Excl: British Horror Film Festival Event Report


This past Saturday (October 30th) I made my way down to Bournemouth, England to the Pier Theatre for the first ever British Horror Film Festival which is  part of many festivals provided by the independently run Film Festival Guild.

With the theatre situated on the end of the pier and the waves battering beneath us and with the sky turning black, the setting was perfect for what was an awesome night of horror. Also upon arrival we was greeted with a glass of blood, well red wine. I had to have Ribena unfortunately, but I drunk it like a man!

With A Serbian Film being pulled I was disappointed not being able to pick the brains of the director Srdan Spasojevic who brought us one of the most controversial films of our time. But nevertheless the festival had a replacement being Christopher Smith's Black Death which star's Sean Bean and this was the film to kick start our afternoon/night of horror.

Unfortunately no-one from the film could make it down to the festival but the film was still screened for us all to enjoy. Now being a fan of Christopher Smith's earlier work such as Creep, Severance and Triangle I was looking forward to see what he would bring us this time.

This is a totally different setting than anything Smith has given us before as he takes us into the dark ages during the 14th century when the bubonic plague first breaks out. the film deals heavily in religion and instantly shouts out 'The Wicker Man' with scenes of paganism and characters spiralling into delusions. The film plays more to the genre of a mystery/chiller than a horror/thriller but there are some gory scenes to be had but it didn't feel like a Christopher Smith film to me, but that being said the film wasn't bad I was just left feeling I wanted more.

After a short interlude, began the screenings of short and student horror films including:

Mutantland and Poltergeist
Short Lease and Smiley
The Snatching
Waste Disposal
By a Hair
The Travelling Artist
The Necronomicon
Nursery Crimes

If you get a chance you should check out these if they become available online, unfortunately I can't find any online yet but if/when they do I'll be sure to give you guys the heads up as some of these where epic.

Such as Mutant Land which is a full CG short set in a post apocalyptic future with grasshoppers as big as you or me, I just thought it was well done and had some awesome action scenes.

Also The Snatching which is a short from some homegrown talent at Bournemouth University which is about three children that were snatched from their tents on a family camping trip in Wood Creek, but their bodies were never found. Six year's later that snatching happens again. I though it was well produced the effects could use some work but it was well put together, definitely worth a look.

There is also Poltergeist which almost plays out like a surreal music videos with some vivid and wacky images of what I can only guess was demons that was stalking a young girl, but it was really cool.

Young talent is exploding at the seems and hopefully an investor or producer will pick up some these and help further there passion, good stuff!

Then we had John V Soto's Needle play for us, which is one of the most unique horror films I've seen in recent years. Although it takes elements from films like Final Destination, Saw or even Hellraiser, it creates something original with it's main killer being an 18th century machine.

This was awesome the film looks so good, it was made for about $3million but it looks like it was made for so much more and the film plays out like a murder/mystery and has you guessing who the killer is right until the very end. Also the special f/x team did an awesome job with the gore scenes and explains why the film won Best Special F/X at the U.S. Screamfest.

Anyway after the film I had the chance to catch up with the director John V Soto and asked him what was the inspiration behind the box?

John V Soto "If you have ever watched anything like Agatha Christie or C.S.I. There is that human element, but with a machine you cannot track the killer, there is no human forensics."

"There was many variations of the machine, it actually began as a monster... No-one really uses voodoo, so we incorporated that into the machine"

He also went on to talk about the difficulties of getting distribution these days.

John V Soto "Distributors are always looking for that big name, they often ask, do you have Brad Pitt? is John Travolta in this? Well f**k no! So it can be hard finding distribution"

John V Soto went on to talk about his favorite films.

"Well I don't like romantic films, but my favorite films are, Blade Runner, The Thing, Halloween, Alien... Just sci-fi, horror/thriller"

John is a really laid back guy and I can't wait to see what future projects he has install for us, as Needle was brilliant.

