Frightfest (also known as London Frightfest) this year decided to do a Digital edition due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Just like some other well known festivals they decided to bring their content online in order to continue to engage with everyone. It is a huge achievement that they managed to bring this together both technology wise and with rights issues in such a short period of time.
Frightfest started in the year 2000, it was put together by Paul MCavoy, Ian Rattray and Greg Day. In the past 20 years it has had great success with notable films being premiered and guest speakers including the likes of Guillermo del Toro and less well known but just as interesting guests . Obviously though to put a digital edition together so quickly would be a very different beast.
I’ve stated before I am not the biggest Horror fan with my first love being Science Fiction and Fantasy. There is however frequent crossovers in the Genre’s, is Alien a Horror or Science Fiction movie? Due to our location and my Wife’s health it would be almost impossible for us to ever attend in person a Frightfest in London, so we were both excited to be able to take part in this years event. This is a short round up of our experience accessing this years event.
We went onto the Frightfest website to choose what we wanted to watch. I will say the overall design of the website looks nice but trying to find out specific information about how to watch it was not straightforward, also within the schedule there really should have been links to trailers. We went searching You Tube and the general internet for some but as a lot of these films are either independent, or not even released yet it can be difficult to find trailers. The website linking to them would have made this much easier and given us a better idea of what to choose, as although they provided summation’s a trailer gives you more of a feel of the film.
When we were browsing and choosing which films to watch it became really difficult, as often we found several films of interest but then found out we’d have to choose between them because they were streamed on different channels at the same time. As there was only one showing of each film you had to make your mind up with very little information, this is where trailers really would of helped although what we would of liked to have seen is another alternative viewing so we were not forced to choose. We are aware that this is a situation you would of found yourselves in if you attended a previous Frightfest event however as this was hosted digitally this would of been the perfect chance to address this issue. We personally had this experience and meant we had to choose one film over another which was really hard to pick between the two which such little information out there.
To watch the films the organisers chose Eventive. Eventive have been developing a technology platform to help festivals make a virtual cinema. If you had access to Apple TV it was straightforward as there was an app that you were able to use. I personally don’t know anyone who uses Apple TV, as streaming services go they are behind Netflix and probably even Disney +. To be almost exclusively on Apple is negative for audience engagement in my opinion, as not everyone owns an apple device or TV. Eventive have been doing it for a while, I am a little confused why they have not made the end user experience a little more straightforward. There was rumours before the event of an App coming to Amazon Fire stick but this never appeared. I know some people were using Chromecast to cast it to their TVs but there were some technical problems with this caused by Eventive which were eventually sorted out.
We watched the films by using the web browser and attaching an HDMI lead to our TV, this worked pretty well but it can be a bit of a faff trying to find somewhere to perch the laptop and the extra cables involved. The films were broadcast at specific times and you could not pause or rewind them, if you wanted to go to the toilet you had to pick your moment like in the cinema, but at least you didn’t have to climb over half a dozen people run out of the cinema and in your rush run into the Ladies toilet by mistake!
We watched five films over the 4/5 days of the event. If you want to know my full opinion of them pop over to my letterboxd account, I’ll also give links to the individual reviews. The first film we watched was on Friday which was ‘There’s no such things as Vampires’ a low budget Vampire road movie, which followed up with an interview with the writter/director which was great extra content.
On Saturday lunchtime our next film was ‘The Honeymoon Phase’ a Science Fiction/Horror/Thriller film which through around some interesting ideas and for us was the best film we watched over the weekend. This screening started with another short, a great way of showing these short films we felt and would of been great to see on every screening rather than doing a specific screening with several put together. We would of liked to have seen more of the short films but it was hard to justify the extra cost, as although bundled together it was the same price as a normal viewing (if you had the full pass of course this wouldn’t be an issue but not everyone can afford this).
On Sunday we had two films scheduled ‘Clapboard Jungle’ which was a very interesting documentary about getting independent films made. I would though have loved to have been able to pause the film in order to get my breath and absorb the information at points. This was also followed up by an interview with the film maker which added to our experience. Our evening film was ‘Hall’ which unfortunately was a disappointing Virus/Zombie film. We had a surprise before this film as a short called ‘14 days’ was screened. It would have been useful to have a title card telling us this because ourselves and others on Twitter were a little confused as this wasn’t on the program. It was a great little short filmed entirely whilst in lockdown, it was amongst our favourite viewing of the weekend and it’s just a shame we missed a bit of it at the beginning as we weren’t sure we were watching the right thing (as soon as we found out online all was good we were able to fully focus on it, and enjoyed it a lot). I’ve been trying to find some more information on the film but seem to have drawn a blank, as we would love the opportunity to see it again from the beginning. Our final film of the weekend was on Monday which was ‘Enhanced’ an enjoyable superhero/mutant movie that kept us entertained and rounded the weekend off nicely.
Our overall feelings about Frightfest 2020 Digital Edition was that it was great that we could be involved as well as others who would not normally be able to attend. I really do hope that the organisers consider running a digital version as normal in conjunction with their normal event. I understand it was probably very difficult to put this together at such short notice, getting permissions and rights is not easy at the best of times. I would have loved to have seen a few classic films on the program as well. If the information on the website was improved along with links to trailers and the use of Eventive (an Amazon Fire app would be great) was made easier I really think this could be a great success. I think the gold standard of a digital version would be if a film was streamed the same time as it was shown at the event, then the live talk by the Director and filmmakers, which those attending would see was also streamed live. Here’s hoping it’s not just a one off as its a great opportunity for people like us that cannot attend the physical event.