Eli Roth, Sawney: Flesh of Man and Lords of Salem among the highlights at FrightFest Glasgow 2013
The Glasgow Film Festival's cult-horror strand also features screenings of Byzantium and The Bay
‘I think our major trump card is getting Eli Roth to come,’ is a minor understatement from Alan Jones, one of the fearsome four who – alongside Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy and Greg Day – orchestrate the two days of terror that is FrightFest. Roth is probably modern horror’s most vocal cheerleader. Proud member of the ‘Splat Pack’ (a loose collection of the genre’s directors), Roth directed cinematic bloodfests Cabin Fever, Hostel plus its sequel, produced The Last Exorcism, 2001 Maniacs and The Man With the Iron Fists, and starred in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as well as running shock attraction the Goretorium in Vegas.
He’ll be making his debut in Scotland at the premiere of Aftershock, a disaster movie he co-wrote and stars in, that takes the classic earthquake template but ups the gore. ‘I’ve known him for many years,’ says Jones. ‘When we saw Aftershock it was so great that we had to do it. He said he’d try his best to come through and, fuck me, he did.’
Firmly established in London (which offers five whole days of horror, cult and bizarre cinema every August), Glasgow’s FrightFest has now become a favourite in the horror calendar. ‘I suggested to Allison [Gardner, co-director of the GFF] on the second year of the Glasgow Film Festival: “Why don’t we do your horror films?’” explains Rattray. ‘I expected her to say “no” but she said “yes”. It was quite small the first year but it’s grown every year and now the tickets sell out pretty much as soon as they go on sale.’
Including Aftershock, this year’s line-up boasts ten films and all seven episodes of freaky Norwegian TV series Hellfjord. Highlights include vampire epic Byzantium (stars Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan and director Neil Jordan will be in attendance); icky parasite found footage feature The Bay; 26-part anthology The ABCs of Death and Scottish cannibal flick Sawney: Flesh of Man.
‘It’s a modern day version loosely based on the legend of Sawney Bean,’ explains first time director Ricky Wood. ‘Instead of Sawney robbing and eating travellers many years ago, he goes round the cities of Scotland in a black cab mainly picking up young women and he takes them to his lair up in the Highlands, where his family torture and cannibalise his victims.’
This was a real labour of love, filmed over two years squeezed into any spare time around their day jobs. ‘We were working with such a small crew, sometimes just myself and my brother [cinematographer Ranald] getting shots, my dad made the prosthetics and make-up as well as writing the script, so it was very much put together piece by piece.’
There’s also the UK premiere of fellow Splat Pack alumni Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem. ‘I grew up in Massachusetts, so the Salem Witch Trials were something that figured big as a kid,’ explains Zombie. ‘It’s based on historical fact about the Salem Witch Trials and their modern day repercussions, so the film takes place in modern times but it’s a witch movie.’
It’s proved to be a very divisive film amongst the FrightFest team, though. ‘That splits us,’ says Rattray. ‘I’m going to have to be honest on this: I hated it,’ adds Jones, ‘but Rob has a big fanbase which we knew was eager to see it. But I’m just having nothing to do with it,’ he laughs.
There’s something about seeing horror in a cinema that helps create an incredibly loyal following for these films. ‘To me, it’s a lot of people in one room sharing an experience and when that experience is shocking and everybody jumps at the precise same time, it’s almost like a church communion,’ says Jones. ‘I do love the August FrightFest in London, don’t get me wrong, but Glasgow has a different vibe to it and it’s one that I really love.’
FrightFest is at GFT, Glasgow, Fri 22 & Sat 23 Feb.