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Fear set to stalk the Fens again with return of horror film festival

PUBLISHED: 11:23 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 21 September 2017

Robert Lloyd Parry as M R James will be performing chilling stories, The Ash Tree and Casting the Runes.Photo: Shelagh Bidwell

Robert Lloyd Parry as M R James will be performing chilling stories, The Ash Tree and Casting the Runes.Photo: Shelagh Bidwell

(c) 2011 Shelagh Bidwell

Chilling ghost stories, horror classics, cult films and talks exploring the fact and fiction of the landscapes links to the supernatural feature in the second Fear in the Fens Festival.

Night of the Demon, the British horror classic that is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. Photo: Submitted Night of the Demon, the British horror classic that is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. Photo: Submitted

The East Anglian landscape has inspired feelings of dread and terror since Beowulf, the first horror story in English, was written here in the 7th century.

The master ghost story writer MR James also found East Anglia an appropriate setting for some of his most chilling tales. Later in the 20th century, filmmakers found it a perfect location for horror films such as Witchfinder General and The Tomb of Ligeia.

It’s the perfect place then to stage a horror film festival.

The first Fear in the Fens Film Festival last November saw near-capacity audiences fill Downham Market Town Hall, with visitors from as far away as Oxford, Wolverhampton and Leeds mixing with local horror fans from Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

There will be a screening of 1920 masterpiece of early silent cinema Der Golem. There will be a screening of 1920 masterpiece of early silent cinema Der Golem.

In addition to watching classic horror films such as Witchfinder General and short films from local film makers, the audience enjoyed talks on Vlad the Impaler (the real Dracula), and the history of witch trials in East Anglia.

Now the festival is set to return with a mix of chilling ghost stories, horror classics, cult films and talks.

Festival curator writer and dark culture expert Kit Lewis said: “Horror festivals seem to be increasing in popularity: there’s the Bram Stoker festival in Whitby, Abertoir in Aberystwyth, the Ingrid Pitt Horror festival in Hastings and the Grimm Up North festival in Manchester. The British Library also recently hosted an event on the Folk Horror Revival.

“I think our first event has established not only that there is local interest for an event like this, but also that if we get high-quality speakers, we can attract people from all over the country.”

Neglected masterpiece of British 70s folk-horror, Psychomania, gets a rare screening. Photo: BFI Neglected masterpiece of British 70s folk-horror, Psychomania, gets a rare screening. Photo: BFI

It will open on September 30 with Nunkie Theatre Company performing two of M.R. James’ most chilling stories, The Ash Tree and Casting the Runes.

Casting the Runes is a tale of a runic curse and creeping unease has inspired a number of film and television adpations, including Drag Me to Hell and Night of the Demon, the British horror classic that is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary. The 1957 will also be the opening film of the festival on October 1, preceded by a talk from Nunkie’s Robert Lloyd Parry describing MR James’ relationship with the East Anglian landscape.

Other films include on October 2 a screening of 1920 masterpiece of early silent cinema Der Golem, based on a legend in Jewish mysticism and seen as an influence on many later films, but in particular James Whale’s Frankenstein. It will be preceded by a talk from Michael Clarke exploring Jewish folk magick.

Meanwhile Gavin Baddeley will talk about the British tradition of vampires and the walking dead as an introduction to a rare screening of the neglected masterpiece of 70s folk-horror, Psychomania. A true cult film, with an unlikely cast that includes Beryl Reid, George Sanders, Robert Hardy and Bill Pertwee, this occult kitsch classic centres on a hell-raising motorcycle gang called The Living Dead.

The festival will also include a screening of short horror films made by local film makers.

• Fear in the Fens Film Festival takes place in Downham Market from September 30-October 1. Tickets start from just £7. Full details at fearinthefens.com

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