Wales Arts Review talks to Philip Escot, founder of the new horror movie festival to hit Wales, at Cardiff’s Tramshed, Fractured Visions.
What is it that makes the horror festival such an enduring genre?
I think it’s because the larger festivals have a tendency to avoid a lot of horror titles and I can certainly see why, as much as I adore the horror genre there is so much cheap content getting pushed out now that it’s over saturated the marketplace and the quality films, made by up and comers who don’t stand much of a chance with a larger festival like Cannes, London or Berlin, end up getting lost in the haystack as it were. So, with a festival that’s dedicated to the genre, with a built-in audience clambering for quality horror films, this gives festival organisers a solid base to start their festival from. It’s essentially the genre that sustains everything, and peoples love of it.
And what is it about the horror movie that has driven you to go as far as to putting on an entire festival dedicated to it?
Horror was my first love, and as cliché as it is to say now, I was the creepy Stephen King kid growing up. Every chance I got I would hire video tapes and show these films to my friends and that’s a tradition that never died: I always had a room full of like-minded friends around on weekends and would show the most exciting films I could find. Which is a lot like putting on a film festival, in its most basic definition. Fractured Visions started as a monthly film event, where I would program a couple of cult films and it’s grown from that; which in turn was a continuation of my terrible habit of forcing movies on people!
Does your festival have a special USP? What marks it out from the rest?
There’s nothing new or original under the sun, but we have a true passion for these films which is essential to executing an event like this. Ian Smyth and Dan Portillo are short filmmakers themselves and Mikel Koven lectures film at Worcester University and has written numerous books about film. So I have a great team around me who share my passion.
The venue truly reflects, and extends on, my living room days when I was hosting friends and making them watch 3 or 4 films a night. The screen is bigger and the seating is more comfortable, but the Tramshed Cinema is still very intimate. So we will have the filmmakers and the film fans sat amongst each other enjoying themselves and having a good time, in airline seats no less! It was important to me to include established genre talent, and for the first festival we have Norman J. Warren; a true master of British horror. He was making it when the genre was next to pornography in the eyes of the general public; so he is a fountain of knowledge for the other filmmakers and will have lots of great stories to share with film fans in attendance.
We also have our own festival beer, thanks to the awesome folk at Crafty Devil Brewing, so I guess if all else fails, there’s that as a pretty unique selling point?
What do you think of the state of the horror movie at the moment? Some say it’s a bit of a golden era, but some say auteurs are taking horror movies and moving them away from what they should be.
It’s certainly in an interesting place, but I really can’t get on board the whole ‘Post-Horror’ thing, what does it even mean? It just comes across as people going back to the old days of ghettoising the genre, as if they are too good to be involved in it. When you have a film like IT making over half a billion dollars at the box-office, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still a much-loved genre with the public, so stop hiding from your love of it. Embrace it, if you want to make a horror movie – make one! Stop trying to trick the audience into thinking it’s something it’s not because you want to please a handful of critics who belittle the genre. There are plenty of filmmakers out there who love the genre, and it’s those we should be supporting.
Of course, you have your own festival now, but if you could have your dream horror festival line up, without any restrictions on what you chose, what films would you have on?
Does that mean I can bring people back from the dead? As my ultimate line-up would be a double whammy of Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato movie marathons with the great men in attendance to discuss the craziness of their filmographies. They didn’t live long enough to experience the love of the horror public large scale, which is a damn travesty.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future of Fractured Visions?
Being a filmmaker myself, who has been through the industry and experienced the good and the bad in all facets of the business; my hope is the festivals acts as a guiding light to these new talents to help them avoid some of the pratfalls that come with the territory of entering a new industry. I have relationships with various distribution companies, so once I fall in love with a film, I’m going to do all that I can to get that film the exposure it deserves and will force these films on as many acquisition heads that I know. So my goal is to help the films that are selected by us have a life beyond the festival circuit.
As film lovers also, it’s essential to us that we select the cream of the crop for the audience. These are films that we believe in and our size helps us a great deal in that regard. Some of the bigger festivals run a lot longer and cover so many screens that it’s impossible to program that many films and all of them be memorable for the audience. This smaller operation is a blessing in disguise as a programmer and a film lover, as I know we’ve got 8 new films that people are really going to enjoy and remember once the festival is over.
So, I hope that we continue to discover new and exciting voices within the horror world, shed a light on them as much as possible and do all that we can to help them find a wider audience.
Would you like to tell us a bit about what you have in store for this inaugural festival at the Tramshed in Cardiff?
We have a lot in store for the first year! Firstly, as mentioned, we have Norman J. Warren in attendance which is so cool, he’s one of the few British filmmakers who lensed a film in South Wales in the 80s, the film in question being Bloody New Year, so it’s great to have him back here to share with a South Walian audience who will be familiar with the locations, but maybe not the film. We’ll also be showing his 1977 opus Terror which will be the first time the film has been seen as intended by Norman – since it’s cinema release anyway – thanks to the fine folks over at Indicator/Powerhouse Films who have lovingly restored the film and are giving us the exclusive on this new 2k scan.
We also have some incredible new films that have yet to play anywhere in the UK, we’ve luckily snagged the UK premieres of Tilman Singer’s bonkers possession/giallo hybrid Luz, the Israeli slasher film Children of the Fall from Eitan Gafny and Raya Martin’s bleak Filipino serial killer flick, Smaller and Smaller Circles. We also have the Welsh premieres of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, which is a fun homage to the much-loved VHS franchise from the 90s. Boar, an Australian creature feature that relies mostly on practical effects. Then we have He’s Out There, which is a fun home invasion-come-slasher starring Yvonne Strahovski who is in the new Predator movie at the moment and an amazing Brazilian film titled Friendly Beast from Gabriela Amaral who is a filmmaker fans will want to keep an eye on. Lastly, we have Lost in Apocalypse, a fun zombie film from China which is essential viewing for anyone who loved South Korea’s Train to Busan.
We’ve also programmed 10 amazing short films from the future fright makers which we will show before a feature film.
There a lot of festivals around nowadays – what would your advice be to any young fan wanting to set up their own?
Just do it. The more you ponder and delay the more you’ll talk yourself out of it. If you have a strong vision and a clear view of what your festival will be then start talking to people. The local businesses around Cardiff have been incredible and this event would not be possible without them. So don’t be afraid to discuss your plans with them; you’ll be positively surprised by their response I’m sure. It’s a lot of work, incredibly stressful, so you need to ensure you have the time and the passion to see it all through. There really is nothing stopping you from doing it really, be brave, take the plunge.