This time two weeks ago we were half-way through the 17th annual Christmas for horror fans - FrightFest.
As a regular, who has been going since 2007, I was more than a little anxious about the move West, but I have to admit that having spent five full days inside the Vue Shepherd's Bush, I was pleasantly surprised. This year I was there both as a film-goer and to work on a premiere (of my partner's film The Chamber), so it was interesting to see how the venue worked for both purposes.
Collecting passes on the first night was a doddle - having a mezzanine level for the box office (with plenty of space) worked out really well. I even had time for a quick drink with friends before the first film.
We then skipped Cell to go to the opening night party at The Bull - one thing that struck me on the first night was how many decent bars and restaurants were just a stone's throw away from the Vue (which is just what you need when you're about to spend the best part of a week in that one location).
I was working all day on Friday for The Chamber premiere - seeing first-hand how manic it is to organise just one film screening (as well as all of the interviews in between), I now have a much greater appreciation and understanding of what all of the people who work behind the scenes at FrightFest (and other film festivals) do. I can't imagine what it is like to have to organise what I experienced on Friday times 66, and still have the energy to socialise with festival-goers afterwards.
The rest of the weekend I enjoyed as a FrightFest regular - it was great to see old faces and lots of new ones too. The female-to-male ratio of festival goers/ filmmakers is increasing every year and I hope it continues to do so. The panels were a great addition to the lineup this year - I managed to attend two of them (Dan Martin's SFX demonstration and the Women In Horror panel); both really interesting and provided a lot of discussion for people after the panels ended.
The film line-up was great this year - a real diverse mix of body horrors, sci-fis, thrillers, slashers, comedy horrors and more. As FrightFest continues to grow, it's important for the festival and it's films to keep evolving - this may mean more international films or more genre-diverse films (horror doesn't have to mean 'gore' anymore - horror is anything that is horrifying). Some of my favourites of the weekend were Train to Busan, The Master Cleanse, Monolith and Beyond The Gates.
This year, more than in recent years (at the Vue Leicester Square), it really felt like the family atmosphere I remember from my first FrightFest at the Odeon West End back in 2007 - the large foyer and corridor leading to all screens were big enough for people to meet and chat between screenings, and I never found it too difficult to find people (despite the larger than ever numbers attending FrightFest this year).
Despite my initial ribbing of Wetherspoons, it was actually a pretty decent place to go to in between screenings to grab a quick pint and catch up with people - so, sorry Wetherspoons, I take it all back.
It was also great to meet some of the filmmakers attending the festival - one thing I really love about FrightFest is that everyone mingles with everyone. There is no class system with filmmakers or actors vs festival-goers - something that sets the horror genre/ horror festivals apart from all others.
And after all that - when I caught up with Alan, Greg, Paul and Ian (throughout various parts of the weekend), they were all chatty, upbeat and had smiles on their faces!
So guys, I'm not sure if you've decided what's happening next year in terms of location for the festival, but I am a huge fan of FrightFest moving permanently to Shepherd's Bush (despite the schlep from North East London), and I've heard a lot of other people saying positive things about the new venue too.
Let's see what FrightFest 2017 has in store for us - 348 days to go....
Hopefully see you all at the Halloween all-dayer!