London After Midnight: The Bram Stoker International Film Festival Review

bram-stoker-posterI have just returned from THE BRAM STOKER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, which took place in Whitby, England from 16th to 19th October. This was the first year for the festival and I was pleasantly surprised at how well organised and professional it was. I had an amazing time and met some great people.
Let’s start with my first impressions. I was warmly welcomed by festival director Mike McCarthy who showed me round the venue (The Whitby Pavilion), and I was instantly impressed by how they’d transformed this quaint, old-fashioned theatre into a cinema: installing a good sized screen and excellent surround sound, not to mention fantastic green and red lighting effects to create the perfect ambiance between the films. It was clear that a lot of effort and attention to detail had gone into the planning. There was a constant countdown to the next film displaying on the screen which was brilliant when we wanted to know if we had time to eat, or powder our noses before the next thrilling instalment. It’s obvious that sitting for over 12 hours in any theatre seat is going to have some negative impact on the old derrière, but the seats were remarkably comfortable for the first few hours. The best thing about the venue for me was how dark it was; darkness is a prerequisite for horror films and this theatre was pitch black.
Just before the launch party my son Steve and I had the pleasure of meeting Biff, the singer from Saxon. I love the band and was delighted to meet Biff and his wife!
I won’t dwell on the launch party for too long, but I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention it. The evening included burlesque dancers, a geisha girl, break-dancers, belly dancers, a contortionist and The Mocky Horror Show. Most of these performances were appropriately themed for a horror event. The Mocky Horror Show, whilst not being as good as I’d expected, did manage to get everyone on their feet for “The Time Warp,” including me, which is no easy task! The highlight of the night was Chris Cross the contortionist: not only is he an absolute freak when it comes to body bending [and I know this wouldn’t offend him, he knows he’s a freak – and he’s cool with it!] but he is also an excellent comedian; he managed to lift the audience where the host ‘Marcus the undie-taker’ had failed. In fact this guy would have been perfect to keep the crowd entertained and bring some levity between performances: he has a real charm about him; he’s a great entertainer – and man, those funky shoulder blades made me cringe! The only real problem with this launch party was Marcus, his between-act links had the crowd groaning: he was the most unfunny, uninteresting, pitiful performer I’ve ever seen, and I know he won’t be invited back next year! All things considered, however, it was a good, entertaining opening night.

Filmmakers' Workshop at the Bram Stoker Film Festival
L to R: Rachel Waters, Caroline Haines, Catherine Taylor, Steve Jaggi, producer-director Darren, Nina Romian, Devi Snively, Augustine Fuentes, Rod Morris, Gavin Baddely

As a screenwriter, I found it most interesting to talk to the directors, producers and actors who attended the festival, and they all gave up their time for a special film-makers’ workshop with some local students. I was delighted to attend and found it a very informative and useful session. I’m sure the students enjoyed it as much as I did, and it was great that the opportunity was there for them. Participating were: actress Rachel Waters (Temptation), actress Caroline Haines (Temptation), director Catherine Taylor ( Temptation), producer Steve Jaggi (Temptation), producer-director Darren (Nightlife), journalist Nina Romian, director-writer Devi Snively (Death in Charge), producer Augustine Fuentes (Death in Charge), writer-producer Rod Morris (Dying Breed), and journalist Gavin Baddely.
The films were a great mix to suit all tastes, nobody is ever going to enjoy all the films at a festival, but with such a variety, there was something for everyone. I’ll review the films separately, but my favourites, which really deserve a mention, are as follows:

  • KIRKSDALE (a macabre and perfectly produced short directed by Ryan Spindell)
  • INSIDE (a brutal story filled with tension directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury
  • DYING BREED (a quintessential Aussie horror directed by Jody Dwyer)
  • WASTING AWAY (a Zombie film from the perspective of the zombies, directed by Michael Kohnen)
  • THE FOX FAMILY (a Korean film directed by Hyung-gon Lee, which was as strange as any film I’ve ever seen!)

There were so many other great films which I’ll try to cover on the site in the coming weeks.

(Death in Charge)
Augustine Fuentes, Deborah Louise Robinson, Devi Snively

I have to give special mention to Devi Snively (writer-director of Death in Charge) and Augustine Fuentes (Producer of Death in Charge). My son and I met them on the first night, and over the course of the next few days we shared many a frivolous conversation, talking about film making, the films we’d watched, how tired we were, and of course there were plenty of conversations about nothing in particular, and these are always the most fun!
My gut feeling tells me that next year you’ll need to secure tickets early! The Bram Stoker International Film Festival is here to stay, and it’ll be even bigger and better next year. My heartfelt thanks to Mike McCarthy for making us feel so welcome and for putting on a damn good show. I’ve had the time of my life, and I’m already looking forward to next year!

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