INTERVIEW: Director Simeon Halligan Talks Ten Years of Grimmfest

Grimmfest 2018 will take place from the 4th – 7th October at Odeon Manchester Great Northern.

Get tickets to Grimmfest 2018 here!

Not only is Grimmfest looking set to have its best line-up to date, but it’s also the horror festival’s ten year anniversary.

We had a chat with its founder and director Simeon Halligan to find out more about Grimmfest’s roots and what kind of unique and disturbing delights we can expect to see from it this year.

Kirstie: Tell us a bit about Grimmfest.

Simeon: It’s our tenth year of Grimmfest, so it’s a big year for us really. It’s quite amazing that ten years are up now. It all started in 2009.

I’m a director and my partner is a producer, so we make movies. It all stemmed from us having a film called Splintered, which was our first feature. We wanted somewhere to screen it and we wanted to premiere it in Manchester because it’s our home town.

We thought we’d put it on Hallowe’en, and with some other horror films. We got some other filmmakers who had new horror movies and it kinda grew from there.

Gradually, we had more and more people saying they wanted to screen their movie with us. Before we knew it, we had loads of movies and that became the first Grimmfest. We didn’t intend to have a festival.

I remember saying on the first year that it was so stressful I was never going to do it again. But, of course, we did, and it’s continued to this day.

Kirstie: What are your plans for Grimmfest 2018?

Simeon: I guess we’ve grown every year, so we’re bigger than we’ve ever been in terms of our content and the amount of people that are coming to Grimmfest. So this year, we’ve got Barbara Crampton coming as our special guest. We’re screening a classic, Reanimator on the opening night and she’ll do a Q and A afterwards. We’re screening Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich, which is a lot of fun. She’s going to present that as well, and a movie called Dead Night.

We’ve got a lot of new movies and premieres, as well as actors and directors and producers coming.

Kirstie: What excites you most out of the line-up for this year’s festival?

Simeon: Ooh, I like everything! We put an awful lot of time into programming the festival. Essentially we have four programmers and I’m one of them. We watch hundreds and hundreds of hours of stuff and we whittle it down. It’s very hard to make decisions on films because we all have certain films that we like, so we have to have a system and generally if every one of the programming team like a movie then it’s a definite invite to the festival.

Everything we screen this year is good. I don’t think there’s one naff film. My highlights are hard to say, really, they’re all great in different ways.

Nightmare Cinema (2018)

We’re screening a film called Brothers’ Nest, which is a new Australian movie. It’s very comic, but it’s very, very dark. It’ll be the UK premiere. It’s directed by a guy called Clayton Jacobson and it stars him and his brother, Shane Jacobson. It’s about two guys who return to their family home intent on killing their father. The whole thing spirals out of control, making it a very blackly comic film.

We’ve got the UK premier of Nightmare Cinema, which is an anthology movie from some very well-known directors in the genre world. It’s kind of headed up by Mick Garris and I think it was probably his project. He’s pulled together people like David Slade, who directed Thirty Days of Night, and Joe Dante, who’s very famous for Gremlins and many other films. It’s a really twisted horror anthology, starring people like Mickey Rourke, so it’s got really calibre casting too. That’s an exciting one to have. I think we’ve got some of the crew – I’m not sure exactly who, but we’re hoping that one of the directors might be coming.

Brothers’ Nest (2018)

Anna and the Apocalypse is our closing night film. It’s a zombie musical set in Scotland. It’s doing a lot of festivals at the moment. I think that’s going to play really well. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s a musical, which is unusual for us, and it’s got a great British cast.

I should mention also our opening night films. We’ve got Await Further Instructions, which is a new movie from Johnny Kevorkian. How can I describe that one? It’s about a family who are forced together at Christmas. They don’t really get on, but they find themselves trapped by some kind of alien structure that contains them in the house. It’s a sci-fi-horror, I suppose, but there’s a lot of character work in there. Some great performances, and it’s really well made, and tense. That’s going to be at our opening night. We’ve got the cast and crew, including the director and writer coming, as it’s the northern premiere.

The final film we’ve got on our opening night is called Girls With Balls. It’s a French movie to have as it’s the European premiere. It’s about a volleyball team who end up stranded in the middle of nowhere when their minibus breaks down. They’re stuck in this territory where they’re hunted down by this group of backwards people and they have to fight for their lives. It’s got a really feminist edge to it and it’s a lot of fun. It’s funny and gory and I think it’s going to play we really. We’ve got the director Olivier Afonso coming to present that.

Girls With Balls (2018)

Kirstie: What are your hopes for this year’s festival?

Simeon: Grimmfest is always a lot of fun. What’s great about it is getting to share movies with all the fans, and bringing together the filmmakers and the audiences. That’s one of the most exciting aspects of the festival. I think that we tend to open the festival by mixing the talent with the people at the opening of the movie, so people get to chat to them and ask them questions. It’s very hands-on. People come together. We find that once people have been to Grimmfest, they want to come again, not just the audiences but also the filmmakers.

For instance, last year we had a director called Rob Grant who came over from Canada. His film Fake Blood is a pseudo-documentary which kind of touched upon the violence of the films that he has made, and his perception of it as a filmmaker and his response to it in terms of his responsibilities. In that documentary, he ends up getting himself involved in some very bizarre activities to try to investigate what violence means to other people. But was it a documentary, or was it fictional? It was hard to say. It was fantastic to have him over to present the film because they audience wanted to know. Needless to say, he never gave anyone a straight answer.

But he’s back this year with a film called Alive, for the UK premiere. This one is a straight fictional film. It stars Angus McFadyen, who was in a couple of the Saw movies and Braveheart. He’s one of a group of patients who finds himself strapped to a bed in a strange hospital, with a doctor who says he’s keeping them there for their own good. They have to try to figure out what’s going on and why they’re there. When you see at the end who they are, it’s bizarre and a really exciting twist.

He’s coming back with that film this year. I think that’s one of the highlights of the festival is that people enjoy it, not just watching movies, but it’s a very sociable set up. I think it’ll go with a bang.

We’d like to say a massive thank-you to Simeon Halligan for taking the time to speak with us! Don’t forget to get tickets to this year’s epic Grimmfest. You can also keep up to date with Simeon and Grimmfest on Twitter.

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