The 11th annual festival celebrating horror promises even more terror, gore and … a bathtub shark attack! The budgets might be micro, but the screams (and laughs) will be macro when Horror-on-Sea returns to Southend at the beginning of 2024.
Throughout two weekends at the Park Inn by Radisson Palace Hotel, 36 feature films and 50 short films from across the world will be screened on the seafront, featuring everything from sinister spirits to serial killer stalkers and sci-fi shlock.
And when the real horror of cinema can sometimes be found at the cost of a ticket, Horror-on-Sea promises to keep the prices slashed at £7 per film. And unlike some of the killers on screen, the prices will stay down, with day passes at £32, weekend passes at £80 and a festival mega pass at £130
Paul Cotgrove, Director and creator of Horror-On-Sea
The frightening festival kicks off on Friday 12th of Januray with the anthology feature The Monster Mash (2022), hosted by Dr Fruedstein and his sidekick Ludwig. The triple-bill celebrates the glory days of Americana creature features with a reliance on old-school practical special effects. Then mystery and memory collide with the Argentinian film Memories of Evil (2022) after a nurse discovers her patient may not be suffering from amnesia and is drawn into a terrifying nightmare.
Tundra settings have been popular in horror and Blood and Snow (2022) offers a new entry of blood-soaked snow from Canada, when a meteorite impact infects a scientist with horrifying consequences. An American couple will enter the former Yugoslavia and also the grainy world of 70s horror films with Eight Eyes (2023) when a seemingly helpful tour guide will drag them into a surreal and creepy underworld.
There is also a world premiere of epic proportions, as a cop battles warriors, robots and ruthless henchmen in Axel Falcon (2024). From Britain´s Bazz Hancher, this film promises sci-fi fun and thrills as the titular hero takes on a host of enemies in his quest for justice. The evening closes with the UK premiere of Hell Nurse (2022), an exploitation slasher involving satanic pacts and revenge as surgical instruments send the criminals running and the blood flying.
Each film is also accompanied by short films drawn from around the world. Spanish horror is well represented with four films, including an animation set in the biggest evil factory in hell. French film Welcome to Candy´s documents a date gone wrong when a beautiful influencer is not all she seems, while The Walking Corpse Syndrome from Finland is a contemplative look at Cotard´s syndrome featuring a skeleton.
Saturday 13th will showcase the best and bloodiest of Britain with several features from the UK. A demon is accidentally summoned during film production and The Haunted Studio (2023) will capture it all, while a blood cult gets more than they bargain for when they pick the wrong female victim in I am Rage (2023). The dark and gritty Watch me Sleep (2023) will place a camera inside a coffin as a son deals with the death of his mother.
And, two world premieres will round off the evening, with slasher anthology Mosaic (2024) taking a giallo-inflected look at ten killers and one detective, as horror cult actor Simon Bamford (Hellraiser) takes on killer teddy bears, a teleporting Santa and an axe-wielding mad woman. Then finishing the evening is Terrorise (2024), as criminals and cops play a deadly cat-and-mouse game following an escape from prison.
No horror festival can stray too far from the cosmological tentacles of H.P. Lovecraft and Saturday also has enough in store to satisfy fans of the weird. H.P. Lovecraft´s The Old Ones (2023) is a new feature film that returns the cult of Dagon to the silver screen, while short film H.P. Lovecraft´s The Lurking Fear adapts the short story that sees a group take shelter for a night in an aristocratic mansion they believe is abandoned.
There will also be plenty more short films on offer with more meteor madness (Belgium´s Slime), a creepy doll in the woods (USA´s The Doll Catcher), a grindhouse blizzard (USA´s Honeymoon at Cold Hollow), a menacing figure only visible to one (Spain´s Pisanka), and of course the latest British offerings with a psychological challenge in the woods (Don´t React), strange apparitions (Spellbound), familial secrets (The Family Man), surreal animation (The Witches of the Sands – Animation and Theme Song) and a mirror that shows both desire and fear (Mirror,Mirror: Transvile).
Sunday 14th brings The Pocket Film of Superstitions (2023) as folklore, the occult and the supernatural are all packaged up in a 90-minute look at the history of superstition. There will also be a world premiere of marijuana, vampires, gangsters, and rock music with the UK´s Blood Demons (2024).
No horror festival would be complete without the ridiculous and Sunday promises that in spades with a werewolf Santa in Werewolf Santa (2023) and a bathtub shark attack in… you guessed it, Bathtub Shark Attack (2023). The Christmas spirit will still be (barely) alive when a lycan dons the red-and-white trim suit, and everyone will be urged to stay out of the bathwater when a thousand-year-old hungry shark comes up through the pipes.
