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Entries in Film Festival (6)

Monday
Jan082018

HAGSPLOITATION LEGENDS GET NEW FESTIVAL SPOTLIGHT

Though often derided as horror’s campiest subgenre, the Hagsploitation Film has undergone a critical re-appraisal in recent years. Once the starlets of Hollywood’s ‘Golden Years’, industry matriarchs such as Olivia de Havilland, Yvonne de Carlo, Shelley Winters and Myrna Loy did some of their most memorable work as ‘psycho-biddy’ anti-heroines, often caked in make-up, liquored up and swinging axes.

The Melbourne-based film society Cinemaniacs, long the champion of underappreciated genre works, launches a 2-day celebration of hags-cinema on January 12 under the moniker, ‘You’re A Vile, Sorry Little Bitch! A Celebration of Hagsploitation’. Four films that define the beautiful bravado of ‘Grand Dame Guignol’ will screen, programmed by passionate hags advocates Sally Christie and Lee Gambin. Of course, the Opening Night attraction could only be the spectacular 1962 psycho-thriller that dragged modern cinema kicking and screaming into the delirium of Hagsploitation… 

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Director: Robert Aldrich; 1962)
Why is it HAGnificent? The majestic madness of Bette Davis, sparring with longtime industry rival Joan Crawford.
What is it about? In the 1920's, 6-year-old ‘Baby Jane’ Hudson was a huge vaudeville child star, her hit song “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” defining her young stardom. Older sister, Blanche, having lived in Jane’s shadow most of her life, develops into a famous film actress in her own right, all while Baby Jane’s celebrity fades. At the height of her career, Blanche is crippled in an automobile accident for which the alcoholic Jane is thought responsible. As the years pass, the two sisters become virtual recluses in an old mansion, where a bitter and increasingly unhinged Jane cares for the helpless Blanche. When she learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and perhaps place her in a home, Jane plots a diabolical revenge.
CINEMANIACS says, “Along with Sunset Boulevard, it exposed the ugly underbelly of the throwaway machine that is Hollywood. It one of the most important horror films of the sixties and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford should be up on the genre’s mantle alongside the likes of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.”

STRAIT JACKET (Dir: William Castle; 1964)
Why is it HAGnificent? Having redefined her industry standing with …Baby Jane, Joan Crawford goes all in with some spectacular onscreen psychosis.
What is it about? With her 3 year-old daughter Carol looking on, Lucy Harbin offs her cheating husband with an axe. After twenty years locked in an asylum, Lucy is released and seeks out her daughter, now are famous sculptress with a loving beau. Carol wants her dowdy mother to look as she once did, persuading her to wear makeup, a wig and youthful clothing. But the horror of her upbringing soon begins to intrude on Carol’s new life, as it seems Mother is up to her old axe-wielding tricks when things don’t go her way. Yet, with that history of family violence, might Carol be playing a part in her mom’s re-emerging mania?
CINEMANIACS says, “Joan Crawford is on top of her game here, a performance that sings with nervous energy, relentless zeal and a “I will prove that I am the greatest and most hard working actress of the decade” vibe." 

THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (Dir: Robert Altman; 1969)
Why is it HAGnificent? After a career of sweet, cherubic ingénues, Sandy Dennis finds fresh acting reserves as lonely, possessive spinster Frances Austen.
What is it about? A wealthy thirty-something spinster takes pity on a young man huddled in the rain on a park bench. Strangely attracted to him, she invites the young man into her home and pampers him as he listens to her incessant chatter. Her sexual advances are spurned, however, with Frances instead providing a young prostitute for her guest’s pleasure. But after locking the two in a room, Frances unleashes her twisted possessiveness in all its grim fury.
CINEMANIACS says, “In the grand cinematic tradition of ‘the psychotic woman and the kept man syndrome’, That Cold Day in The Park shares wonderful thematic and narrative constructs with Sunset Boulevard, The Beguiled and Misery. It focuses on a young woman as its ‘gorgon’, but we decided to screen the film to examine the concept of the ‘hag-to-be’”.

FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (Dir: Jeffery Bloom; 1987)
Why is it HAGnificent? Having won an Oscar as one of cinema’s rare A-list hags, Nurse Ratched, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Louise Fletcher was primed for melodramatic hag infamy as ‘Grandmother’ in this adaptation of Victoria Andrew’s trashy family saga.
What is it about? When their father is killed, teenagers Cathy and Chris and young siblings Cory and Carrie are put in the care of their religious-zealot grandmother. Grandma has never approved of the kids' mother Corinne, who had the children with a blood relative, and her bitterness now extends to her grandkids. The four children are locked in their grandmother's attic, far from the view of their unforgiving grandfather, and begin a desperate life trying to cope with the cruel discipline and unforgiving matriarchy wrought by their nana.
CINEMANIACS says, “Relentlessly trashy and proud of it! Louise Fletcher came to represent stoic and unfeeling authority throughout her career. Flowers in The Attic permits her to overplay the monstrousness and she revels in doing so, with delectable and dedicated vehemence.”

'YOU'RE A VILE, SORRY LITTLE BITCH! A CELEBRATION OF HAGSPLOITATION' screens January 12-13 at Melbourne's Backlot Studios. Session and ticketing details can be found at the Cinemaniacs website and the venue.

 

Thursday
Nov302017

THE MARSHES: THE ROGER SCOTT INTERVIEW

Time spent deep in one of New South Wales’ most beautiful yet misunderstood eco-systems can mess with a young man’s mind, if Roger Scott’s debut film is any indication. The Marshes is a psychological eco-thriller, brought to malevolent life by a new kind of mythological Australian killer, The Swagman. Ahead of the World Premiere of The Marshes at A Night of Horror Film Festival, Scott (pictured, below) spoke at length to SCREEN-SPACE about conjuring menace and mayhem from Australia’s dark past and stunning landscapes…

SCREEN-SPACE: When did the mythology of The Swagman, Australia's most iconic bush figure, strike you as the inspiration for a horror film?

SCOTT: Ten years ago, I was working in the Macquarie Marshes as a research assistant.  I had been struck by the landscape’s filmic nature and that it was an Australian environment that audiences never see. I had a fair amount of discontent with how we manage our landscapes, which fed into the story process. From local level water resource management through to global level climate issues, you could say I was gripped by fatalistic sense of horror. [So] horror was the only genre in which the narrative symbolism would have the power and plasticity I desired. And the fact that it was a landscape of billabongs and Coolibah trees brought Waltzing Matilda to mind. Once those elements had come together the story took on a life of it’s own.

SCREEN-SPACE: You pull a skilful bait-&-switch on your audience; the film opens with familiar genre tropes but then begins to deconstruct its own reality. What influences and inspirations did you draw upon?

SCOTT: My observations of the difference between people’s perceptions of the world they inhabit and the reality helped form that structure. To capture that, I drew upon films such as The Cabin In The Woods, Deliverance, 12 Years A Slave, The Descent, Onibaba, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Upstream Colour, Under the Skin, Walkabout and Sampson and Delilah. Also non-film sources such as the art of Alexis Rockman, The Yellow Wallpaper and Terra Incognita. (Pictured, above; the the three leads of The Marshes, on-set) 

SCREEN-SPACE: One way you defy horror traditions is by finding terror in broad daylight. What specific challenges did that hold?

