INTERVIEW: Screenage Kicks’ Screen Demons | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Ian West, taken at Tyne Theatre & Opera House

During my chat with Kristian Atkinson (one half of Screenage Kicks, promoter Paul Davis makes up the other half), one word comes up again and again – community. The Screenage Kicks team (for there are many – dancers, actors, musicians and make-up artists among others) are about to embark on one of their most ambitious activities yet, a horror film festival entitled Screen Demons. Screenings will span six weeks and encompass everything from a fully immersive all singing all dancing screening of a cult vampire flick to an all-night triple bill of freaky but fun 80s cult horror classics, as well as a load of site-specific screenings such as British horror masterpiece Witchfinder General, screened in the Castle Keep (where the real witches of the Newcastle witch trials were held before hanging). All these events will be bespoke and unique one-off sessions, steeped in the flair and imagination that the team have become known for.

It’s easy to see why ‘community’ is such an important word for Kristian: “It’s a passion really, it’s not a business, first and foremost we do this because we love movies, and more importantly we love getting people out of their houses, away from their computers and watching film together as a heightened and valuable shared experience.”

Screenage Kicks isn’t just about movies, it’s about building something important for the North East’s cultural identity. “There’s a deep cultural and personal value to bringing people together, especially in these times where Netflix and home viewing rules.” Kristian explains, “I’m proud of the fact that Screenage Kicks appeals to all age groups; it’s a universal thing that we are doing. It’s something you just can’t get at home, we take the atmosphere of a great live music gig and put it in a cinema situation. The social elements before and after the films themselves are even more important – it’s about connecting people.”

The Screenage Kicks model ensures that every event is radically different from the last and the next – screening cult classics, built around a site-specific space, with live acting, music, props and surprises galore – whether it’s Reservoir Dogs in a warehouse, The Shining in a community hall (which looks eerily like the hotel in the film), or The Big Lebowski in a bowling alley, the events never repeat the same trick twice. “There’s nothing comparable in terms of depth of detail, we put great care and energy into what we do because we know the audience love these films so we try to make them feel like they are actually inside their favourite film for a few hours.”

There’s not enough genre cinema in the North East, I’d like to try to address that

Kristian was more recently inspired to create the group’s own horror film festival, and Screen Demons was born. “There’s not enough genre cinema in the North East, I’d like to try to address that. I’m a huge horror fan, the very reason we started Screen Demons was because I felt disappointed with the lack of horror cinema in the North East. Worse than that, not only do we not have a horror festival – which admittedly is a bit of a niche thing (though most major UK cities have them now) – but the region does not regularly service a horror community like other cities do, and I want to be proud of our region’s efforts in cinema exhibition.”

Keen to produce a ‘repertory’ event which placed heavy emphasis on bringing new audiences to cult classics as well as unseen gems, Screen Demons features a varied line-up. “We run the whole gamut of horror – all eras and micro-genres from the 1920s to now, including Slasher, Paranormal, Vampire and Zombie. A lot of cult classics are being re-issued on DVD or being downloaded illegally, but the real way to watch these films is in a cinema with an atmosphere like in the old Grindhouse days of the 70s, before home video took over and killed communal viewing. There’s been a cultural shift and all over the world horror fans are coming together again at festivals like this. I, and indeed the global horror community, feel that the way people view films at home, either on a laptop or through Netflix, is quite soulless. The history of horror is really the history of communal cinema going, so let’s get back to that.”

It’s clear Kristian has a real bee in his bonnet when it comes to social cinema viewing, he talks passionately about “railing against this Netflix culture” and using his events as a way to encourage people to indulge a passion for film, with plans for sci-fi, art and music film festivals planned for next year. The distinction between watching a film at home or at an event is one that Kristian feels can’t be compared, and the film festival approach magnifies this experience. “The palpable atmosphere, expectations, the crowd, the social aspects of meeting new friends before and after the film and of course the bespoke movie choices just can’t be beat, there’s a world outside your door and all kinds of connections to be made.”

Screenage Kicks present: Screen Demons North East Horror Festival at various locations from Friday 6th May until Friday 17th June.


Friday 6th May @ Secret Venue
Dusk Till Dawn
A fully immersive screening of Tarantino’s genre-bending cult classic, complete with the Screenage Kicks Allstar Band.

Friday 13th May @ Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
The Green Room
Brand new film by Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier. Members of a punk band battle murderous white supremacists at a remote Oregon roadhouse.

All Night Triple Bill of true cult gems
Featuring Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, Society and It Follows.

Friday 20th May @ Newcastle Castle
The Witchfinder General
Vincent Price stars in the British cult classic. Newcastle was the setting for its very own witch trials in the 1650s, and accused ‘witches’ were imprisoned in the Castle Keep before being hanged on the Town Moor.

Sunday 5th June @ The Cluny, Newcastle
Italian Horror Alldayer
Themed around the work of Italian exploitation master Lucio Fulci.

Plus a wealth of smaller events at the Tyneside Bar Café and Ernest.

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