Steve Balshaw takes a look at his personal highlights from this years festival.
It’s over. The great darkness has lifted from the city of Manchester . It is no longer Grimm Up North.
Here at Grimm Central we’ve finally managed to get the bloodstains out of the soft furnishings and explained away all of that screaming to the local authorities, so now we can sit back with a glass of 19th Century vintage absinthe and reflect a while…
It has been, as we promised, a Hell of a Festival. 17 movies and one seminar in less than four days. We’ve had our biggest and best audiences yet, and some of our intensest screenings. We’ve dined out in casinos with rock stars and screen legends, and got drunk and traded tales of terror with our loyal Grimmlins. We’ve had premieres and previews and a couple of creepy classics, and at every show there was a free raffle, and putrescent prizes to be won.
Looking back, it’s all a bit of a bloodsoaked blur of appalling activity, but a few things stick like fish-hooks in the brain:
Our red carpet premiere of the gripping, emotionally harrowing psychological three-hander, RETREAT, where Director Carl Tippetts and producer Gary Sinyor regaled us with tales of the high-stakes nature of making a low-budget film with A-list Hollywood stars (Our thanks to our festival patron, TV ghost-hunter Yvette Fielding, for hosting the Q&A).
The Black and Blue panel discussion and subsequent screening of their latest release, STALKER, which saw producer Jonathan Sothcott, actors Billy Murray and Jane March, and one-time Spandau Ballet and Eastenders star Martin Kemp, whose debut as writer-director the film was, talking with disarming honesty about the realities of independent filmmaking in the UK and with engaging enthusiasm about genre cinema generally.
An all-too-brief panel discussion on the politics of zombie films with authors David Moody and Wayne Simmons, following on from our screening of the highly political THE DEAD. David’s been a friend and supporter of the festival since day one, and it’s always good to see him. Wayne proved an equally entertaining and thoughtful speaker, and this was one discussion that really could’ve gone on a lot longer.
The festival “hot tickets”, SOME GUY WHO KILLS PEOPLE and THE WOMAN, the first a charming, surprisingly sweet-natured black comedy, the second a visceral, confrontational and controversial exploration of sexual politics, suggesting just how diverse our Grimmlins tastes really are.
The warm response received by some of the programming team’s own favourites - the cerebral Science Fiction film BY DAY AND BY NIGHT and the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s remarkable retro-style THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS. Good to see our faith in these films was justified.
Ending the festival on a real high, with the regional premiere of THE WICKER TREE, Robin Hardy’s follow-up to THE WICKER MAN, and having Robin himself there to talk about the film as well as his plans for his next project, which will take the themes of the first two films still further (our thanks to Andy Murray for leading the Q&A). It’s often a disappointment to meet one’s heroes, but not in Robin’s case. He proved to be a gracious guest, an entertaining speaker - and excellent company over dinner as well.
Festivals are as much a social event as they are an excuse to screen movies, so one of the most enjoyable elements for us, as always was meeting people - the various guests, celebrity or otherwise, as well as journalists, bloggers and of course our loyal Grimmlins - hanging out together over a few drinks and just generally chewing the fat about genre cinema and related issues. It is at moments like these that we remember why we subject ourselves to the stresses and strains of running a film festival.There was so much on offer this year, this is just a handful of my own highlights, everyone who came, I'm sure, have their own!
We will be back. Probably when you least expect it.