After a short break we had Nick Cohen's Voodoo Lagoon screen for us all which follows a group of teens who book a dream holiday to a tropical island, unknowing to them that the have all been lured there by the island's evil owner trying to fulfill some ancient voodoo prophecy. The teens soon start seeing and hearing things and slowly turn on each other. The film uses there fears against them, but at times it seemed like a good idea but just seemed a bit poorly executed and I often found myself confused as to what was happening.

Unfortunately the director Nick Cohen couldn't make it but the producer David Cohen was on hand to talk about the film.

"The film was made for about $500,000 in Australia, and to get actors on a low budget film such as John Noble, you need to enthuse them them to come aboard. They are actors, they like making films." 

"Some of the scenes was actually shot in my bathroom... And then on to Zanzibar"

"The Script could have been a bit better."

David Cohen went on to talk about the importance of a script.

"You need to get the script right, Hitchcock was the master... Getting the script right, that's 60% of the way there already."

If you are trying to break into the film making business, David Cohen would be the guy to talk to, very insightful and a fountain of knowledge.

The last film of the evening was Mark McQueen's Devil's Playground starring Danny Dyer. Devil's Playground I thought was really well done, I usually give Danny Dyer a hard time but I have to give credit where it is due, he did an awesome job. 

I like the fact that Mark McQueen took inspiration from 28 Days Later and used the crazy running zombies, as they are insane. I personally prefer the George A. Romero ones but you can't deny the running runs are just mental! Anyway the film has a similar story to Resident Evil where they try out an experimental drug but it turns the patients into the crazy zombies. One of the patients seems to be unaffected by the drug and the search begins to find her as she could be the cure.

But they take that utilize it there way, I mean there isn't much left that can be done with the zombie genre and I don't mind seeing the same things again, just as long as they are as good of if not better than the original conception.

Everyone involved did an awesome job and there are some brutal scenes to be had, which is always good and everyone in attendance loved it at the screening, I was hearing good things from people who viewed it, so they did an awesome job.

After the screening the director Mark McQueen and writer Bart Ruspoli spoke about the film.

Bart Ruspoli "I'm a fan of the Dawn of the Dead remake, so we used free runners as our zombies. It is influenced by 28 Days Later but at the same time we tried to stay away from that. They introduced us to the running zombie so it's hard not to use that."

Mark McQueen "We filmed this in the city (London) at the weekend, when no-one was around. We shot it on the Sony M-35 in just over 25 days... Really tight schedule, if it rained we would just have to shoot.... Luckily it didn't."

They then went on to talk about the possibility of a sequel.

Bart Ruspoli "The sequel depends how this one does. If you want a sequel buy the DVD!"

"The sequel would involve a separate group of people during the same time period who meet up with the survivors of the first."

Mark McQueen "The sequel should be based around Sean Pertwee and his moustache... People seem to like that.."

Mark McQueen received a text message from Danny Dyer regarding the upcoming awards, as he was unable to be here at the festival due to other commitments. Mark McQueen read out the text message in his best cockney impression of Danny Dyer.

"Fingers cross son if I nick it, I'm a massive fan of horror, if I wasn't stuck in f**king Blackpool!"

It was a good impression I thought, anyway after that it was time for the awards ceremony and the winners were:

Best Short Film:

Mutant Land

Best Student Film:


Best Producer:

Bart Ruspoli (Devil's Playground)

Best Actor:

Danny Dyer (Devil's Playground)

Best Actress:

Marysia Kay (Short Lease)

Best Cinematography:


Best Special F/X:


Best Supporting Actor:

John Noble (Voodoo Lagoon)

Best Supporting Actress:

Jessica Marais (Needle)

British Horror Award:

Short Lease

Best Director:

Mark McQueen (Devil's Playground)

Best Unproduced Screening:


Best Feature Film:

Devil's Playground

So that was it, the end of an awesome festival, a great night of horror cinema and championing undiscovered and up and coming talent, a awesome night.

I need to say a big thank you to the festival director Stuart Brennan, festival manager Jacqueline Cockerill and everyone that helped put the festival together and get it run so smoothly. Let's hope this continues for many years to come and see the British Horror Film Festival grow.

For more information and if you would like to volunteer for future events head on over to there official website 

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