A new festival in Exeter celebrating Dartmoor and Devon’s rich history of ghosts, ghouls and witchcraft – Hell-Tor – will take place this November.
A weekend of Gothic horror
The inaugural Hell-Tor film festival will present a weekend of Gothic horror with films, talks and readings inspired by the folklore of the moor.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Famous names from TV and film will be among the guests, including Sherlock and League of Gentlemen star, Mark Gatiss, in discussion with film historian and author of English Gothic Jonathan Rigby about The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Five features and a handful of shorts will be shown over the two-day event, including the 1987 classic Hellraiser, preceded by a talk with actor Nicholas Vince, who played the teeth-chattering Cenobite in the film.
The Exeter-based filmmaker has been celebrating the region’s heritage since 2007 via animated short films – such as The Hairy Hands – and radio plays which have been performed throughout the world and have received accolades in Entertainment Weekly and the Wall Street Journal.
Dartmoor – a thousand ghost stories
Ashley told D&CFilm: “Dartmoor is a land of a thousand ghost stories with a unique place in British horror literature and film.
“Other parts of the world have created events to celebrate local history and folklore and we wanted to create something unique here. Dartmoor and its myths have long been an obsession of mine.
Legends of Devon
“I have been surrounded by those tales and their tellers for as long as I can remember. The ghosts, myths and legends of Devon seeped into my personal mythology from an early age and they have influenced most of my work. I wondered why Devon has never have a dedicated festival that celebrated both the tales themselves but also the genre that seemed to have been baptised in their blood.”
A live 1940s-style reading of Ashley’s radio play The Demon Huntsman relates the tale of the real-life inspiration for Conan Doyle’s Hugo Baskerville, Lord Cabell, whose tomb in Buckfastleigh remains a source of ghoulish fascination to this day.
Ken Russell’s 1986 film Gothic – starring Borley Rectory narrator Julian Sands – is a fictionalized retelling of the Shelleys’ visit to Lord Byron in Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, and the competition to write a horror story, which ultimately led to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.
Screenwriter and novelist Stephen Volk, best known for the BBC series Ghostwatch, will discuss the film on stage with the director’s wife Lisi Russell.
Dominic Brunt, who is best known as Paddy Kirk in the TV series Emmerdale, will show and discuss his series of horror films and then discuss his love of the genre in a live Q&A.
Devon folklore expert Mark Norman, author of Black Dog Folklore, will give a lecture on Demon Hounds while his author wife Tracey Norman will present a talk on witchcraft.
Ashley added: “Our aim is to celebrate the region’s legacy and explore its history of folklore and witchcraft. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a text that has forever secured Dartmoor’s reputation in the world’s imagination as a landscape beset with beasts and phantoms. The time has come to celebrate it.
Horror’s coming home…
“Hell-Tor is a mixture of classic horror features, shorts, lectures and opportunities to hear renowned genre directors, authors and actors talk openly of their own love of the genre and the regions legacy. It’s time for horror to come home.”
The festival opens on Saturday with a lecture by Exeter University’s Gothic expert Dr Corinna Wagner followed by a special presentation by Anna Howorth of Usborne publishing celebrating the much loved ‘GHOSTS’ from the World of the Unknown series from the late 1970s.
The event, which runs over the 9 and 10 November at Exeter’s Phoenix arts centre, will conclude with a Sunday night party held at the nearby Cavern Club.
Tickets are available from www.exeterphoenix.org.uk/whats-on
Check out the Hell-Tor festival website: http://www.helltorfestival.com/