Watching gore for a living – a tongue in cheek look at reviewing horror


Staff member
What’s it like being a horror reviewer? Watching your favourite genre for 10 hours a day, up to five days each festival and then writing about it – sounds like a dream job, surely?

Festivals have obviously been put on hold due to recent events, but virtual ones continue, as FrightFest’s virtual screening last month proves.

Horror reviewing is fun, but you’ll need to be organised. Before the festival even starts, you will be expected to plan your viewing for the entire festival to ensure that nothing is missed, especially controversial films.

You’ll then settle down to take notes on a slasher at 9am while most (normal) people are finishing breakfast. You’ll review five features a day, plus shorts and talks, then finishing with a midnight screening – and expected to take accurate notes on all of them! After reviewing for Horror-on-Sea, FrightFest and the former Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby (the writer’s favourite holiday town), there are a few shortcuts I can pass on.

There will usually be an opening night dressup so you’ll need a horror themed outfit. If you’ve ever wanted to grab some fake claws to go as Freddy, a baggy sweater to be Nancy, or a Silent Hill creepy nurse, this is your chance. At horror talks, you’ll get to hear directors and writers speak on what inspired them as well as exactly when on set they wanted to give up and go home.

There are the great films you’re going to remember all your life as well as the slightly surreal moments, as when you find yourself in the audience sitting next to Human Centipede trilogy lead Laurence R. Harvey. There’s the nice people you’ll meet, the collectible giveaways (themed Tshirts, audience sickbags, keyrings) and even the memorable hecklers in the audience. You’ll meet film makers, film haters, and see the “why did someone even write, let alone make, that film” disasters.

There are the downsides to festivals too. Between the screenings there’s little time for toilet breaks as well as massive queues for the loos, so reviewers need to remember not to drink too much water or energy drinks to get them through those midnight screenings.

Another disadvantage is the lack of sleep after a few days, which can make it difficult to sit through what seems like yet another movie on whatever happens to be your least favourite genre. If you can’t stand (say) slashers, and having to see three a day – of screeching damsels in distress getting sliced and diced by masked killers – isn’t your idea of a good time, be prepared to sit tight.

There can be some real-life disturbing moments, as when in a large packed screening, a patron collapsed and his groans for help melted into the feature’s screening sound effects so well no one noticed. Fortunately after an ambulance was called, he was announced to be recovering, to everyone’s relief.

Greg Day, MD of Clout Communications and co-director of FrightFest, said:

“With past FrightFest events, over the years we’ve had print, broadcast and digital journalists who come back to the festival every year. They say they enjoy the camaraderie and atmosphere, and have become part of the FrightFest family as much as the fans. We’ve have some who have been with us for years.”

“With our August event being virtual this year due to the pandemic, we suffered with print [coverage] but the amount we got from websites and blogs increased. There was also a lot more reviews published as reviewers didn’t have to pay for travel or accommodation to watch our films – so there was a level playing field for everyone.”

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