Skip to content

Forbidden Worlds Film Festival: October 2023

'With Horror-themed cocktails available and even a man dressed up as Jason on the door - the atmosphere was perfect.'

By Dan Hutton, Co-Deputy Features Editor and Amaan Ali, Opinion Editor

On October's Friday 13th, horror fanatics from around the country came down to the Bristol aquarium to enjoy 6 carefully selected retro horror movie classics across two days.

The Forbidden World Festival, which had its first screenings last year, was created by a group of ‘Bristol-based cinephiles’ who are ‘dedicated to their mutual love of classic and obscure genre films’. Epigram got the chance to sit down with the lead programmer of the festival – Tessa Williams.

When asked about the importance of showing specifically pre-2000s films, she noted how many people on the team ‘remember when they first came out’, she went on to say that ‘it was our era in the 90s when you would go to the video shops and rent these films yourself’. Allowing audience members to reminisce on the memories they have of seeing these movies for the first time was part of the reason for setting up the festival in the first place.

She did, however, also emphasise that ‘a lot of people now haven’t seen these films, so it's great to be introducing them to a new audience.’ 

The festival was split between 2 days and each film was carefully selected for maximum viewing experience on the amazing IMAX screen. We will be reviewing each film, providing a brief description and adding in some extra insights from those who helped in their production.

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Kicking off the festival we got the opportunity to see a true cult classic. Night of the Creeps, directed by Fred Dekker, brilliantly blends elements of horror, sci-fi and comedy making it the perfect opening for the festival to give everyone a taste of the themes that would be explored in the remaining 5 films.

The story follows two college students who accidentally release a slug-like alien parasite that turns people into zombies onto their campus. The movie is notable for its playfully eccentric and over-the-top style which is done in reference to the classic movies of the 1950s. The film is very much self-aware and embraces its absurd nature which definitely adds to the overall charm. 

The film features a likeable cast of characters, including the shy protagonist Chris (Jason Lively), and his best friend J.C. (Steve Marshall). These characters represent the classic ‘Nerd and best friend’ and their friendship is tested and strengthened as they face the bizarre events of the story.

The Night of The Creeps has generated a dedicated cult following throughout the years. I personally found it to be one of the best movies of the festival and if you enjoy horror with a good dose of humor then Night of The Creeps is well worth a watch.

Mimic (Director's Cut) (1997)

The first English language feature from Guillermo Del Toro, Mimic, went through many changes in the development stage. From numerous rewrites to Del Toro losing his rights to the final edit, the film that was released to the public ended up being far from the director's original vision. In a short introduction Guillermo filmed for the festival, he explained how Miramax wanted to make something akin to Alien 4, whereas he wanted to keep the film more grounded. 

When the film was released, it was not met with a lot of success in commercial markets or in critics’ circles. 14 years later, however, Guillermo got the chance to make his director's cut, with a lot of the obvious contributions from Miramax taken out. This cut allows some of the subtleties of the film to shine through.

Set in 90’s New York, the film starts with the city struggling to cope with a deadly disease that is carried through cockroaches. Entomologist Dr Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) engineers a new breed of insect that feeds on cockroaches to stop the spread of the disease. This plan seems to work until these genetically modified creatures start evolving and looking for new sources of food. 

This film is also where the director started to develop his colour palette – which he would utilise in his later films. The bright cyan and orange hues of the film add to the brilliant world-building and visual storytelling throughout. For those who enjoy Guillermo’s other films – this is definitely one to see. 

The Guardian (1990)

The first day was rounded off with one of the lesser-known films from the director William Freidkin, who is more recognizable for The Exorcist (1973) and The French Connection (1971). The Guardian delves into the obscure and less often explored Celtic mythology as the origins of its antagonist. 

The story revolves around a young couple that move to Los Angeles after having their newborn son. With both partners working full-time, they start searching for a nanny. When they finally settle on a choice, they think they’ve found the perfect match. 

As the film progresses, the background and sinister intentions of the nanny are slowly revealed as the parents start to realise their child might be in danger.

The screenwriter was able to attend the viewing and gave a few words before the film started. He reminisced about the writing process, commenting on the drastic changes the script went through in regard to the origins of its characters. For instance, there was a long debate about the character of Camilla (the nanny). Originally meant to be a depiction of Lilith from the Bible, the team ended up settling on her being an ancient druid serving a killer tree. 

Whilst the premise is fairly bizarre and some of the intendedly scary scenes caused an eruption of laughter in the theatre, this film is definitely worth a watch if you are someone who enjoys the wide range of topics and themes horror films are able to cover. 

Arachnophobia (1990)

Arachnophobia is a Horror comedy film directed by Frank Marshall. It pays homage to the classic creature features whilst having a hilarious script.

The film centres around a doctor named Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) and his family who move to the small town of Canaima, California. Unbeknownst to them, a coffin containing a deadly and highly aggressive spider from South America is accidentally brought to the town’s local cemetery. When the deadly spider mates with a local species a hybrid begins to infest the town, slowly killing off its inhabitants. Doctor Jennings takes it upon himself to ensure the infestation spreads no further.

Arachnophobia doesn’t take itself too seriously and embraces the absurdity of its premise. While it is genuinely scary at times, especially to those who have a fear of spiders, the film builds suspense through extremely well-sequenced spider attacks. The filmmakers used a combination of real spiders and animatronics to create convincingly unsettling scenes. 

This one is personally traumatic for my friend. Whilst I could tell you he enjoyed the film, he spent most of it cowered in his seat looking through the tiny gap he made with his hoodie as he literally couldn’t bear the horror. While I by no means had the same reaction, I still thoroughly enjoyed watching the lighter take on horror.

Christine (1983)

Christine is a film adaptation of Stephen King’s book of the same name (1983). Following two high school best friends Arnie and Dennis, the film starts to take a turn for the worse when they both happen upon a beat-up 1958 Plymouth Fury outside a rundown house.

Immediately infatuated by the car, Arnie  (Keith Gordon) offers to purchase it (her) from the owner and begins his mission to restore it. Gordon does a fantastic job of portraying the effects obsession can have on someone's personality and the effect that it is able to have on one's relationships.

The car’s character and attachment to its owner is shown in unique ways and the film culminates in an amazingly action-packed final showdown that brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The Hidden (1987)

Coming full circle, with the last film also being about aliens that take over human bodies (and flamethrowers), The Hidden was a fantastic way to round off the 2-day festival. The Hidden is a sci-fi action film directed by Jack Sholder and is a thrilling and unconventional entry in the buddy-cop subgenre.

The Hidden follows the story of a law enforcement officer named Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) and an unorthodox FBI agent, Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan). They join forces to combat a relentless serial killer who seems to be unstoppable. The movie takes a dramatic turn when it is revealed that the killer is an extraterrestrial parasite that can transfer itself from one host to another.

The relentless pursuit of the alien parasite through its various hosts keeps tensions high as the audience never knows who the enemy could be next.  This movie is undoubtedly an underappreciated gem and it was a satisfying way to round off 2 days of amazing films.

The Forbidden Worlds Festival was an amazing experience. With Horror-themed cocktails available and even a man dressed up as Jason on the door - the atmosphere was perfect. 

When asked about their plans for the future, Tessa told fans to ‘Look out for more themed viewings’. A weeklong festival is currently in the works for May and it's definitely something to mark down in the calendar.

All images courtesy of Amaan Ali and Daniel Hutton

Will you be coming along to their next festival in May?