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“Unsurprisingly, everyone was hooked”: One Forbidden Worlds Film Festival-goer shares verdict on latest edition

Local film critic and blogger Nathan Hardie shares his experience of last month’s Forbidden Worlds Film Festival, which served up another feast of fantasy, action, sci-fi and horror on Bristol’s IMAX screen to its die-hard (and fast-growing) audience. Thank you to Nathan for contributing this guest blog!

It was for their horror programme, The Big Scream II in October 2023, that I had last entered the Bristol Aquarium Cinema. For me, that’s around 226 Letterboxd entries without an IMAX screening, a reasonable luxury rarely afforded to Bristolians without leaving the city.

Yet, after catching up with the always friendly team in the foyer and climbing to my usual ‘camping’ spot on the back row, it felt like I’d never left as I attended the third edition of the Forbidden Worlds Film Festival (16th – 19th May 2024).

Plenty of familiar faces were dotted around the sold-out crowd, all seated for a 90’s action double bill of Speed and Blue Steel.

It’s a welcoming community cultivated from a mix of Bristol Bad Film Club, 20th Century Flicks, and many other enthusiastic genre cinephiles willing to sacrifice the sunniest Thursday of the year so far to spend the evening in a dark room together.

This also meant they understood the assignment: no Snapchatting the title cards but big reactions are encouraged throughout. Large cheers and claps rang out when Sandra Bullock piloted the bus that couldn’t slow down over a gap only movie magic could make possible. A collective gasp followed Jamie Lee Curtis when Ron Silver’s psycho-killer businessman attacked her best friend from the shadows. Unsurprisingly, everyone was hooked.

An adrenaline-fuelled hoot kicking off the long weekend drastically shifted to the infamous Friday morning slot, a showcase of the team’s range and willingness to push the boundaries of curation.

Kin-Dza-Dza! is a 1986 Soviet sci-fi comedy that’s practically incomparable and nearly unexplainable, although Dr Mark Bould made an excellent attempt to do so. What this dystopian oddity did provide, aside from a migraine, was a running festival in-joke for those who were most dedicated to turning up – Ku to my fellow Patsaks.

Over two hours later, it was one down, four films to go. We were treated to special introductions from critics, such as Harriet Taylor of SWITCH, and makers of the selected movies, including a cut-down version of the now obligatory 20+ minute Renny Harlin cameo, providing crucial context and fun tidbits to keep in mind whilst watching.

My highlight from the Saturday line-up was Foxy Brown (1974). A Blaxploitation sensation, Pam Grier is out for revenge after her undercover cop boyfriend is murdered by gangsters running a drugs and sex worker operation. Part of Forbidden World’s Killer Queens strand, Foxy kicks ass, cracks-wise, and looks great doing both. Include the impressive set pieces and it’s more than understandable why Quentin Tarantino rates Foxy Brown as one of his favourite films.

Trying to consume and retain all of these larger-than-life stories is a feat of endurance that I simultaneously do and do not recommend. There is likely more enjoyment to be gained by watching a double bill here or there whilst still being able to soak in the festival atmosphere.

However, I’m unsure what can compare to the feeling of completing this marathon challenge, that sense of delirious pride of saying you survived Forbidden Worlds Film Festival, spending around 36 hours in a stuffy cinema across three-ish days. Despite battling self-induced fatigue, its true beauty is when the projection starts on the next feature, the novelty of another slick picture with crisp sound engulfs the senses, and we’re ready to go again.

Nathan Hardie is a Bristolian Film Critic and Cultural Curator who has written for publications such as BFI Academy South West and Freestyle Bristol, and collaborated with We Are Parable and Cinema Rediscovered. You can follow his work at HardieWrites, on his blogInstagram and X (formerly Twitter).

Forbidden Worlds Film Festival will return with ‘The Big Scream’ on 11-12 October 2024. Find out more at

Credit: Arthur Cauty

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