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Soon every town in the country will have its own horror film festival, which I suppose is no bad thing, although I could hardly keep up when it was just Frightfest. I saw one film that escaped me at Frightfest (Austin Jennings’ Eight Eyes) in late January at Southend’s horror film festival (Horror-on-Sea) which takes place in a hotel, but for the most part the line-up, which included Bathtub Shark Attack, didn’t float my boat.

I had never previously thought of Romford as the likely home of a horror film festival, let alone an international one. Romford has always had the reputation, from the perspective of Brentwood, of being ‘a bit rough’. But Horrhiffic, as it’s known, has been around a while now. I almost went to it last year, but couldn’t quite work up enough enthusiasm, or was it courage?

This year it featured some Frightfest films I’d missed and the Thursday seemed to offer a line-up that justified the expenditure – not that much justification was required when I could see five films here for less than it costs to see one at Frightfest. And seats were actually available – you really could just turn up.

I had the odd feeling that they were surprised to see me when I did so, as if they hadn’t expected anybody they didn’t already know. Certainly there was a sense that everyone else there was already acquainted, but maybe that was just me.

These events are quite sociable I’ve noticed, as if everyone is anxious to dispel as myth the notion of the horror fan as a lonely misfit brooding over arcane physical media in a dusty bedsit, something which I am still trying to keep going.

At one point, while I waited for a film to start, a conversation even seemed to be developing around me and it wouldn’t have taken much for me to become involved, but some mysterious force or demon within me prevented it.

The first film was Frank Messely’s half hour long Belgian dialogue-free adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story The Oval Portrait. Not something I would normally expect to encounter in Romford.

It’s atmospherically shot and often beautiful to look at, if perhaps a little obscure – would intertitles have helped? The original story, in which a husband draws the life out of a woman by painting her portrait, has had elements of Poe’s Ligeia mixed in with it, so that the woman, merely a victim in the first story, becomes a more wilful and sinister figure.

All Clowns Are Bastards wasn’t a short but possibly should have been. Writer/director Erik Weise’s dark comedy brings together two notoriously unfunny things – clowns and Germans (it’s a German film) – and you somehow sense that title is going to be the best thing about it.

Clowns here are presented as a sort of persecuted minority group, yet also as monsters who eat people, which might seem to justify such persecution. Most seem to be hiding away from human society, though at the same time Donald Trump is a clown, so you wonder how he gets away with it, which I suppose you do anyway.

It’s as if various ideas have been thrown into the blender, but they forgot to turn it on – every now and again a ‘party punk’ musician called Barty Jeger turns up strumming a guitar to fill in for a scene which for some reason they weren’t able to film, a joke that only adds to the overall feeling that they could have tried harder.

The protagonist, Mitchell (Frédéric Stromenger) is a clown who falls for a human woman, Elena (Kristina Kostiv) and turns vegan to please her, causing consternation among his family and the clown community in general. He has been keeping a man alive in order to cut off parts of his body to cook and eat: his first act as a vegan is to kill him (‘No more meat!’). Which is kind of funny. As is a murder scene which ends with the Windows shutdown chime.

In the end Mitchell inadvertently kills his girlfriend but brings her back to life, which, in one of the film’s more bizarre twists, is an ability clowns have due to a mysterious property in their saliva. However, being killed by her boyfriend is one too many red flags for her and she walks away.

It’s a film that struggles to find the right tone, if there can be one, and ends up with a kind of flippant cynicism that isn’t very engaging. At least to a viewer who finds clowns neither scary, funny, nor particularly interesting. Killer Klowns From Outer Space didn’t do much for me either.

Love Will Tear Us Apart is a Japanese film from 2015 which begins in a primary school where the young heroine Wakaba forms a connection with a bullied boy, Koki. Having seemingly killed off a couple of bullies Koki subsequently devotes himself, as they grow up, to killing off men who try to take advantage of Wakaba (Sayu Kubota in later life) – initially without her knowledge, let alone consent (in fact, she thinks he’s dead).

