This feature-length documentary by Chris Collier is going to be impossible to review objectively … at its premiere screening, it’ll seem like a home movie since its real dark heart is the FrightFest audience, and the best moments in the film come from chats with the folks who pitch up year after year to be with their friends, for whom that FF showing of Pan’s Labyrinth or Hatchet – or, let’s face it, Giallo or Tulpa — are cinematic life experience highlights every bit as real and fresh as anyone else’s memory of Star Wars or Mama Mia or Where Eagles Dare or whatever happened to be on the screen when you hung out with your best friends.
There’s a lot of history of the UK horror festival scene going back to the days of Shock Around the Clock, and the Fab Four – Alan Jones, Greg Day, Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray – are interviewed seperately, sometimes movingly talking up each other’s strengths, sometimes (well, mostly Alan) wondering what they’re still doing together to the extent that this threatens to become the Let It Be of horror festival documentaries. Will it all end with them up on the roof of the Empire, Leicester Square, with them jamming the theme song (‘Eeh Bah Gum’) of Inbred until the police make them stop to disperse the zombie cosplayers?
We get highlights and controversies – the zombie walk, not being able to show A Serbian Film, shifts from cinema to cinema all around Leicester Square (or way out to Shepherd’s Bush), the sleepy queue (discontinued, sadly) – but this refreshingly doesn’t feel a need to ask basic questions about the appeal of horror films or even spend much time on the movies, the guests, the merch or the dress-up … what we have here is an affectionate portrait of the long-time fans, the regulars, people who can mention the Imperial or the Phoenix and expect viewers to know what they mean. For me, perhaps, the sweetest moments are the end credits crawl – not in the sense of being relieved it’s all over and we can get on to the next film, but because of the wealth of photographs from nineteen years of the event that slide past, affording the chance to spot dozens of old friends sporting their red lanyards and having a great time.
El Culto del Terror, which covers a range of festivals, touches on generalities about horror fandoms – but this is a specific film about this one. Oh, and there’s a post-credits sting with – of course – Alan Jones.