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Horror-on-Sea 2023 - 10 Bloody Years!
After building steadily over nine fantastic years, Horror-on-Sea went into the stratosphere for our 10th anniversary in 2023! Never mind the hills, the Park Inn Palace Hotel was "alive" with more fans, filmmakers, guests and dealers than ever before, and everyone had a wonderful time! World Premiere screenings abounded, with special mention to The Last Twitch, the second in the trilogy that began with The Snarling, which itself had famously been born out of the Horror-on-Sea experience! And who would have thought a pop-up video store could inspire a horror feature? But that's exactly what happened after festival regular Singh Lall opened up his VHS 'store' at HoS a few years ago: astonishingly, this spawned its own film at HoS 2023, Video Shop Tales of Terror, an anthology which saw six directors, festival regulars all, producing short films directly inspired by HoS and the Video Store. How cool is that?! What a great platform to build on as we head into the next 10 years: HoS 2024, here we come!
Having scraped in just before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in 2020, there was no such luck in 2021. With the world in the grip of a real-life catastrophy, the fictional terrors that comprise Horror-on-Sea, along with all other forms of entertainment, were put firmly on hold. However, with vaccines and other counter measures taking effect, national restrictions were eventually eased and Horror-on-Sea was able to go ahead in January 2022. The festival was back, in all its gut-wrenching glory, and filmmakers and fans enjoyed a packed programme, which included no fewer than 10 World Premieres.
Another full-on, two-weekend festival, the main alteration being that, due to a scheduling clash, Pat's Masterclass (Write a Bloody Movie in 30 Days) moved to the second weekend. A real highlight was the film that closed the festival: Blood Tulips, a real crowd-pleaser that saw leading lady Bouvier and director Randy Kent came over from the States to join us: they were wonderful people and a real pleasure to meet.
This year saw further expansion. Hitherto, the second Friday had been limited to two films in the evening, but Paul went for broke and scheduled a full day with six features. It proved to be a masterstroke: fans and filmmakers responded positively, and it is very likely this programming will continue. Pat was back, presenting a Masterclass intriguingly titled Pat vs. The Scissors Man!
More of the same this year, with both weekends now firmly established at the hotel. The Snarling made a welcome return, and Pat kept up his record of conducting a Masterclass at every festival.
Horror-on-Sea really took off this year! While having a debrief with management at the Park Inn Palace Hotel, following last year's festival, Paul was casually asked why he wasn't running the second weekend at the hotel! Well, he never imagined they would be up for two whole weekends but, so successful has this become, that the hotel could hardly contain themselves, and so Horror-on-Sea became a full-on two-weekend festival! This made the second weekend far better for filmmakers and fans alike, as the 40-seat White Bus Cinema was now replaced by the 200-seat hotel Ballroom
The format this year continued from last year's success, with Pat not only hosting a further Masterclass, but also proudly presenting the World Premiere of his latest epic, The House on the Witchpit. Once again, there were two full weekends of terror, split between the Park Inn Palace Hotel and the White Bus Cinema. One of the many highlights was the World Premiere of The Snarling, a film that grew out of Horror-on-Sea: Director Pablo Raybould and producer Ben Manning were festival regulars and, thinking they could do just as well as anyone else, they had a go - and produced the hit of the festival!
Expansion was the name of the game this year, with the second session at the White Bus Cinema finally becoming a full-blown, full-on (Friday to Sunday) second weekend so that as many submissions as possible could be included in the overall programme. Pat Higgins returned during the first weekend to present another Masterclass, this time charmingly titled How Not to Make a Horror Movie, focussing on the horrible ways a budding masterpiece can be, er, screwed up!
It is clear from this second festival that there is now no stopping the Horror-on-Sea juggernaut! Another packed weekend, and another further session at the White Bus Cinema, this time one feature and no fewer than three programmes of short films (dubbed 'Salty Shorts'!). And local horrormeister Pat Higgins, legendary director of KillerKiller, Hellbride and Bordello Death Tales, who was with us in 2013, came back to present a second Masterclass, giving tips on how to write and film your own horror classic!
It is very pleasing to report that the inaugural Horror-on-Sea Film Festival was a great success! It was the brain child of Paul Cotgrove who, having founded the Southend-on-Sea Film Festival in 2009, finally realised his dream and hosted a festival devoted to two of his favourite genres: horror and fantasy. Having mulled over the content, he fairly quickly decided to showcase new, independent productions, giving a 'big screen' experience to films that might not otherwise receive one. Fortunately, the good folks at the Park Inn Palace Hotel were just as enthusiastic, and a weekend in January was soon inked in. Paul was then astonished - and flattered - at how many films were submitted: indeed, to include at least two more, Paul's own White Bus Cinema in the Temporary Arts Project gallery was roped in for a double bill on the Friday following the festival weekend. Let's hope this is just the start of something that will grow and grow...
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