This is it, everything in one place. The next best thing to being there. Except not really, because any self-respecting horror fan should always be there. It was the 20th birthday year, an embarrassing time. Embarrassing because it reminded me of the sad fact that I only discovered this annual horror haven about three years ago, all thanks to my friend in Dublin keeping me up to date with local events here in Edinburgh and helping to keep my mind polluted to a healthy degree.
The Thursday was spent catching up with friends and then the first movie of the festival was on.
The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh was pretty, but otherwise lacking. Lots of people have seen this film and loved it, I just didn’t react in the same way. Undeniably gorgeous though. 5/10.
Friday is where things started to get serious, part-timers need not apply.
After some horror fiction was read to the audience it was then time for the knowledgeable Kier-la Janisse to introduce the first screening of the day, a 35mm print of The Brood on the big screen (that was preceded by a short movie entitled Game). The Brood is a very good movie but after being reminded of the context . . . . . . . . . wow. 8/10 anyway.
Time for another short, La Ricetta, and then it was on to the first crowd-pleasing original work in the shape of Jug Face, an impressive debut by Chad Crawford Kinkle, who then answered some questions and was around for the whole festival, which meant that many of us were able to grab him on at least one occasion and tell him how much we enjoyed his debut feature. 8/10.
The evening session began with Modus Anomali, another enjoyable and original effort. 7/10.
Then we moved in to phase one of the Frank Henenlotter show. What can be said about the man that hasn’t been said before now? Nothing. He is exactly as others have described him, a great speaker, a good laugh and a gracious guests. He also has a new hobby that he likes to call “dead pics” and attendees of the festival had been encouraged to take a dead pic in advance – the photo is of yourself playing dead – so that a winner could be chosen. The winner was then able to have a dead pic taken on stage with Frank before the whole audience “died” while plenty of fun photos were taken. Entertainment was then supplied by magician Albert Cadabra before the delightfully delirious double-bill of Brain Damage and Basket Case. These movies were followed by a Q & A session before time at the late bar, enjoying some birthday cake, a drink or two and a chance to get goods signed by the man himself, who also posed for a number of pictures. Brilliant.
If Friday is when things start to get serious at Dead By Dawn then Saturday is when people really show what they’re made of. It always starts in the early, early afternoon and goes on right through the night. Hence . . . . . . . . Dead By Dawn.
Frank Henenlotter returned, and would be present for most of the festival, to introduce The Tingler and to ensure the audience that, as the film-makers told people years ago, the tingler WOULD get loose in the cinema at some point. The film was great fun, 8/10, and energy levels started to move up.
Next up were two very different, but very amusing, zombie films. The Graveyard Feeder was a fun short, but The Battery was an astonishingly good movie so good that it, and the presence of Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim and Christian Stella (who also took part in a fun Q & A session after the end credits rolled), proved to be the star of the festival. 9/10.
Boys From County Hell was an enjoyable short with an injection of Irish humour, followed by the one big disappointment of the weekend, for me anyway. That film was Dead Shadows, not without moments of goodness but it should have been so much more. 4/10.
For a late night selection of entertainment, you need films that will keep audiences awake and full of energy. The short film, Fist Of Jesus, certainly did that, as did the thoroughly enjoyable Big Ass Spider! (7/10 for that).
Seeing the short films, I Am Your Grandma and Two Fingers/Vengeance Rhythm, on the big screen was a bit of a treat but seeing and hearing a fairly lush 35mm print of Hellraiser was a complete 10/10 experience. I closed my eyes and soaked in that bombastic score over the opening credits. Mind you, by 0400 in the morning, some other people just closed their eyes and didn’t make it back to consciousness until the end credits rolled.
Sunday kicked off with a trio of amusing shorts, all thematically tied together and all by the same talented director. Careful With That Crossbow, Careful With That Axe and, almost inevitably, Careful With That Power Tool provided a great start to the day, a little energy boost and some mirth that carried on into the first feature, the bonkers Zomvideo. 7/10.
My Amityville Horror was something that I wasn’t expecting to find all that interesting. I was wrong. It wasn’t a complete success, but there was a lot more to it than just covering that old ground that we’ve all now encountered in various books and movies. 6/10.
The Applicant was the last short film of the festival, but it was a beauty. As was the feature following it. The classic, the incomparable, the big favourite of mine – An American Werewolf In London. Watching one of my all-time favourites in Filmhouse Screen 1 gave me eyegasms. 10/10.
Then it was time for awards to be handed out, freebies to be used in one huge pass-the-parcel event and the famous “shit film amnesty”, an event in which people are encouraged to hand in their worst ever movie and the story behind it (how they acquired the movie, what reaction it caused, etc.). The “winner” gets to take every dire movie home. I’m far too much of a gentleman to tell you that this year the “winner” was The Erotic Adventures Of Zorro, which meant the poor woman who handed it in then had to go home with the entire box of movies.
And then a finale worthy of the occasion, a 35mm print of Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn. A 10/10 movie, perfectly accompanied by one last beer and then perfectly followed up by the last late night at the bar, more hearty congratulations to the fantastic guests, some last minute photos, a chance to thank Adele and a sadness that we’d all have to wait another whole year to go through it all again.
Huge thanks, as ever, go to all of those involved in the festival, from Adele Hartley to the friendly team that she has around her to the guests from the world of horror to everyone else in attendance making it such a great atmosphere to, last but by no means least, the staff at The Filmhouse (who all get into the spirit of things by dressing up in various horrific guises for the long, long shift taking up their Saturday night).
Same time next year? Oh yes.