SCOTT: Trying to create tension and horror without darkness meant we were relying more heavily on performance, pacing and psychology. Deliverance is a film that does this particularly well. Lighting was still an issue, of course. Giovanni (Lorusso, DOP) is experienced at shooting against the light, aided by Andy (Robertson, gaffer) who has decades of experience lighting in tricky locations, so he was able to create great images despite the limitations. Once the characters became lost in the reed beds I wanted the light to remain ‘mid-afternoon’ for the entire time they were lost. It reinforced that sense of being trapped in a maze-like timeless limbo. This added a scheduling headache for Elisa (Pascarel, 1st AD); there was a lot of ‘cheating’ of shoot times to achieve this. Going into the grade I was hoping for enough latitude in the images for our post team to balance. Thanks to Giovanni’s skills, we were able to balance them. (Pictured, above; Mathew Cooper, left, and Sam Delich)

SCREEN-SPACE: The Marshes continues our strong cinematic tradition of being fearful of the 'The Bush', of city folk being at the mercy of the mysteries of this huge land. How did the location influence your storytelling?

SCOTT: It is common for directors to say that the location was one of the characters in the film, but this is only true when changing locations changes the story. This landscape is entwined in the story. The physical features of the land effect the movements and decisions of the characters. It provides both ‘Pria’s world and the socio-political context for the story. It also gave us a beautiful sort of eerie Australian gothic. Audiences have come to expect that when characters in an Australian movie drive inland that they will arrive in a dry red environment, so being in the marshes immediately confounds those expectations. In some ways, the story continues the cinematic tradition you refer to, but in other ways, less so; it is more about being at the mercy of the mysteries of the mind. I hope that different audiences view it in different ways.

SCREEN-SPACE: Does The Marshes further demonise country types? That the 'hillbilly horror' genre takes a condescending 'city-vs-country' approach?  

SCOTT: The fact that The Swagman is a 19th century symbol makes it harder for audiences to draw parallels between him and country people today. A character such as [Wolf Creek’s ]Mick Taylor looks and sounds like people you can find in any small town. What is unavoidable is the idea that the bush is full of monsters, but then so too is the human mind. What is so great about The Swagman is that he is deeply ingrained in the national psyche. Demonising The Swagman makes it more difficult for people to use him as a lazy stereotype to refer to the bush or country people or nationalism or any of the purposes for which he is invoked. I wanted to disrupt the familiar symbols and structures people use to think about these things, to challenge their perceptions. (Pictured, above; Scott directing actress Dafna Kronental)

SCREEN-SPACE: 'Pria' is an unconventional female horror lead; from the first scene, she's a strong, determined, intelligent woman that clearly won't be a victim easily. Tell us about creating her and what Dafna Kronental brings to the role?  

SCOTT: I spoke to a lot of women in science to develop a character formed by the wealth of her experience, providing her with particular strengths and weaknesses. I was cautioned a number of times to maintain her likability in a way that doesn’t happen for male characters. I needed a very knowledgeable person at the heart of the story that wasn’t fearful of the bush. Dafna brought her own strength and intelligence to ‘Pria’ and worked hard to define the character’s vulnerability, because her failings and vulnerability are just as important to the narrative arc as her strength. And Dafna showed great physical aptitude, performing as she did day after day in the waders, the reeds and the cloying mud. Just traversing that landscape was no mean feat, let alone performing too. (Pictured, above; Kronental, as Pria)

SCREEN-SPACE: The opportunity exists for your villain to spawn a new horror franchise; were you conscious of the 'origins' factor in your narrative? 

SCOTT: We actually joked about it a bit as we were making the film, about what The Swagman’s next “adventure” might be but there was no grand plan in terms of a franchise. Telling this story well was my primary concern.

Read our review of The MARSHES here.

THE MARSHES will have its World Premiere at A Night of Horror Film Festival. Ticket and session details are available at the event's official website)

Friday
Nov172017

PREVIEW: MONSTER FEST 2017

The nation’s slickest and sickest celebration of visceral cinema kicks off on November 23, when the 7th annual Monster Fest launches its 4-day 2017 line-up at Melbourne's iconic Lido Cinema. Feature film programmers Grant Hardie and Neil Foley know that the loyal patrons who have helped establish the festival’s reputation as Australia’s premiere genre film event expect to be challenged; this year, offerings include a killer pig, a demonic unicorn, a haunted 80’s arcade game and a newborn harbinger of the Apocalypse.

