Arts and Culture

Review: Monsters and Movies at Grimmfest

Avid fans of horror gathered at Manchester’s Odeon Great Northern cinema on 19 and 20 November to celebrate Grimmfest – one of the UK’s leading genre film festivals.

Held annually, this event showcases a variety of new short and feature films from the horror, cult and sci-fi genres by both emerging and established filmmakers.

This year’s festival saw the arrival of a new event commissioned by the BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN) – IN DREAMS ARE MONSTERS. The weekend’s event was co-hosted by the MMU Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies and consisted of a series of film screenings, in-depth Q&As and talks with some of the most iconic names in the monster movie genre.

Grimmfest unites generations of horror fans in their shared passion for all things spooky, gothic and gory. There’s something so wholesome in seeing people, who were until recently complete strangers, bonding so quickly by geeking out over their favourite films, actors or directors. The half hour breaks in-between showings also allowed plenty of time for post-film debriefs with other attendees. Many of the attendees thrived on dissecting the varied themes, styles and performances of such a well-curated catalogue of films and I was certainly no exception to this.

The Monsters and Movies event featured eight screenings across the two days:  An American Werewolf in London, The Thing, The Descent, The Lair, She Will, Wolf Manor, The Hallow and Sleepwalkers.

Of the screenings I made it to, I particularly enjoyed An American Werewolf in London. Directed by John Landis, this subversive horror comedy follows two friends who are viciously attacked by a werewolf while on a backpacking holiday in England. It is evident why this film is considered a classic with its wealth of macabre imagery, eerie settings and its disturbing transformation scene. The seamless blend of gore, dark humour and a passionate yet tragic love story offers a unique yet wickedly entertaining viewing experience which is as much hilarious as it is unsettling.

Other standouts were John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi cult classic The Thing, with its unnerving portrait of paranoia and visceral body horror, and Mick Garris’s adaptation of Stephen King’s supernatural thriller Sleepwalkers, which delights in its goofy performances yet also unsettles with its incestuous subplot. 

Each film lasted around 90 minutes and followed by Q&As and talks with influential figures in the horror genre as well as some of the directors, writers, actors and crew behind the films. Guests included Reece Shearsmith, Mick Garris, Alice Krige, Neil Marshall, Ramsey Campbell, Corin Hardy, Dominic Brunt, Charlotte Kirk, Shaune Harrison, Charlotte Colbert and Ashley Thorpe. 

Actress Alice Krige attended various talks, discussing her iconic performance in Sleepwalkers and her latest role in She Will. She exudes elegance and sophistication, displaying a warm attitude towards the attendees, which made for some delightful discussions. Her profound insight into the representation of women and witches in genre cinema following the screening of She Will was particularly captivating and made me want to re-watch the film to fully appreciate its symbolic weight. 

The highlight of the talks I attended was the An American in Werewolf roundtable panel with Reece Shearsmith, Mick Garris, Neil Marshall and Corin Hardy. The talk was hosted by renowned horror author Ramsey Campbell, who framed the discussion around the film’s enduring legacy on contemporary horror films while also examining its historical and political context. The unanimous love for the film across the panel was clear and each guest had such a unique and deep-rooted passion for cinema, which made the talk truly inspiring.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable event made up of inspiring talks from some of the most down-to-earth and fascinating creatives out there, alongside many thrilling viewings of horror classics. The event has been well received by attendees with some excellent feedback on social media with many looking forward to what GrImmfest next has to offer.

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