Manchester’s Grimmfest, one of the leading horror movie festivals in the UK, has launched this year’s fright-filled festivities. The four day horror, cult and fantastic movie extravaganza takes place at Vue Cinema at Manchester’s Printworks and features countless premieres, deadly females, men on a mission, top picks from other festivals and shorts.
One of the outstanding features of Grimmfest 2017 is that is has been launched with Manchester-filmed, Manchester set Habit, which received its UK premiere at the gala opening of Grimmfest. Habit also happens to be the third feature of Grimmfest co-directors Simeon Halligan and Rachel Richardson-Jones. To make it an all-Manchester event, Habit features a predominantly Manchester-based cast, many of whom were in attendance at the showing.
Starring Elliot Langridge, Jessica Barden, William Ash, Roxanne Pallett, Sally Carmen and Joanne Mitchell, Habit was largely filmed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, within a five-minute walk of the festival venue.
The film sees Michael (Langridge) drawn into the dark, troubled, underbelly of Manchester where he finds himself immersed in a subculture, preying on the weak and lost, which he could not have envisaged. Michael, one who is lost, shares a flat with his mate Dig (Andrew Ellis), who rarely bothers to get dressed. He spends most of his days at the Job Centre until he meets Lee (Barden). Lee works at a massage parlour, and Michael goes along one night, falling increasingly under the lure of escort Alex (Pallett) only to witness the violent death of a ‘punter’. The owner of the business, Lee’s uncle, offers Michael a job and he accepts. As he experiences blood-drenched flashbacks, Michael feels himself being gradually sucked into a strange twilight world that he doesn’t understand, but finds irresistibly attractive.
Described ahead of Grimmfest by Roxanne Pallett as defying genres, Habit is based on Stephen McGeagh’s cult novel. The movie manages to merge horror, psychological thriller and drama superbly. It’s dark, gritty, wholly hard-hitting and frequently bloody (as Pallett had warned, many of the characters spend much of their time covered in blood!). It’s gripping throughout.
Every character in the film is damaged in some way, shape or form; there are no traditional heroes and villains (ok, there’s one particularly nasty character); no standard good versus evil; and it works perfectly. Against the bloody horror which takes place in the basement of the massage parlour, we watch families falling apart, the psychological damage which early life experiences can cause, friendships forged and bonds created.
Langridge plays the part of Michael impeccably as we watch him descend in to this culture, struggling with what he is seeing, and before long what he is doing. Barden as Lee is excellent – she toes the line between innocent, young, vulnerable naive friend continually taken advantage of and perhaps the most malevolent of the characters, leaving us frequently questioning her motives and whether she can be trusted. Roxanne Pallett plays the role of Alex perfectly – as damaged as any of the characters, equally as vulnerable as she is strong, seductive and deadly. And William Ash is wholly convincing as massage parlour owner Ian, as vicious as loyal, as sinister as caring.
Being set and filmed in Manchester, gives Habit an extra appeal for local viewers. Director Simeon Halligan had previously commented about the film “Habit is a sensuous, dark, underworld of a film, set and to be filmed in and around the Northern Quarter, seeking out the back streets and the last vestiges of the way it used to be.” Interior shots were filmed at Media City.
Habit creates a murky, sinister world out of the streets of Manchester – dimly lit alleys, graffiti everywhere, threatening streets, where many of us have wandered during the day, in the evening, heading to a bar, looking around the shops. Watching Manchester on the big screen is refreshing. Rather the story being set in London, New York or small-town America, here is Manchester, our bright, vibrant city. In the background, there’s Pen and Pencil, Dale Street, Deansgate Locks, China Town, even the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art. The location scout has truly done a wonderful job on this.
Ahead of the premiere of Habit at Grimmfest, we spoke exclusively to Roxanne Pallett about the film. Watch this space for the interview coming soon.
What else is on at Grimmfest 2017?
Friday 6 October:
10.20am – Poor Agnes
12.30pm – Short film showcase
2.30pm – Trench 11
4.30pm – Freehold
7.00pm – 68 Kill
9.00pm – Better Watch Out
11.00pm – Tag
Saturday 7 October:
10.00am – Killing Ground
12.30pm – Replace
2.30pm – Game of Death
4.30pm – Double Date
7.00pm – Leatherface
9.00pm – Fake blood
11.00pm – The Bride
Sunday 8 October:
10am – Rabbit
12.00pm – Dave Made A Maze
2.00pm – M.F.A.
4.00pm – Borley Rectory
6.30pm – Mohawk
8.30pm – Attack of the Adult Babies