The Opening Night audience can expect to be rattled by Chris Sun’s Boar (pictured, below), a blood-soaked reworking of the ‘killer feral pig’ myth made famous by Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 cult hit, Razorback. Starring a who’s-who of Aussie genre greats (John Jarratt, Chris Haywood, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Ernie Dingo) alongside US horror icon Bill Moseley (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; House of 1000 Corpses), the Queensland-based director’s fourth feature so impressed Universal Pictures local office that they picked up the project for an Australian theatrical season. Sun, producers Kris Maric and Christine Hulsby and key cast will front a post-screening Q&A.

True to its commitment to nurture Australian talent, Monster Fest 2017 will feature the World Premiere screening of five local films. Leigh Ormsby’s The Last Hope depicts a civilisation ravaged by a virus outbreak that mutates carriers into cannibalistic monsters; Tarnation, the latest tongue-in-cheek splatterfest from Murderdrome director Daniel Armstrong; Lost Gully Road, a moody haunted house story from Donna Mcrae; Travis Bain’s home invasion thriller, Landfall; and, from the directorial duo of Addison Heath and Jasmine Jakupi, the revenge-themed carnage of The Viper’s Hex.

Drawing from the organiser’s global festival and marketplace profile, six international productions will have their Australian premieres at The Lido. They are Can Evrenol’s brutal apocalyptic thriller Housewife, the Turkish filmmaker’s highly anticipated second feature after his 2015 shocker, Baskin; the German/Austrian co-production Cold Hell, from Stefan Ruzowitzky; Lowell Dean’s absurdist horror-comedy sequel, Another Wolfcop; Canadian Adam McDonald’s woodlands-set black magic thriller, Pyewacket; and, Purgatory Road, a rare foray into the international indie sector for local underground filmmaking hero, Mark Savage. Other countries represented at the event include Estonia (Rainer Sarnet’s November); Spain (Haritz Zubillaga’s The Glass Coffin); and, The USA (Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break).

Closing Night honours go to French director Coralie Fargeat’s brutal rape-retribution drama Revenge (pictured, top), a remarkable debut work that Variety called, “an exceptionally potent and sure-handed first feature… primed to rouse the self-selected few with the stomachs to handle it.” Last year, Monster Fest launched into the Australian marketplace the last great French horror film from a woman director, Julia Ducornau’s Raw. The teen-cannibal hit took the 2016 festival’s top competitive honour before endearing itself to a huge local fan base.

Shaping as arguably the highlight of Monster Fest 2017 will be the screening of King Cohen, director Steve Mitchell’s heartfelt tribute to guerrilla filmmaking great Larry Cohen (pictured, above right). Following the 11.00pm session, five of the legendary auteur’s works will screen in a midnight-to-dawn marathon. Monster Fest is keeping the titles in the all-night session a closely guarded secret, but fans are crossing fingers that ‘Cohen classics’ such as Black Caesar, Q The Winged Serpent and the rarely-seen God Told Me To feature in this exclusive festival event.

MONSTER FEST runs November 23-27 in Melbourne, with other states to follow. Full ticket and session details can be found at the event website.

Monday
Dec052016

"SPAIN REIGNS", SAY SYDNEY GENRE JUDGES. 

The Closing Night award ceremony of Sydney’s A Night of Horror / Fantastic Planet Film Festival became una noche de celebración for Spanish genre cinema.

The 10th annual staging of the fan-favourite horror, science fiction and fantasy event closed out its 10 day program bestowing gongs upon body-horror shocker The Night of The Virgin (La Noche del Virgen) and twisted identity mystery, Gelo (pictured, above). Both films are in the early stages of their respective global expansion, continuing a festival tradition of rolling the dice on programming choices that don’t necessarily come with the safety net of overseas festival credibility in place.