Sunday will also show exclusively UK short films. Whether it is in the woods (If You Go Down to the Woods), your own home (Knock Knock and Pareidola), or the bathroom (The Sink Spectre) nowhere is safe. If you stop moving, you´ll die, in Stop Dead and if you stop dancing, you´ll also die, in Rhyme or Die. And the chills don´t stop either with creepy men (Yellow), creepy mothers (Mama´s Boy), and a creepy pregnancy (Ariane´s Baby). There will also be 45 minutes of disco-dancing zombies, exploding body parts and underground goths in Lactasia (2023).
The Last Boy on Earth
The following long weekend on Friday 19 sees the festival pick up again with The Last Boy on Earth (2023), a New Zealand film set in the future when humanity thinks they´ve found their long-lost hope, only to discover they couldn´t be further from the truth. In a small town in Pennsylvania a curse appears to be targeting adulterers in Cheat (2023), while a secluded weekend getaway becomes the scene of a time-bending whodunnit in 8 Found Dead (2022). A family tradition of murder represented by the horror mainstay of a killer´s mask will be honoured in Spain´s Slasher (2023), and another mask, this time worn by a killer dubbed ´The Scalper´, will be donned when psychic Clementine Carter battles a psychopath from her past in Scalper Night Caller II (2023) featuring horror stalwart actor Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, The Frighteners).
Scalper Night Caller
There is also another world premiere with Horror-Scopes Volume 2 (2024), a 12-part anthology based on the Chinese zodiac.
Stop-motion animation opens the day for the short film selection with Humbug Manor the first of many offerings from Spain. Mum will show the lengths a parent would go to for their child, a creeper breaks into other hotel guest rooms in Somnia, a suspicious hunter offers a group of stranded women a lift in Once You Pop, and a long lost love finds an unfamiliar face on the Valencian coast in The Lovers.
Horror-on-Sea goes meta when three short films are presented in The Weird World of Molly Brown including one that was filmed at last year´s festival, and Slaypril Fools 88 offers another edition of a slasher series within a slasher series.
Slaypril Fools 88
Two world premieres from British filmmakers take viewers into the evening. A dark presence haunts a village pub in I Curse This Land (2024), while a 1960s serial killer, gangsters and femme fatales combine in the horror-noir Burnt Flowers (2024). Then flesh is the last item on the menu when Cannibal Mukbang (2023) mixes comedy and horror in an American dish that serves romance and gore.
The final day of the festival, and final day begins with What Lurks Beneath (2023), a Canadian submarine film where Americans and Russians will find they have a much more deadly enemy in the water than themselves, and a psychic detective returns to the force to battle a serial killer with a pumpkin-head in Dan Hawk Psychic Detective (2023). The world premiere of the finale to the ten-part sci-fi saga Slasher House 3: Rebooted (2024) will see Red make a last stand against a Government army, and another sci-fi premiere will follow with the otherworldly horror in Alien Legacy: Terror on Luxor Ridge (2023).
Southend the area literally comes to the screen with Punch (2023), an end-of-the-pier gothic slasher that sees Mr Punch stalking the seafront and resident Frankie. And what better way to finish a horror festival than a horde of hillbillies from hell in Hillbilly Holocaust (2023).
The final day of shorts promises not to loosen the noose of terror with ghostly grandmas (Granny), zombie-like dolls (Dolly Molly´s Playhouse), suspicious dog owners (Freybug), deadly viruses (The Rage Part II), 17th century evil-seekers (The Witch Hunter), murderous games (Motto), not-so-helpless babysitters (Baby Shifter), manipulated audio (Otherness), sinister theme parks (Kiddo), mysterious fossils (Vestige) and miniature monsters in a heavy metal world (Crawlies).
“That’s eleven years of making Southend a go-to new year destination for cinephiles, horror fans and thrill-seekers. With over 80 films on offer there is something for everyone, whether you are a seasoned horror-head wanting the latest Lovecraftian fix in all its grotesque glory, or perhaps someone who wants an introduction to the genre via zany zombies and a heavy dose of black comedy.
Paul Cotgrove, Director and creator of Horror-On-Sea
Start your new year in a frightful but really good way. Not only do you get to go to the seaside, but you get to be scared out of your wits as well.
For the festival schedule and pre-ordering tickets & passes jump-scare over to horror-on-sea.com You can also call the festival hotline on 07754 391 163. Please note that all films are strictly Certificate 18.