Manchester’s purveyors of horror, Grimm Up North, have teamed up with the BFI to bring a season of wonderfully macabre events to be held across some of the city’s most beautiful Gothic buildings.
The Dark Heart of Film season kicked off in Manchester with a double bill of zombie carnage on Wednesday 30th October, followed by a night of vampiric expressionism on the 21st November; both at the spiritual home of Grimmfest – The Dancehouse.
Here’s where things get really interesting; Proceedings burst forth from Grimm’s usual haunt and spill over into some of Greater Manchester’s best sites of Gothic splendour. Festival coordinator, Ben Ross: “We explored all manner of venues across the city, looking particularly at venues that fell under the remit of being Gothic in atmosphere and ambiance. Moreover, we also wanted to utilize venues where the venue complimented a film screening, especially ones that fell under the broad thematic areas that the BFI were looking to explore.” He continues “What could be a more fitting setting for a double-bill screening of ghost films than a haunted manor?”
Ordsall Hall is a strange place, a relic of Salford past in the centre of newly built housing complexes and terraces. It is said to be home to The White Lady; a spirit of such persistence that ‘ghostcams’ have been installed throughout the Tudor mansion to capture these apparitions. A perfect place to see Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. Proclaimed by many as the “greatest haunted house film ever made” The Innocents is an eerie and beautiful realisation of Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw. Though there has been many adaptations of this novel, Clayton’s subtle, intelligent, genuinely spooky film remains unmatched. Boasting stunning deep-focus black and white cinematography by the great Freddie Francis, a lovely score by Jean Cocteau’s regular composer, Georges Auric, and a powerful and sympathetic lead performance from the great Deborah Kerr, this is a genuine genre classic, and a masterpiece of British cinema. Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others rounds out the double bill with contemporary spooks inspired by James’ story, and conceived in part as an homage to Clayton’s film. The film offers effective and affecting chills of its own, a powerful allegory about the legacy of war, and one of the greatest twist endings in modern cinema. This double bill is a must-see, mark your calendar for 13th December. Will the White Lady be in attendance?
“What could be a more fitting setting for a double-bill screening of ghost films than a haunted manor?”
“I think its very possible considering how many people are going to be there. She may not take kindly to cinematic interpretations of her kin being screened in her abode, especially not at such a late hour…” Ross says.
The Gothic Season’s grand finale is a monstrous one; Taking place on January 10th at the Neo-Gothic John Rylands Library on Manchester’s Deansgate, the monster-based double bill is a perfect reminder of the literary origins of the Gothic sensibility. Both films have a foot in that of the written word with two wonderfully realised renditions of classic novels. Jean Cocteau’s cinematic interpretation of the traditional tale of beauty and beast, La Belle et la Bete, sees him utilising all of his considerable skills as poet, playwright, artist and designer to create a truly magical film, by turns elegant and eerie, romantic and nightmarish. While Bride of Frankenstein – James Whale’s darkly funny and mordantly mischievous take on Mary Shelley’s celebrated parable of overweening pride, scientific arrogance and man-made monsters – offers an exploration of the need for love even among monsters in a high-camp, Hollywood-Gothic take on that of the fairytale.
“John Rylands Library is not only one of the great literary treasure houses of the world, but stands as an exemplar of neo-victorian architecture, handily located in the heart of Manchester. A perfect locale then for a double-bill screening of classic book-born monster cinema. We wanted to utilize venues in a way they wouldn’t normally be; both Ordsall Hall and the John Rylands Library don’t normally show films, so for many this may be their first chance to experience the venues in this way. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Ben says: “If the screening events go well we’d love to do more in and around the northwest. How about THE MUMMY at the Manchester Museum or THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Manchester Opera House, for instance?”
Both events will include scary interactive elements with costumed characters and the opportunity to discover more about the atmospheric venues before the screenings.
For more information, and for tickets, click here to go to The Grimm Up North website.
Ordsall Hall, 13th December
The Innocents (1961) + The Others (2001)
Doors – 18.30, First Film 19.00
Tickets Available from GrimmFest.com
Location: Incongruously situated in the centre of Salford, Ordsall Hall, a Grade 1 haunted tudor manor is the perfect venue for a double-bill screening of ghost films. It is also home to the mysterious, ghostly White Lady, who walks the hall by night. Is she the spirit of Margaret Radclyffe, Maid of Honour to Elizabeth I, or Viviana Radclyffe, beloved of Guy Fawkes? This could be your chance to ask her in person.
The Innocents: Arguably the greatest haunted house film of them all, THE INNOCENTS, Jack Clayton’s eerie and beautiful realisation of Henry James’ “The Turn of The Screw”; itself often regarded as the finest ghost story ever written. James’ story has been adapted many times over the years, for stage, screen, and television. The Others paired with it with a more recent, but equally unsettling take on the classic ghost story; Alejandro Amenabar’s smart and spooky THE OTHERS. Inspired, as the director freely admitted, by James’ story, and conceived in part as an homage to Clayton’s film, with Nicole Kidman’s performance clearly and consciously modelled on Kerr’s, the film nevertheless offers some effective and affecting chills of its own.
John Rylands Library, 10th January
Bride of Frankenstein (1935) + La Belle et La Bete (1946)
Manchester. Victorian Gothic library.
Location: For the grand finale of our season we find ourselves in the John Rylands is one of the great literary treasure houses of the world, the library, designed by Basil Champneys, is a startling example of late Victorian neo-Gothic architecture at its most imposing and delightfully decadent. . A perfect space in which to hold our second and final site-specific screening, featuring a brace of book-born monsters, both of whom can be traced back to the earliest literary manifestations of the Gothic imagination.
Bride of Frankenstein: James Whale’s darkly funny and mordantly mischievous take on Mary Shelley’s celebrated parable of overweening pride, scientific arrogance and man-made monsters. With its inventive production design and expressionist visuals, archly witty and moving script, and striking, eccentric performances, this exploration the need for love even among monsters offers a high-camp, Hollywood-Gothic take on the fairytale which forms the basis of our second film of the evening, Jean Cocteau’s lyrical, surreal, and startling LA BELLE ET LA BETE. La Belle a La Bete: Jean Cocteau’s cinematic interpretation sees him utilising all of his considerable skills as poet, playwright, artist and designer to create a truly magical film, by turns elegant and eerie, romantic and nightmarish, with a powerful performance from the great Jean Marais as the suave, sinister and strangely seductive Beast. A fairytale for children and adults alike, and a far cry from Disney’s saccharine animated version, this is a dark and delirious movie that will haunt your dreams.