[Since today is Bram Stoker's 165th birthday, it seems fitting to commemorate the occasion with Richard Gladman's post-mortem of this year's Bram Stoker International Film Festival. Richard is the driving force behind the Classic Horror Campaign, and the voice of Rue Morgue UK. Rick also lurks about the web as his alter ego, Cyberschizoid.]
In the weeks leading up to Halloween in the UK, there are a plethora of horror film events, festivals and screenings vying for horror fans’ attention. One that has been building its reputation over the last four years is the Bram Stoker International Film Festival based in the North Yorkshire town of Whitby. Whitby is known as “the home of Dracula” because of its prominence in Stoker’s legendary vampire novel and the Bram Stoker International Film Festival capitalises on this with an abundance of vampire films in its programming, along with an extremely popular annual Vampire Ball where dressing up is not only welcomed but compulsory!
The four-day festival takes place at the Whitby Spa Pavilion, a conference and entertainment centre on the wind-swept seafront which includes a movie theatre, bar, huge conference room and more. What appealed to me most about this particular event is the incredibly laid-back, welcoming atmosphere and the feeling that you are being included into one big, happy family. Indeed, the festival is run by the father-and-son team of Michael and Micheál McCarthy who do their utmost to look after their celebrity guests and paying punters in equal measure.
The programme consisted of more than thirty independent horror, fantasy and science-fiction films, many of which were receiving UK or worldwide premieres and which were accompanied by numerous Q&A sessions with various actors, directors and producers, many of whom were only too happy to continue the conversations at the bar over the course of the weekend. British writer and director Alex Chandon introduced his recent production Inbred (2011) to a receptive audience, some of whom had actually appeared as extras in the darkly comedic splatterfest. Other notable guests included French director Lucas Masson who premiered his excellent short Baby-Sitting (2012), and British soap star Dominic Blunt who discussed his directorial debut Before Dawn (2012), a tense zombie thriller. The winners of this year’s Bram Stoker Fest awards included Before Dawn for Best Screenplay and I Am A Ghost (2012) for Best Film; British ghost story Death (2012) won both Best Director (Martin Gooch) and the Audience Award for best film.
As well as the films, which were screening from morning till night every day, there was the aforementioned Vampire Ball hosted by goth cabaret star Rosie Lugosi. The ball included the dark and sexy dance production A Vampire’s Tale starring the talented Scorpius Dance Theatre from Phoenix, Arizone; an Alternative Fashion Show featuring the latest in goth, steampunk and alternative fashions; and a hilarious stage version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula by the Radio Revellers theatre company, from a script by Orson Welles. The climax of the weekend was Sunday’s 1880s Night, an evening of non-stop music with DJ, live bands, burlesque, comedy and circus acts which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of Bram Stoker until the early hours.
If this year’s event is anything to go by, the Bram Stoker International Film Festival will only keep getting bigger and better, strongly supported by the entire gothic town of Whitby and enthusiastically attended by horror fans from around the UK.
Richard Gladman (Photos by Dean Geoghegan.)