Though the film starts out like a fairly conventional slasher flick, it gets goofier as it goes along, as Wakaba trains with a dodgy martial arts expert she found on the internet so that she can take on the serial killer and avenge the death of her best friend (in fact, the only victim not killed by her self-appointed protector).

The film then ends like a twisted romcom, with Wakabi and Koki getting together – he now minus an arm in a very literal reading of the title. Director/co-writer Kenichi Ugana manages to hold it all together, with some style.

Watch Me Sleep is the name of an internet company that provides a niche service for its clients – installing a camera in their loved ones’ coffins so that can they can continue to feel close to them for a little longer. One problem with writer/director John Williams’ conceit is that it is hard to imagine anyone actually availing themselves of this company’s services except for our hero Sean (Darren McAree) who suffered Satanic abuse as a child at the hands of his late mother and wants to see her rot.

Another problem is the logistics of the situation – are funeral directors in on this? It doesn’t seem to be so in Sean’s case, so how does the camera get in the coffin?

The main point, however, is to set up some creepy scenes where a man watches black and white footage of an old woman’s face on his laptop, a face whose stillness seems increasingly deceptive.

A bit like a blend of Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Beau Is Afraid done in the style of Ben Wheatley when he had no budget, Watch Me Sleep is good at establishing a mood of despair and mental disequibrilium and the dialogue and characters are believable. Brief flashbacks to the original Satanic abuse are also effectively done, though we might wonder why the police don’t seem to have intervened at any point.

In the end an increasingly at-sea Sean turns against the one friend who has continued to stand by him in spite of his bizarre behaviour, apparently killing him as part of a Satanic ritual. Which suggests that Sean’s mother and her friends have got their way, and managed to get Sean possessed by a demon – or then again, maybe all this is in his head.

Whatever, it’s the bleak evocation of a largely solitary existence that lingers in the mind.

The best film of the day was He Never Left, which was so delayed that I got to see the Q&A from the previous film, Punch, beforehand. With his seaside slasher film based on Punch and Judy, the writer-director, Andy Edwards, was hoping to start a franchise. Would later entries feature the crocodile?, asked one punter. I wondered (silently) if the string of sausages would also turn up somewhere along the line (but I was informed later that it already has a cameo in this, the first film.)

He Never Left draws on the 1976’s (and 2014’s) The Town That Dreaded Sundown with its story of a town haunted by a legendary masked killer who has possibly never gone away, but it approaches this material from an unexpected angle, focussing on Colin Cunningham’s wanted criminal Gabe holed up in a motel room, his paranoid frenzy only exacerbated by mysterious noises from the room nextdoor.

Our sympathies might initially lie with his ex-girlfriend Carly (Jessica Staples), who has foolishly agreed to help him out, but Cunningham is very watchable, and director James Morris even gets away with allowing Gabe a monologue direct to camera about an incident from his childhood in which he was (temporarily) abandoned by his parents.

This abandonment stands in contrast to the assurance conveyed in the film’s title, but the killer’s story, when we eventually become privy to it, suggests that parents may create problems even when they are highly attentive.

By this point some local punters had joined the festival crowd, one of them offering their own critique (‘That was shit’) as she and her friend got up to leave. Luckily the director was not around to hear this, unless he was keeping a very low profile.

Not that I want to pass judgement on the inhabitants of Romford – another girl had turned round to ask if she was blocking my view, which was unusually considerate, especially as she wasn’t sitting directly in front of me and her head barely came above the seat back.

I made my way back to the station, the scariest experience of the day, as the shopping centre I had entered through was now closed and I had to negotiate a number of ominous subways.

Luckily another festivalgoer was going the same way so I did finally succumb to sociability, though it did occur to me that this was just the kind of situation these films were warning me about: traversing underground passageways in the company of someone who had expressed an interest in seeing gruesome havoc perpetrated upon the human form (he was a self-confessed gorehound).

It might have been the starting point for one of the short films I had seen interspersed between the main features all day, the best of which was Danny Pineros’ Bisected. However, I came back in one piece.