“FrightFest is probably the biggest, potentially best, UK genre film festival covering horror, fantasy, science fiction and thriller”, begins Paul McEvoy, Programming Co-ordinator at the Horror Channel, and one of the founders of FrightFest. The smaller, more intimate, but just as popular Scottish satellite version of the popular film festival in London (FrightFest London can accommodate up t0 13,000 fans, whereas Glasgow can hold a much smaller crowd of 400) was conceived in 2000, when McEvoy noticed that the UK had no annual horror film festival to rival those in Europe. Over the last 13 years, the FrightFest team of McEvoy, the horror journalist Alan Jones, film distributor Ian Rattray and PR officer Greg Day have managed to create a hugely successful and very popular event that attracts people from all over the world.
Yet while the popularity of FrightFest and the horror film genre have a lot of fans around the world, there are those who don’t understand what attracts people to watching horror films all weekend, surrounded by a bunch of scary horror fans – but the reality is actually rather different, as McEvoy states: “…it’s a family environment.” To the unconverted, this statement may sound a little odd, after all, FrightFest primarily covers darker subject matters, but as Jones declares: “I would trust my life with any of the FrightFest fans… We’re the safest bunch, the least violent bunch, but we watch the most gruesome stuff available.”
it’s a shared experience, which generally other film festivals don’t deliver
With this emphasis on unity and family, it soon becomes apparent that FrightFest is not like any other film festival – the emphasis is firmly fixed on the most important people there: the audience. Every year more films are added to the line-up in both London and Glasgow, and the films, which range in style, genre and pace are something that the organisers are particularly proud of. McEvoy states: “we’re as excited about showing the audience these films as the audience are about seeing them, so it’s a shared, fantastic experience, which generally other film festivals don’t deliver.” FrightFest has also been rewarding for filmmakers, and as the team refuse to charge directors for submissions, they have built up a keen following amongst the film industry too as Jones explains: “Guillermo del Toro is a good example. We showed his early films, and he rewarded us by showing us Pan’s Labyrinth ahead of the London Film Festival.”
FrightFest has also become a much-loved and very successful part of the GFF experience, and had it not been for Alison Gardner, the co-director of the Glasgow Film Festival, deciding that the festival needed a horror section, then FrightFest might not have emerged north of the border. But as Jones explains, the team always look forward to visiting Glasgow: “it’s a different vibe here for us… We really enjoy coming here… To be honest with you, I love the Scottish fans… We just love being part of the festival.”
So with so much going on, what can first time visitors and seasoned fans of the festival expect from this year’s FrightFest weekender? “A great time, a great atmosphere, fun, friends, family, all of us together, having fun, joining in, having a really good time.” Says Jones. So while FrightFest might appear on the surface to be something quite frightening, the atmosphere is far from it, and the organisers have some choice words for anyone looking for a way to get the most out of the festival this year, as Rattray bluntly puts it: “You sit down and you talk to people.” A sentiment that is echoed by everyone else, as Jones explains: “Everyone’s there for the films, to share the passion, so just sit down and share the love as they say.”