Time for a good scare... your guide to Cork's Spook Screen Film Festival!

With the Spook Screen Film Festival getting ready to kick off in Cork, Cara O’Doherty looks forward to seeing full-length feature ‘Krampus’
Time for a good scare... your guide to Cork's Spook Screen Film Festival!

Spook Screen will host a special screening of Krampus followed by a question-and-answer session with one of its stars, Mark Atkin.

Things are about to get scary in Cork as the Spook Screen Film Festival returns to the county from September 13 to 20. Films will be screened in the Gate Cinemas in Cork City, Midleton, Mallow, and other locations. There are over 100 short films in the programme, as well as features.

Festival organiser Emmet O’Brien says that Covid has allowed them to expand the festival this year.

“It is our longest festival, running over a week, rather than the four days we normally do. With social distancing, audience numbers are reduced at screenings, but by spreading it out over more days, it gives people more chances to see the films.”

Alongside the short film programme, the festival has two notable feature additions, Krampus and Operation Rainfall.

Spook Screen has partnered with Gate Cinemas to bring audiences a special screening of Krampus followed by a question-and-answer session with one of its stars, Mark Atkin.

Directed by Michael Dougherty, Krampus is a Christmas horror film based on a Germanic myth about a horned, hoofed beast that punishes bold children. It stars award-winning actor Toni Collete as a mother striving to create the perfect Christmas for her son, but instead of presents under the tree, they find a demon on the hunt.

O’Brien says that people love the dark side of Christmas.

“There is a tradition of Christmas meets Halloween. Films like Gremlins, and even to a certain extent Home Alone, prove how much audiences love a more twisted idea of Christmas.

“We are delighted to have one of the stars, Mark Atkin, participate in the Q&A events after each screening. He will be there in person, which is a real treat. He has been in everything from The Hobbit to Rocketman and has some great stories to tell.”

Dan Ewing in Occupation Rainfall
Dan Ewing in Occupation Rainfall

Atkin says that he is looking forward to the event. “I am exceptionally proud of Krampus and how it has naturally become a beloved cult classic, and it is an honour of mine to share my experiences while making it. I am grateful that Spook Screen has given me this opportunity, and I’m excited about the event.”

Also on in the Gate is Occupation Rainfall, directed by Luke Spark and starring Jason Isaacs, Temuera Morrison and Ken Jeong. It is a futuristic adventure set in the intergalactic invasion of Earth, which sees human survivors and renegade aliens work together to defeat a dangerous intergalactic threat. A pre-recorded interview will follow the film.

“Our post-screening interview is with the film’s director, Luke Spark, and one of its stars, Dan Ewing, who many people here will know as Heath from Home and Away. Under different circumstances, they would have done a live Q&A or travelled to Ireland, but they live in Australia, so, unfortunately with Covid, they can’t travel.

“With the time difference, a live Q&A would have been tricky, but audiences will really enjoy the interview we have lined up for them.”

There are a number of awards presented to winning film submissions, and O’Brien says they like to have some fun with the various categories.

“We have several different awards that we give out every year and, as it is a horror festival, we like to give the awards appropriate names. We have Beast in Festival, instead of Best in Festival, and Ghoul Days is the award for best student entry.”

O’Brien says that the festival started as a celebration of local films, but has grown into a worldwide festival. O’Brien and the rest of the festival team — Stephen Broekhuizen, Paul Batt, and Philip Connolly — received over 200 submissions, and it was their task to pick the best of them to show in Cork.

He says it is enjoyable to watch all the entries, but it is not always easy.

“It can be a lot for the brain to take in, but it is worth it to ensure we make the best festival possible for Cork audiences.”

He also said that a new trend emerged in this year’s selection.

“Each year of the festival, we notice a trend in the types of films we are sent. In our first year, we received a lot of time-loop films. We had a year where a female was more often the villain. This year there were a lot more comedy films.

“I am not sure what influenced the other trends, but I think Covid has had an effect on our recent submissions. It would appear that during lockdown, filmmakers were producing much more lighthearted horror films.”

This year there are eight international shorts programmes, and five Irish shorts. The programme has been combined with last year’s successful submission, and the awards for both 2020 and 2021 winners will be presented at this year’s festival.

O’Brien says that Cork audiences have an affinity with the dark side, which contributes to the festival’s success each year.

“I used to DJ, and I noticed that metal music is a huge thing in Cork. Horror films feel the same; there’s a desire for scary stories and things that push the boundaries. Folklore is important to use, so maybe it is tied to our love of mysticism.”

Screenings will also take place in Saint Peters on North Main Street, Lifetime Labs, and Macau Sporting Club.

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