FrightFest 2023 Lineup: Festival Opens with Suitable Flesh

Plus, the World Premiere of Hammer’s Doctor Jekyll!

Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

FrightFest is back and taking no prisoners with the announcement of its late August lineup, which includes Joe Lynch’s love letter to Stuart Gordon and H.P. Lovecraft, Suitable Flesh, as the festival’s opening night film. Suitable Flesh is one of the year’s most anticipated horror films, and Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023 attendees will get to experience it during its European premiere on opening night. The movie is about a doctor who loses her patient diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and the downward spiral that leads to her possession. The film had its breakout world premiere at Tribeca this year and has created a lot of praise among horror fans following every festival screening.

Suitable Flesh poster
Suitable Flesh | Image courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

FrightFest Co-director Alan Jones comments:

FrightFesters will experience an amazing variety of films in an eclectic line-up which serves as a powerful tool of democracy, activism, diversity, inclusivity, and social awareness. As always, FrightFest is keen to show, through an openminded philosophy, that the most unexpected and delightful discoveries happen when wide-ranging topics, different people, and varied cultures come together in horror harmony.

Suitable Flesh will kick off five days of programming, August 24 through August 28, which features seventy films, including twelve UK premieres, twenty-three European premieres, and twenty-five world premieres, with fourteen countries representing all five continents.

Speaking of world premieres, the news that transgender icon Eddie Izzard’s Doctor Jekyll will have its world premiere during FrightFest 2023 pumped me up. In the Hammer Studios-produced iteration of the classic tale, Izzard plays Nina Jekyll, a brilliant pharmaceutical scientist turned pariah who hires an ex-con to help her with boundary-pushing experiments. I broke the news about the teaser poster, revealing Izzard as the lead in Doctor Jekyll, about a year ago on Horror Obsessive and couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the upcoming film, which is said to be a “bold reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale.

Nina Jekyll speaks with Rob in a sunlit room, a chest holding two lamps rests in the background between them in Doctor Jekyll
Doctor Jekyll | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

Doctor Jekyll won’t be the only film to feature transgender representation. Alice Maio MacKay‘s latest, T-Blockers, was shot almost exclusively with a cast and crew of non-binary, Queer, and Trans-identifying people. A festival favorite film, T-blockers is a midnight-movie-styled pod-people-possession movie that shows cis-gender people turning into violent homophobes, radically set on genocide. In a political climate where that seems more than relevant, T-Blockers is a symbolically powerful and captivating nightmare from one of the best young voices in Queer horror.

Closing out the FrightFest 2023 is Jenn Wexler’s buzzworthy The Sacrifice Game. Wexler is a ferocious director exuding talent and charisma and now makes it two-for-two with back-to-back FrightFest entries, following in her 2018 debut, The Ranger’s, footsteps. The Sacrifice Game is said to be a tribute to the boldness of ’70s cinema, with the synopsis of two young women avoiding cultists when their boarding school dormitory is broken into over Christmas setting a Black Christmas meets Suspiria tone.

The Sacrifice Game star Olivia Scott Welch can also be seen in FrightFest 2023’s world premiere of George Baron’s debut feature, The Blue Rose, which embroils two rookie detectives in a homicide investigation that leads them into an alternate reality built from their worst nightmares. The title alone has us thinking of Twin Peaks, while the detective story sounds vaguely like Fire Walk with Me, but, combined with the presence of Ray Wise, The Blue Rose has us thinking this one will be for the Lynch fans.

The Poster image for The Blue Rose, shows faces and settings in a blooming Blue Rose
The Blue Rose | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

Jenn Wexler isn’t the only alum returning to FrightFest 2023. This year’s lineup sees the return of established voices in the horror world, such as Xavier Gens (Frontier(s), Cold Skin) presenting his action-thriller Farang, along with the emerging talents such as Erik and Carson Bloomquist (She Came from the Woods) returning with Founders Day, The Adams Family (The Deeper You Dig, Hellbender) with Where the Devil Roams, cult director Marcel Walz’s splatter pic That’s a Wrap, and Alex Kahuam’s eighty-seven minute, single-take, Ted Raimi helmed Failure!

A handful of homegrown UK filmmakers will also reprise their FrightFest filmmaker status. The Show’s Mitch Jenkins returns to FrightFest 2023 with his futuristic thriller A Million Days. Midnight Peepshow directors Andy Edwards, Airell Anthony Hayles, and Jake West unleash their features Punch, Werewolf Santa, and documentary Mancunian Man: The Legendary Life of Cliff Twemlow (respectively). Stuart Sparke goes zombie with How to Kill Monsters. Sean Hogan’s folk horror mini-feature To Fire You Come At Last will screen, and Nicholas Vince stars and directs his autobiographical one-man show, I Am Monsters!

Death of a Vlogger’s Graham Hughes is also back at FrightFest 2023. The Scottish filmmaker is presenting the multiversal thriller Hostile Dimensions, about a pair of documentary filmmakers who appear to change realities while seeking the truth about a graffiti artist who disappeared. And Welsh actor Richard Brake (Mandy) returns in Lore, a campfire anthology feature we’ve been waiting for.

Three doors stand independently on the beach in Hostile Dimensions
Hostile Dimensions | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

Asian genre cinema will also be well represented, from Woman of the Photographs director Takeshi Kushida’s My Mother’s Eyes to Junta Yamaguchi’s River, Yong-ki Jeong’s The Ghost Station, and Richard Somes Triggered (Topakk). Viljar Bøe’s Good Boy is one of two Scandinavian horror flicks guaranteed to have audiences thinking, “WTF,” as a man playing a dog tries to come between a millionaire and his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Finnish directors Jonaas Pajunen and Max Seeck’s debut film The Knocking looks to properly scare the hell out of its audience when three siblings venture to their late parents’ house deeply buried within a remote forest.

