One of the UK’s leading cult and genre film festivals, Grimmfest, now in its 11th year, should be firmly on the radar of local horror fans. For the uninitiated: expect a long October weekend of features, shorts, premieres and special guests all held within Manchester’s Odeon Great Northern. This year’s lineup is as stacked as ever, with 21 features and 19 short films competing for a coveted set of prizes.
Audiences can look forward to titles such as Blood Vessel, a crowd-pleasing wartime men-on-a-mission maritime picture that promises “an evil greater than the Nazis.” Mariano Cohn’s intriguing 4×4 takes us to Buenos Aires where a man breaks into a shiny new car only to find that he can’t get out and somebody wants to keep him there. While directors Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer will be in town for a Q&A following Dead Dicks, a high-concept work about a woman who rushes to the apartment of her suicidal brother to find him surrounded by copies of his own dead body.
The festival has been consciously working to provide a platform for women in horror for a few years now and 2019 promises a continuation of those efforts. Opening night sees screenings of three female-helmed features: Audrey Cumming’s immortal vigilante actioner She Never Died, debut director Chelsea Stardust’s splatter-satire Satanic Panic and FrightFest Screen Genre Rising Star Award winner, Abigail Blackmore’s horror-comedy Tales From the Lodge.
The guest line-up is also heavy on female talent, including Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead), who will be presenting her directorial debut, Darlin’ — about a feral teenager sent to a sinister Catholic care home. Fans will also be pleased to hear news of a visit by the Soska Sisters of American Mary fame. The sisters host a screening of their much-anticipated reimagining of David Cronenberg’s Rabid. Early word is that the directors takes a different track to Cronenberg’s classic body horror, producing a new nightmare that’s very much their own.
There’s a strand of traditional creature features running through the Grimmfest programme this year. The UK premiere of Kevin Rothlisberger’s werewolf short Loom accompanies Hollywood superstar Lupita Nyong’o (Us, Black Panther, 12 Years A Slave) in Abe Forsythe’s zombie outbreak thriller Little Monsters — we hear the Oscar winner is deadly with a shovel. Meanwhile, vampires are the order of the day in The Shed, a twisted yarn that owes something to Stephen King.
All of the films competing in Grimmfest’s official selection will be scrutinised by a select jury headed up by actress and horror genre icon Barbara Crampton. Producing small scale or independent cinema is a difficult business, and Grimmfest is keen to contribute towards the health of the genre movie landscape and support emerging talent. With this in mind, this year’s prizes include over £120,000 worth of post-production support designed to help propel future work by category winners.