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6 Unmissable Films from Arrow Video FrightFest 2021

Written by Becky Roberts

FrightFest, the UK’s favourite horror festival, returned to where it belongs for 2021 – in cinemas. Specifically, to the home-sweet-home of Leicester Square’s Cineworld. And it appetised hungrier-than-usual horror fans with five days of thrills, chills and kills the only way it knows how: with a healthy dose of FrightFest family comraderie and an eclectic line-up of films from around the world. There was a British chiller about 80s-era Video Nasties censorship (Censor), an encyclopedic documentary on folk horror (Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched), a satisfying slice of Cage Rage (Prisoners Of The Ghostland) and, naturally, an on-screen helping of Barbara Crampton (King Knight). 

A number of them will be screened online this coming weekend as part of Arrow Video FrightFest's Digital Edition, which continues for the second year (this time alongside last weekend’s in-person event, of course) due to understandable COVID concerns for many. So if you're trying to decide what to watch then, or what to look out for in the coming months, here are six picks.

(Disclaimer: Many FrightFesteers have been raving about Slapface and closing film The Sadness in particular, neither of which make this list as I haven’t been able to see them… yet.)

Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes

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Be prepared to be taken places by Germany’s intelligent and visceral, genre-spanning mystery horror, for all is not what it seems when Margot (Luisa Taraz) and her husband Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) move into the castle they have inherited from her uncle. This isn’t one for me to spoil – go in blind, you won’t regret it – but Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes’ 70s-inspired, gothic-drenched aesthetic and bold, nostalgic score make Kevin Kopacka’s picture compellingly atmospheric. And that’s before you even consider its twisty-turny direction…

Watch it during FrightFest Digital Edition on Friday 3rd September 6pm BST.

No Man of God

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One might well feel fairly buddy with Ted Bundy had they gorged on the plethora of documentaries and dramas that have surfaced about the notorious serial killer in recent years, but Amber Sealey’s chiller, which focuses on the relationship that formed between FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) during the final years Bundy (Luke Kirkby) experiences on death row, is by far the best of the lot. Predominantly delivered through traditional interview style, it plays out like the Mindhunter episode that never came – super-slick, ruthlessly intense, supremely acted (especially by Kirkby) and somehow managing to put you through the every-emotion ringer.

Sweetie, You Won't Believe It

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FrightFest’s first-ever Kazakhstan flick, horror comedy Zhanym, ty ne poverish (Sweetie, You Won't Believe It) drew some of the biggest laughs of the long weekend – and gifted the audience some of the festival’s most fun deaths too. Sick and tired of his whiney pregnant wife (Asel Kaliyeva), Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) ditches her to go on a fishing trip with two of his college friends, only to witness a murder (when mid-fish, inside an inflatable dinghy full of blow-up sex dolls) and become embroiled in a cat and mouse chase with a gang and psychotic, one-eyed killer. Bad luck for Dastan and friends; excellent luck for viewers of this rampant crowd pleaser.

Watch it during FrightFest Digital Edition on Friday 3rd September 11pm BST.


censor poster

Set amongst the height of the ‘video nasties’ moral panic of the ‘80s (and an homage to the time and the tapes), this eerie British chiller from Prano Bailey-Bond follows young and diligent film censor Enid (Niamh Algar) as her job forces her to face the hysteria of the nation and, whether she likes it to not, the demons of her past. It draws parallels to Berberian Sound Studio, swapping Giallo for Video Nasties, and has a truly delicious final scene that satisfies the reality/fiction tightrope that’s confidently tread in the final third.

The Kindred

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Smart and bursting with heart, Jamie Patterson’s psychological drama-cum-mystery chiller is a slow-burn that sizzles along at just the right intensity. Suffering from amnesia, Helen (April Pearson) must piece together the final moments before her accident to discover why her father killed himself before her eyes. The Kindred doesn't tear up the narrative rule book of the increasingly popular whodunnit format, but its familiar formula unfolds with satisfying pace and well-measured twists, completed by a full house of strong performances led by Pearson.

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes

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Looking for the next One Cut of The Dead, the massive Japanese hit that stole the hearts and minds of FrightFesters in 2019? Well, here it is. One of a few unanimous favourites of the festival, Junat Yamaguchi’s one-take, time-travel, sci-fi comedy follows an unassuming cafe owner who, upon closing up for the night, suddenly discovers that the TV in his flat is showing him images from the future – but only two minutes into the future. And here the two-minute time-loop begins! High-concept, low-budget movies like this are rarely knocked out of the park, but Yamaguchi keeps a handling on its ambition and direction, keeping it surprising and suspenseful throughout. HorrorDNA’s own Joanna K. Neilson says that “if you have just over an hour free, why not give this a go? Your future self will definitely thank you” – and I can’t get behind that recommendation enough.

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About The Author
Becky Roberts
Staff Reviewer - UK
Becky has keenly devoured horror most of her life, harnessing a particular interest in Asian genre film... which she's written a 12,000-word dissertation on if anyone's up for a bit of light reading!
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