On the stateside front, FrightFest 2023 will be well-represented by Zach Passero’s imaginative The Weird Kidz and Ariel Vida’s scary-good Humboldt County horror Trim Season, along with Austin Jennings’ blood-soaked Eight Eyes, fresh from its debut at Fantasia, and the world premiere of Clare Cooney’s debut feature Departing Seniors, about a boy with psychic abilities trying to save his classmates from a serial killer.

Seven additional world premieres place themselves on FrightFest 2023’s main screen, including Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis’ supernatural infidelity flick Cheat, where small-town infidelities turn deadly at the hands of a ghostly curse. There’s also Matt Sampere’s feature debut Creeping Death, where Halloween pranks break a sacred bond between the human world and the spirit world, causing a night of terror for a group of friends. Raymond Wood’s Faceless After Dark sees a horror actress kidnapped by a vitriolic fan determined to inflict the plot of her successful killer clown movie upon her. Plus, Steven Pierce’s survival zombie-horror Herd, Michael Hurst’s interconnected stories fuel Transmission, chilly serial killer flick Cold Meat, and the haunting Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives.

A man with curly hair and discolored eyes with boils and blood adorning his bearded face in Herd
Herd | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

Other captivating main screen titles at FrightFest 2023 include Samuel Bodin’s Lizzy Caplan-led Cobweb, Paris Zarcilla’s breakout SXSW hit Raging Grace, Quarxx’s Pandemonium, Matt Vesley’s Monolith, and Bishal Dutta‘s It Lives Inside. Joining these heavy hitters that you may not have heard of is Anthony Waller’s Pied Piper folktale starring Elizabeth Hurley, The Piper, 
Maximilian Erlenwein’s underwater 127 Hours survival thriller, The Dive, John Rosman’s apocalyptic thriller New Life, and Barnaby Clay’s off-grid, desert survival horror, The Seeding.

And, what film festivals are all about, FrightFest 2023 will continue to honor and elevate the voices of emerging filmmakers. This year, three Discovery screens. Onur Tukel’s Poundcake, a satirical commentary on woke ideology, will be featured. Konstantinos Koutsoliotas’ Minore brings monsters and comedy to audiences. John Pata’s hallucinogenic Black Mold will twist your mind. Tony Reames and Eric Roberts will leave you Spookt. In What You Wish For, Nicholas Tomnay and Nick Stahl bring you to the dark side of identity theft. A priest enters Clive Barker’s worst nightmare (where Hellraiser‘s Doug Bradley plays an archbishop) when sent to investigate an observatory that falls silent after receiving a signal from deep space in Douglas Schulze’s Thorns. Daniel Turres’ fan-favorite blood-soaked actioner Here For Blood makes a resurgence from FrightFest Glasgow. And Devanny Pinn’s directorial debut, The Black Mass, inspired by actual events occurring in Florida in 1978, makes its international premiere.

Showcasing four films from four new directors, FrightFest 2023’s First Blood screenings will highlight the talents of innovative new directors. In Chris Cronin’s chiller The Moor, a woman is approached by the father of her murdered childhood friend to help investigate the area where he believes his ghost still lingers. Tariq Sayed’s Isaac contemplates the horror of technology when a genetically modified meat company helps a grieving couple have a baby.

Tony Devlin’s found footage horror The Glenarma Tapes discovers what happened when a prank went wrong on an outing in a remote Irish forest back in 2020. And Dominic O’Neill uses the BBC series Ghostwatch as inspiration for his séance gone awry in a haunted house on Halloween night picture, Haunted Ulster Live.

a faceless man with an opening for a mouth that looks ripped apart wears a crown of thorns, and the background is spectacle of blood spatter in Thorns
Thorns | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

FrightFest 2023 is also bursting at the seams with documentaries this year. In addition to the aforementioned Mancunian Man, Otto Baxter: Not a Fu**ing Horror Story will explore the life of a filmmaker. The documentary will explore Baxter, who has Down Syndrome, and how that influenced his work, creating the short film The Puppet Asylum. Baxter’s short film will follow the documentary presentation as well.

Other docs include horror film analysis of Spanish found footage horror [REC], A look inside Brian Yuzna’s Society, and a deep dive into Japanese supernatural horror with [REC]: Terror Without Pause, The Darkside of Society, and The J-Horror Virus. 1982: The Greatest Geek Year Ever! celebrates genre fandom and the rise of genre film, Kim’s Video goes hunting for a lost collection of fifty-five thousand videotapes in Sicily, and Bruce Lee fans will feel the love of the Bruceploitation craze in Enter the Clones of Bruce Lee, which looks at the martial arts actor’s many doppelgangers.

Restorations and retrospectives at this year’s festival see Lewis Teague’s 1980 cult film Aligator starring Robert Forster, an exclusive 4K restoration of It Follows, and a special centennial celebration for Warner Brothers, featuring a tenth anniversary showing of James Wan’s The Conjuring and a fiftieth anniversary showing for William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. “The Version You Never Saw” will be presented at the FrightFest 2023, hosted by the world’s foremost expert on the film Mark Kermode.

A man shines a flashlight past a woman tied to a chair wearing only her bra in It Follows
It Follows | Image Courtesy of FrightFest 2023/Clout Communications

The programmers behind Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023 have absolutely outdone themselves by bringing this slate of top-notch films to the horror community. Now in its twenty-fourth year and partnering with technology & entertainment pioneers Pigeon Shrine as their head sponsor, FrightFest proves why it’s the UK’s biggest genre festival once again as it takes over Cineworld Leicester Square, London, this August 24 through 28. Festival passes and Day passes are on sale now.

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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