London horror fest carves out niche

Ten years on, FrightFest breeds loyal support

For an event devoted to films dripping with blood and gore, there’s a surprising amount of love in the air at FrightFest.

“It is amazing how each year you have all these people come up and give you a hug,” says Greg Day, one of the four founders of the horror and fantasy showcase, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

Genre fans especially like the festival passes, which allow them to book the same seats throughout the event. “Passholders, who make up about half of the attendees, have become a nuclear family,” Day says.

“They are essentially living with the person next to them for five days,” agrees fellow organizer Paul McEvoy, stressing the diversity of the crowd (he estimates that 40% of last year’s 17,000 attendees were women).

The community feeling extends to the filmmakers, who soak up the affection. “It is a fans’ festival. Guillermo del Toro calls it ‘the Woodstock of gore’ — he loves it,” Day says.

Day, who is a film publicist, and fellow fest founder Alan Jones, who is a film journalist, have cultivated their contacts to secure the pics and guests fans crave, extending select titles to a satellite event at the Glasgow Film Festival in February.

Jones says the fest is also useful for the industry. “Distributors know we are a shortcut to exactly the audience they need. They see us as a valuable resource for learning how to position their movies,” he says. “It can change the ad campaign, because they can gauge what the fans’ opinion is going to be.”

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