Convention Review

The 18th Festival of Fantastic Films

It's 2007 and the Festival is nearing the end of its teenage years.
Darrell Buxton reports on this year's event with
more of a horror (than our usual science fiction) perspective.


Autumn 2007, another Manchester-based, star-studded 'Festival of Fantastic Films' and it was the best one in quite a while. Most of the guests turned up and were all in sensational form. Edward De Souza was charming, despite being seemingly 'proverbial as a newt' for the entire weekend - those of you who have been to the Bray 'Hammer' events could have warned us!! - but he was at least extremely entertaining with it, a delightful character of the old school. Caroline Munro looked gorgeous and had very nice eyes, Martine Beswicke must be lying about her age but not in the way that ladies usually do, and Vera Day figured that she could carry off a series of low-cut tops and came over as the fest's answer to Babs Windsor. As for the Euro stars, Jean Rollin was a real gent and was happy to chat to fans all weekend - M. J. (Simo) Simpson's interview with him on Saturday night was a real highlight of the weekend, even the bit where M. J. attempted to embarrass me by revealing my penchant for pornographic films in public! - while Italian schlock legend Giovanni Lombardo Radice/John Morghen/'Johnny' ended the fest by offering to give a massage to any interested party for 10!!! (I gather he got a few takers too...)

A big hello to the British Horror Films website 'contingent', which this year comprised radio moo, the Worrier, moxxbalhoon, Paul Higson, Lord Kitchenknife, glennj, yours truly, and a very nice fella called Jason who confessed to having lurked on the site for many months and who I hoped I've convinced into signing up and joining. He reckons he's bought all of Chris Wood's 'BHF' t-shirts, which surpasses even me as I've only bought a handful. I did wear the Frightmare, Die Screaming Marianne, and new 'controversial' Horror Hospital designs over the weekend...

As for British horror films screened at the fest? Well, the winner of the 2006 shorts contest, Karl Holt's Eddie Loves You, was screened to popular acclaim at the opening ceremony, and The Planet apparently went down like a lead balloon (didn't see it myself). Missed Pat Higgins' Hellbride too, and Julian Richards' Summer Scars, due to hasty rescheduling, but had a very nice chat with Julian on Saturday afternoon. I did watch Schizo for the first time in many years and liked it a lot more than I remembered. John Leyton gave a very self-effacing intro to the film, dunno if he stuck around to watch his performance. I wonder why Pete Walker did not cast him in The Comeback, he would have done OK.

I helped out with the judging on the Delta Awards best short film competition; we collectively picked a French film called Contretemps as the winner with a very good Singapore movie, Flyer, coming in second, but my personal vote went to It Came From Beyond, a very cheap and very funny home movie made by Ian Simpson and starring his family - cheesy FX spaceship lands in back garden, little This Is England-like cheeky tyke spots it and spends the rest of the 4-minute epic attempting to convince his family that alien monsters have landed, Invaders From Mars-style. The film's gimmick, that all the dialogue was spoken in rhyme, appealed to me enormously and gave this one a real feel of comic originality. I was outvoted by the expert opinion of fellow judges Steve Green, Ray Holloway and Norman J. Warren, however...

Some terrific bevying sessions/chats were enjoyed in the bar area, despite the fact that Derby County lost 6-0 at Anfield on Saturday afternoon and I was in the company of a Liverpool fan for most of the game's duration. A few of us met Jean Rollin out in the lobby, had a very nice time talking to him and getting him to sign absolutely enormous posters of Fascination and old copies of David Pirie's zine The Vampire Cinema.

Best 'film' of the weekend wasn't a film as such, but was the two promo videos shown at the closing ceremony, for new material by techno act High Contrast (aka Lincoln Barrett, who has been attending the fest with his dad Paul since he was about 10). The first track was excellent, based on a bassline nicked from the soundtrack of Fulci's The Beyond - the second number was not quite so impactful aurally but had an amazing video, with a masked killer looking not dissimilar to the main character in V For Vendetta pursuing young girls around a house, in the style of vintage Argento. Splendid stuff Linc - keep it coming.

As for the end of Fest 2007 Great Movie Quiz - held as part of the final night dead dog session - well, the captain of last year's 'winners' (ahem), Adrian James, joined forces with me this time out and our team nicked victory by a single point. Sample question - which film carried the tagline 'imagine your worst fear a reality'? Man, that one had me wracking my brain until I realised that the line appeared on a poster that had once hung in my kitchen for some ten years or more...

The fest was not quite back to its mid-90s peak but it is definitely lurching towards it, Karloff-like. A fab few days, it ended much too quickly and I wish I was still there. Many thanks to Gil, Tony, and all concerned.   Here's to 2008!

Darrell Buxton


Also on this site: Concatenation's chart of Annual Top Box-Office Science Fiction Films which is handy should you wish help in choosing what to hire/or download for the weekend; and the forthcoming film release diary for the year. Also our seasonal newscasts occasionally (for example see here) have links to short films free-to-view elsewhere on the internet.

For details of future major SF conventions on planet Earth (that's the inner one in the Sol system, that wobbles only a little) check out the diary page which is updated each New Year.

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