Written by James Rodrigues

Back in May of this year, the Soho Horror Film Festival offered people the chance to partake in the festival experience, from the safety and comfort of their homes. A move that preceded bigger name festivals doing the same thing, the SoHome Horror Film Festival successfully offered brand new horror content through virtual means. Plans were in place for the festival to launch an entirely LGBTQ+ horror event, to coincide with London Pride, but the situation involving COVID meant that could not be. So, following the incredible response, the planned event was repurposed for virtual viewing, and SoHome Horror Film Festival – Pride Edition came to pass.

On Saturday 27th June, horror fans were able to watch new horror features and shorts, all of which came “Certified Queer”. What that means is these stories are all centred around LGBTQ+ characters, granting much needed representation. Rest assured, there’s no instances of being relegated to a single scene, in a feeble attempt to get a pass for doing less than the bare minimum. The festival also extended to the Friday and Sunday, composed of a quiz and watchalongs, but this article will only cover the Saturday.

Each part of the day was split apart by blocks, which typically saw a feature film paired up with a couple of short films. The introductory block began with Unusual Attachment, a short which was filmed in isolation. It follows a Cinderella style story, as we follow a lead trying to reconnect with somebody he met, despite not knowing their name. Unfolding over video calls, primarily on a chat-roulette style site, the humorous interactions eventually transform into something more horrific. A strong opener for the festival, although a contrast to the next short, The Pain Within Us. More contemplative than its predecessor, we follow a grieving lead who’s haunted by regret and loneliness. It taps into the uncertainty of what comes next, while hinting that those we lose aren’t truly gone, but remain with us long after. 

The Fear of Looking Up movie review 2020

Rounding things off was the day’s first feature, The Fear of Looking Up. Directed by Konstantinos Koutsoliotas, this depicted a detective’s hunt for a serial killer, as obsession blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. Imagine if a Death Wish film focused on the unravelling of its lead, rather than glorifying the violence, with Lovecraftian imagery woven into its slow-burn nature. For me, the storytelling burned a bit too slowly, and I found some scenes had the dialogue drowned out by background noise. A shame, especially when Friday Chamberlain put a phenomenal portrayal into her leading role.

Next up, a block entitled “Queer Fears Showcase”, made-up of three short films. It was four, but technical issues prevented Estigma from being shown this time. The first of these shorts was Conversion Therapist, which saw a polyamorous, pansexual trio turn the tables on a bigoted conversion therapist. With conversion therapy still legal in the UK (sign the petition to help make it a criminal offence), this makes for a gruelling and cathartic role-reversal. Innocent Boy was next, a neon-drenched tale depicting a group of hustlers, preying on those who come for sex, drugs, and Momma’s special milk. The plot left me wanting more, but it can’t be denied how it’s bursting with style and poetic dialogue, while crafting a world of its own in such a small runtime. Rounding this showcase off was Labrys, as two women have a first date, before things go wrong. Sure, the budgetary limitations can be glaring, but when the lead chemistry is so charming, it doesn’t matter. This trio of shorts do wonderful to show the sheer diversity within LGBTQ+ films, despite attempts from companies to group them as though sexuality is a genre of its own.

While the next block had the lowest quantity, the quality was far from lacking. Based on a personal experience by director Kenya Gillespie, Jeremiah sees a young man’s fears given form, as an intimidating figure in a mask. Effective in its simplicity, as we see how much of an ordeal Jeremiah sees his fears as. Following it was this festival’s only inclusion not in the English language, and it certainly was a good one. David’s Secret (also known as My Dead Ones) follows an aspiring filmmaker who longs to have a family, which comes out in murderous ways. A twisty tale which blends grisly violence with more fantastical elements, this feels like a concoction mixed together by adding Peeping Tom, Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both of these inclusions tap into relatable issues about a longing to be accepted, and the fears which stem from rejection.

When we celebrate individuality and don’t fear it, then we achieve peace.

Nicholas Vince

A change of pace followed, as Nicholas Vince gave an extract from his autobiographical one-man show, I AM MONSTERS! Filmed from his own home, Vince recounted personal stories about growing up when Section 28 was passed in the UK, the first anti-gay law in 100 years. He also gave an anecdote about make-up application on Nightbreed, blending his career in horror with the horrors of Thatcherian rule, making for a powerful watch. One quote stood out most, which bears repeating; “When we celebrate individuality and don’t fear it, then we achieve peace”. We were then treated to a surprise premiere of Vince’s short film, Necessary Evils, which blends an Army setting with the occult, making for an interesting concoction of ideas.

Thirst Trap short horror film review 2020 - Sohome Horror Festival Pride Edition

After a break to have dinner, it was time for one of the most entertaining segments of the night. Described as a motion selfie, Thirst Trap follows a vampire looking to hook-up on a mobile app. A succinct idea that lasts 4 minutes, which you end up wanting to see more of. Following that is Tea Parties are for Babies!, which unfolds as though Alice was taken to a more sinister kind of Wonderland, complete with more boozy tea parties. A stunning short brought alive with a clear eye for style.

Part of the team behind the festival, independent director Charlie Steeds brought an advanced screening of his latest film, After Dark (known as Vampire Virus elsewhere). After a drunken night out with a mysterious stranger, Jennifer has no memory of the previous night’s events. Just a strange infection on her stomach, and a hungering for blood. Although it’s set in America, it can be a tad distracting how utterly British the settings appeared, but that’s only a slight issue. Queued up to one of the best soundtracks in the festival, the neon-soaked proceedings add to the engrossing and grisly feature, even when it tips over and becomes a bit too theatrical. Much like Thirst Trap, this taps into how Vampires have been an allegory for LGBTQ people. In this feature, vampirism is used as a release against how oppressive the world can feel. As a space to offer comfort to be who you truly are, rather than putting up pretences to fall in line with others preconceived notions.

The last block kicked things off with a sneak peek of Death Drop Gorgeous, an upcoming drag horror film set in Providence, Rhode Island. Inspired by Giallo films and 80’s slasher flicks, the 10-minute preview is promising enough, but was eclipsed by a jaw-dropping moment of gore. Keep an eye out for this film in the future, and if you have a penis, good luck ever uncrossing your legs afterwards. Next up was my personal favourite of the festive, Demons. Set in a world where it’s socially acceptable to be a serial killer rather than being gay, this macabre love story balances its blood-splatter with humour and heart-warming moments. Following that up was A Halloween Trick, as an oversexed party boy keeps his quiet neighbour up each night, but their miscommunication may prove fatal. A fun watch, complete with a brilliant performance from Tiffany Shepis.

Closing out the day was the best named inclusion, Killer Unicorn. If you imagine I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer in a unicorn mask, with enemas woven into the plot, you get Drew Bolton’s fiercely confident feature. While I do wish some of the characters weren’t so patience-testing, and saddening moments didn’t get undercut by ill-timed jokes, this was the perfect choice to close out a day of Pride horror. Running at 74 minutes, this glittery and gruesome slasher flick was exactly the kind of fun needed to wrap things up, but it also gets to the core of this festival. What’s been made is an inclusive safe space, welcoming to all, as people gather to celebrate LGBTQ+ through virtual methods. To end the festival by watching a community fighting back, intent on protecting their safe spaces, is completely fitting.

It’s worth mentioning that, in these tough times, this festival has been made completely free for anybody who wants to partake. They do run completely independently, so if you’d like to support this festival, whatever you can spare would be appreciated. I would say that it’s definitely worth supporting, for the team at Soho Horror have gone above and beyond in delivering much needed entertainment in these troubling times. Consider me returning for the next one, and I hope you’ll join in too.

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