And so, it begins: the tenth Grimmfest is prologued with an evening of titles which originated in the North of England. These were a sampling of a kids’ creepy TV show, three short horror films, and a remastered copy of Splintered, the film that kicked off the first Grimmfest.
The TV show in question was Creeped Out, and my son and I were fans when it first aired, so I took him along as my plus one; his first exposure to a film festival. I’d seen on Twitter that Robert Butler and Bede Blake, the two creators and writers of the show, were going to be at the event, presenting their favourite Canadian and British episodes, so the boy and I got hyped for the event by trying to guess which episodes they would be.
The episodes screened were “Bravery Badge” (about a girl guide style troop who encounter something unpleasant in the woods) and “Kindlesticks” (about a bad babysitter getting her comeuppance), and it was great to see them on the big screen. The influence of classic grown-up horror films shone through as if these stories were finally in their element; and there were some people in the audience who would not have considered watching Creeped Out on television (or possibly wouldn’t have heard of it), as they didn’t live in a home with children. One of them turned to my son and me at the end and asked which episode we recommended he tracked down next: credit to Grimmfest for bringing this show to an older audience.
Robert Butler and Bede Blake took a brief interview followed by questions from the audience directly after the screenings. They talked about the inspiration for “Kindlesticks”: “Well, we always wanted to do a babysitter story and an imaginary friend story; and then there was Halloween, obviously”; and the inspiration for the series as a whole, which was essentially the Amazing Stories series (and similar) that they watched as kids themselves. They were asked what it was like collaborating with the Canadian team, which apparently opened their eyes somewhat to how different things are considered scary in different parts of the world, and so on; though for the most part, the benefit was in broadening the scope of what they were able to produce.
I found it especially interesting when someone asked how the writers went about finding an appropriate level in terms of what might be too scary for inclusion in a kids’ show. There was a good deal of discussion and playing around with boundaries involved; and of course, what’s scary to one person (and one country) may not be to another. Both writers seemed to feel that “Kindlesticks” was as scary as the show went, but the one example they raised of something they were told to amend related to “Bravery Badge”: they were not allowed to use something which looked like actual insects as the weird things the girls had to face off, in case it caused young viewers to become frightened of real-life insects.
Master Field the younger (the chap with the hat, for those of you who were there) proudly asked Blake and Butler what their inspiration had been for The Curious, the mysterious character who links each story. They wanted the audience to be completely in the dark about who this character is: The Curious could be a man, woman, boy, girl, or even someone not human… hence the mask. (They very carefully avoided answering the question about where we could get a mask like that from though.)
They talked a little about the next series (yes!), but some of it is still being written, and other parts are currently being filmed (so a preview wasn’t possible). They gave very little away, except there will be one-time travel episode, one called “Itchy”, and it will be kicked off with a Christmas episode, sometime in December; the remainder of series two will be released in the spring 2019 but they were ever so vague about timing.
Now in case you haven’t heard, Creeped Out has just landed on Netflix globally… well, except for the UK and Canada, that is, who will get it a bit later (but did also get it first on terrestrial television). Personally, I’m very pleased that the show is now reaching a wider audience; especially considering many of the cast were new actors. The show is an excellent introduction for kids to the horror genre, and if they watch it with their parents (as the writers hope), it can lead to all sorts of discoveries.
I also want to congratulate Grimmfest for the preview night as an excellent entry-level film festival event for children. There were as many kids asking questions as adults, and they were all treated with the same respect. The children were welcomed to what was essentially the first Grimmfest event of the season, thoroughly included in Simeon Halligan’s festival introduction; though of course they will not be able to attend most of the festival. But now, the kids who attended have seen what a film festival involves, with applause for the talent, interviews, signings and programmes: they will now understand what their geeky parents get involved with. Not only that, but it was a beautiful venue: the Plaza Theatre in Stockport presented a very nice blend of sophisticated and casual, with staff and volunteers alike making everyone feel welcome.
We were right about the chosen Canadian episode, by the way: “Kindlesticks”. But the British episode my boy and I find most scary is “Slapstick”. The writers didn’t dispute that (“Mr Blackteeth would be pleased to hear that.”), but countered that they chose “Bravery Badge” because they figured it was more cinematic.