A hilariously dark and twisted tale of foretold demonic reincarnation, The Night of The Virgin earned bragging rights with wins in three key categories in the A Night of Horror line-up. As the titular innocent who endures unspeakable black magic horrors, leading man Javier Bodalo (pictured, right) earned Best Male Performance; as the alluring W.I.L.F. whose sorcery unleashes all manner of torment upon him, Miriam Martin took home the Best Female Performance honours. Debutant director Roberto San Sebastián also guided his impressive debut to a win for Best Foreign Language Film, but was pipped in the Best Director category by Scott Schirmer for his dialogue-free woodlands cannibal pic, Plank Face.

The other highly-touted A Night of Horror feature was Matt Stuertz’s wildly entertaining gore-a-thon Tonight She Comes, a vivid and energetic reworking of classic cabin-in-the-woods tropes which impressed with its fearless doubling-down of shocking splatter effects, delivered with a wickedly perverse sense of scale and humour. The US production earned Best Film, while lead actress Jenna McDonald shared the Best Female Performance category with her Spanish genre sister.

Directed by the father/son team of Luís and Gonçalo Galvão Teles, the moody atmospherics of the Spanish/Portuguese co-production Gelo supported an ambitious, at times complex narrative. In addition to the Fantastic Planet Best Film nod, it earned the Best Female Performance trophy for its leading lady, Spanish cinema icon Ivana Baquero, best remembered as Ofelia in Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 fantasy masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.

The other Fantastic Planet jury favourite was Dead Bullet, a riveting Vegas-set neo-noir thriller that earned Erik Reese the Best Director trophy and actor John T. Woods (pictured, right; with co-star Andrea Sixtos) a Best Male Performance gong. Both trophies were collected by the film's associate producer and 1st AD Kat Castaneda, currently based in Sydney. Ian Truitner’s intergalactic survival adventure Teleios was granted a Head of Jury ‘Special Mention’ award for the technical prowess displayed in crafting the spectacular deep-space setting.

Held at the Dendy Cinema multiplex in the inner-city suburb of Newtown, a dedicated and enthusiastic crowd remained well into the Sunday night event. Following a rousing Q&A with actress Elizabeth De Razzo, star of the Closing Night feature The Greasy Strangler, festival director Dr Dean Bertram acknowledged his dedicated team, the support of his audience and the current high standard of international genre cinema. His Director’s Choice honourees were Tax Shelter Terrors, a work-in-progress documentary that chronicles the Canadian horror boom of the 1970s, and The Second Coming: Volume 2, director Richard Wolstencroft’s final instalment of his free-wheeling interpretation of W.B. Yeats’ epic poem.

Independent Spirit Award trophies were accepted by attending guests Seve Schelenz, for his zombie/stripper crowdpleaser Peelers, and Rob Taylor and Bryna Smith for their superhero/time travel send-up, Neil Stryker and The Tyrant of Time.

Monday
Nov212016

FEST ALUMNI RECALL GLORY DAYS AS GENRE LOVE-IN TURNS 10

Of the many achievements that can be credited to Sydney’s A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival, the ability to spot and nurture ferocious genre talents is perhaps the most remarkable. Co-founder and programmer Dr Dean Bertram’s celebration of the macabre and imaginative has created a legacy of extraordinary visionaries, many of whom consider their festival experience a professional and personal turning point. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival, SCREEN-SPACE asked previous honourees what they recall most fondly about the spotlight shone on them by Bertram and his festival team…

"A Night of Horror has given me the opportunity to expand on many levels of this art, thanks to the incredible life long relationships, both personal and in the business arena, that I have embraced from it. Dr Bertram has evolved this event into an extraordinary experience for fans of the horror and sci-fi genre that no other festival in Australia has even begun to understand. It has brought filmmakers and fans together, sharing wisdom through unity, to expand the Aussie scene into a powerhouse world contender.' - Dalibor Backovic (right), Dir: The Ancient Rite of Corey McGillis. WINNER - Best of The Fest, Best Special Effects, 2007.

