Grimmfest 2015: MM takes a look at Manchester’s scariest film festival

Manchester’s annual horror film festival filled with ghosts, demons, monsters, rivers of blood and screeches got underway on Friday.

Based in the Odeon, Grimmfest is now in its seventh year, and is ranked in the top 40 worldwide genre film festivals.

Previous premières have included The Babadook, Sinister and What We Do In The Shadows, whilst a host of famous faces have attended in the past.

MM went down to the Printworks to check out some of this year’s offerings.

The Hallow

The Hallow opened the 2015 instalment of Grimmfest, and Corin Hardy’s horror show proved to be a feast of tension and gory thrills.

British conservationist Adam Hitchens, who has recently moved out to the Irish countryside with his wife and baby son, ignores warnings from locals to stay out of the woods, leading to his family being terrorized by demonic creatures.

The film marks a belter of a debut from director Corin Hardy, who defies the trend of shaky cameras, cheap jump scares and special effects to bring an unrelenting fist clench of escapism.

The plot is unremarkable and doesn’t attempt to break much new ground.

But it’s not the story that’s important – it’s Hardy’s homage to previous horrors which is most respectable.

References to David Cronenberg’s The Fly, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and countless others are evident, with Hardy using their ideas and adapting them into his own story.

Normally what happens with low budget horror flicks is hammy acting, cheap visual effects and genre-specialised narrative clichés.

None of this is present here.

After about half an hour when we’re introduced to the cold and desolate forest and crumbling mansion where our protagonists reside, the intensity begins, and never stops.

Once the monsters start to arrive, Hardy gives us treat after treat.

There’s a physicality to the production, and the director doesn’t want to shy away from showing us exactly what’s going on.

The edits are smooth, the special effects on the demons are remarkably impressive for a first feature, and the score and sound editing is chillingly immersive.

The film doesn’t escape some expected jump scares, but when the production surrounding them feels so rich and the build-up is presented with such dread, they still execute with a jerking brilliance.

The performances from the two lead actors are extremely impressive.

Joseph Mawle from Game of Thrones begins quite reclusive and internal, but as things get progressively worse for him, he unleashes explosions of emotion and scares.

Bojana Novaković, a more veteran actor, works well alongside Mawle; she may be the damsel in distress, but is a far more capable and interesting damsel than many generic female roles in horror.

Corin Hardy has exceeded many expectations with his first job as director – the storytelling has genuine heart, the atmosphere is lavish, and the brutality of a committed production comes across spectacularly.

A brilliantly energized festival opener.


Howl has a simple premise – nine train passengers, one broken down train, claustrophobia and a bunch of savage beasts – but it packs a surprising punch.

Howl impresses with its well-rounded, believable characters, strong performances and a sense of claustrophobic dread, with precision-injected jolts of pitch-black humour.

Director Paul Hyett crams in as much possible tension to the claustrophobic train carriage, and succeeds in what many fail to do in bringing out the humour when the situation requires.

Leading man Ed Speleers, previously starring in awful flops Eragon and Love Bite, gives an excellent performance.

The young adult angst and guard-like authority balance out very well, and every wrong-doing that occurred previously in his filmography can be forgiven.

Naturally given its straight-up horror premise, the film does not entirely escape a few issues of ridiculous character behaviour, such as strolling towards the scream in the forest when you know that monsters are out there.

This is kept to a minimal however, and is easy to overlook.

The film also looks great – the forest surroundings of the train look the part, and the use of light in the train is worked to its advantage.

The unpredictability of the deaths is also a commendable feature – some will be disappointed that their favourite character doesn’t survive, but the good thing about that is you care about them enough to not want them to die. When they do, it hurts.

The humour is worked in perfectly with the horror elements, which is no easy task given how hard it is to get the balance right.

You’ll spend the majority of the time feeling the tension building up, scene after scene of scares, and then the film relieves you with a well-handled spout of angst.

The film is a real treat to see for any genre fan.

The premise is not revolutionary, but everything involved from the story to the scares is handled with a professional hand that knows what it’s doing without cutting corners.

Click here for part two of MM’s guide to Grimmfest.

Image courtesy of Horror Adict, via Youtube, with thanks.

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