerk (unlike, say, the fun but almost embarrassingly enthusiastic Wolfman’s Got Nards or any cringe-y The Room type stuff) is the warts-and-all approach Collier takes to his subject matter, and the candor with which his interviewees speak. Festival organisers Alan Jones, Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray take center stage to talk at length about FrightFest’s origins, evolution and the many hiccups along the way – from the change of location to their frequent disagreement about the movies themselves. Rarely has a celebratory documentary been so disarmingly honest about its subject matter. In this sense, it’s reminiscent of the (equally excellent and self-deprecating) 2000AD documentary Future Shock!
In the same breath, this is a celebration – of FrightFest, of its organisers, and of the movies, and the bulk of Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema examines what it is like to attend FrightFest, to exhibit a movie there, and just what the festival means to all involved. Filmmakers, celebrity attendees and a handful of Regular Joes all wax lyrical for Collier, deepening the sense one gets that FrightFest is more than just a long weekend of gory horror flicks and boozing it up with friends. Granted, this probably won’t mean a lot to anyone who’s never attended the ‘fest themselves, but to its fans, this is a fascinating insight into the festival’s history and what goes into putting the festival together on the regular.
And, as with all good genre documentaries, this one will leave viewers imbued with a desperate urge to revisit – just as Future Shock! left me running for the Dredd longboxes again, so Beneath the Dark Heart of the Cinema has me counting down the days until bank holiday August.