"I didn't know what to expect when Family Demons was selected. I had never made a horror film before; making it was pretty tough. I self financed, working as an office temp and I couldn't get any funding bodies to cover completion funds. I can't describe how nervous I was at the World Premiere at A Night of Horror in 2009. So to discover that people dug the film and got what I was trying to do was such a surprise. I got to hang out with other horror filmmakers, horror fans, and the film festival organisers themselves. The experience is a highlight of my career." – Ursula Dabrowsky (left, with actress Sarah Jeavons), Dir: Family Demons. WINNERBest Australian Director, 2009 (Dabrowsky would return in 2014 with multiple award-winner, Inner Demon).

Ten short years ago, in the desert of Australian genre festivals, Dean Bertram’s A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet emerged as a much needed spring of enthusiasm for independent genre cinema. With an open mind, Dean ignores obvious festival hits to instead deliver diverse programming year after year, providing a true sense of discovery for fans. ANOH has unearthed countless cult treasures over the decade, films you wouldn’t read about in most of the print and online film journals. And whilst many festivals are just there to milk filmmakers, Dean always looks after his guests in a sincere and personal way you rarely find. - Steven Kastrissios, Dir: The Horseman (pictured, right; on-set with actors Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy). WINNER4 awards, including Best Australian Feature, Best Australian Director, 2010.

"I never expected Found would play internationally, and I certainly never expected any awards. So the A Night of Horror's Best Feature and Best Actor awards were a big deal for me. It meant that people on the opposite side of the globe were connecting with the story and its characters. Connecting with me. It made the world feel wonderfully smaller, and it gave me confidence that maybe this weird little labor of love could connect with more people. I appreciate what Dean Bertram has created over the last 10 years; the venue, the audience, the press, the awards, and the attention he has brought to independent films and filmmakers. A Night of Horror helped make Found what it is today – a movie with far wider reach than I ever anticipated. Thank you for everything, Dean!" - Scott Schirmer (right), Dir: Found. WINNERBest Feature Film, Best Male Performance, 2013 (Schirmer’s latest film, Plank Face, has its Australian debut at A Night of Horror 2016).

“The festival was an amazing experience, where our film played to perhaps its best audience. Dean has done a phenomenal job as festival director; he makes all his guests feel like part of his festival family and puts in a huge amount of effort to provide as much help and support as possible. He’s gone out of his way to help promote other projects we’re working on and he doesn’t just champion the film’s playing at the festival but the filmmakers themselves.” – Guy Pigden (left), Dir: I Survived a Zombie Holocaust. WINNERIndependent Spirit Award, 2014

“I remember hoping for an award, but definitely not the big one. I said that when I received it! It was the first award in my life. I posted the news on Facebook and it was immediately picked by the biggest news agency in Romania. I was sending them press releases for months about all the other festival that selected Be My Cat and they never published anything, but news of my Best Film win at A Night of Horror gets picked up immediately! It was a great experience, feeling like a star, with the top media following me.” – Adrian Tofei, Dir: Be My Cat: A Film for Anne. WINNERBest Feature Film, 2015.

The 10th A Night of Horror Fantastic Planet Film Festival runs November 24 to December 4 at Dendy Cinemas Newtown. Full program and session details can be found at the event's official website.

Read SHORT CUTS: HORROR HEAVIES PACT ON ANTHOLOGY PROJECT here.
Read DR. DEAN'S WOMEN OF HORROR here.
Read BLOOD AND MEMORIES: 2013 A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTIC PLANET FILM FESTIVAL WRAP-UP here.
Read FIRST BLOOD: THE LAUNCH PAD INTERVIEWS here
Read A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTIC PLANET 2013 FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL here
Read THE LAUNCHPAD DIRECTORS: REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS FROM A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTICPLANET 2015 here.
Read THE SHELTER: THE MICHAEL PARE INTERVIEW here

 

SCREEN-SPACE editor Simon Foster is Head of Jury at A Night of Horror 2016.