Adele Hartley, Festival Director of the infamous Dead by Dawn, Scotland’s International Horror Film Festival, spoke to us about the return of the full festival, her memories of it from the past 18 years, and above all, everything horror related.
When did you first experience horror cinema?
Sometime in my mid to late teens (the occasional scary Dr Who, sneaking downstairs to watch bits of Hammer movies, the usual stuff), but the love affair with the genre started properly with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II
Do you have a favourite horror movie? If so, which one and why?
The more I watch the longer that list gets, but there are classics I go back to time and again which are films that I always want people new to the genre to watch, to understand just how spectacular it can be – John Carpenter’s The Thing, Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Robert Wise’s The Haunting – all astonishing films, and still scary on repeat watching.
What made you decide to create Dead by Dawn?
There was a festival called Black Sunday and I loved to go – back when I still had the stamina to watch ten films through the night! When Black Sunday stopped, I really missed the fun of the event and decided that running my own festival was the quickest way to get back to enjoying horror films in like-minded company again.
Dead by Dawn has been running since 1993, how has the festival changed since then?
The focus has moved almost entirely onto independent film which is something I’ve become passionate about, and also it’s been a real joy to expand the number of short films in the programme because outside of the festival circuit, there’s very little opportunity to see these mini masterpieces on the big screen.
Audiences can expect the same fantastic line-up of inventive, engaging, independent genre features and shorts from this year’s festival
Do you think that horror movies have changed since Dead by Dawn began?
Of course – it’s been 18 years! The fact is that the term ‘horror’ encompasses so many sub-genres that it’s only natural some of those would go through phases of being more dominant than others. It certainly feels to me that horror used to be more cyclical, but its screen presence is a guaranteed constant these days, so there’s much more product available commercially.
Last year Dead by Dawn was downsized to a one day mini-festival. What can fans expect from this year’s 4-day long festival?
It wasn’t downsized at all. I announced in April 2009 that I was taking April 2010 off. I figured I deserved a holiday from the festival after 17 years! The time away was lovely, and should have lasted through ’til April this year but a handful of great movies arrived on my desk and I just couldn’t ignore them. Rather than put those titles off, I decided an ‘Un-Hallowe’en’ event was a great way to put them on the big screen where they belonged. Audiences can expect the same fantastic line-up of inventive, engaging, independent genre features and shorts from this year’s festival as they have come to – and can continue to – expect.
What’s been your favourite memory of Dead by Dawn so far?
After 18 years there are so many! Knocking back a whisky or three with some of my heroes has been a treat, and seeing film-makers up on stage after all their hard work, talking to an enthusiastic, receptive audience is a recurring pleasure. Something I love is people who come along not sure that horror is really for them, and then four days later they leave feeling that they’ve seen some wonderful cinema and have had their eyes opened to the potential of the genre. It means that I’ve done what I set out to do which is to show that horror is so much more than gore – truly effective horror movies should unsettle and disturb, should make you go home wishing you’d left the lights on.
If you could feature any film or piece of work in Dead by Dawn, what would it be?
I don’t know that there’s anything on my wish list that I haven’t been able to secure! There’s a Norwegian artist whose macabre upholstery fabrics I adore, and I would love to have the cinema decked out in her work but that’s just something nice to dream about!
Are there any particular types of film or horror genres that won’t be featured in the festival?
Any film has to succeed on its own merits, regardless of type or sub-genre. Story is everything. I’m less concerned with the category a film would fall into than I am with ensuring the audience leaves feeling that it deserved its screen time.
Do you have any tips for first time visitors to the festival?
Try not to start each day with a hangover, and see everything – even the stuff you think you won’t like. A lot of care is taken in choosing all the movies, and they’re all on screen for a good reason!
And finally, can you tell us what films are being featured this year?
You Are So Undead + LOS OJOS DE JULIA
HAROLD’S GOING STIFF + Q&A with director Keith Wright
Death and the Blue-Eyed Boy + CARRIE
WHAT YOU MAKE IT short film programme
THE DEATH OF ALICE BLUE + Q&A with star Alex Appel
El Grifo + COLD FISH
THE OLD DARK HOUSE
CUTTING EDGE short film competition
10 Things I Hate About Camping + THE NEIGHBOR ZOMBIE
Por Gloria Divina + DER LETZTE ANGESTELLTE
Late Night Triple Bill
The Living Want Me Dead + CHOP
St Christophorus: Roadkill + Demonitron + BABY SHOWER
Le Bagman + KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
2D & DERANGED short film programme
Enter the Dark + THE AFFLICTED
Deus Irae + YELLOWBRICKROAD
The Legend of Beaver Dam + TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL