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Exploring the fear of the unknown

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Based on his love of horror one local film director organised the island’s first film festival dedicated to the genre. PAUL LAMBIS meets him

Lovers of horror movies would have been starved of much action on the island. Until, that is, horror film director and writer Andreas Avgousti organised the first Cyprus Horror Film Festival in September last year, with another to follow later this year, with the long-term goal of increasing respect for the genre.

“I’ve always been captivated by horror films,” Avgousti said. “There is no doubt that the intellectual stimulation and imaginative activity around this type of films provide an adrenaline rush.”

Avgousti describes himself as a regular youngster growing up in Limassol in a conservative Cypriot family. “I was a good student who did not cause my parents any problems as I grew up, and they never commented on my infatuation with horror films, and everything associated with it.”

He recalled rarely being frightened by horror films as a child, although some, such as Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist gave him nightmares. “The Exorcist is one of my personal favourites. It is a well-paced, well-written, and a wonderfully directed story. It also contains believable characters in key roles, practical effects that overshadow today’s CGI, and it is still highly thought-provoking.”

andreas avgoustiAvgousti studied film and television at the University of Glasgow before graduating with a master’s degree in film direction from MetFilm School London, where he focused on the entire spectrum of horror, including gothic horror, supernatural horror, monster movies, psychological horror, splatter films, slasher films, body horror, comedy horror and postmodern horror.

His creative process begins with listening to specific music, which inspires a theme or idea for one of his films. His thoughts are then transferred to paper, where he develops the plot and characters for the film. “I have been drawing since I was a child, and it is something I enjoy doing since it allows me to express myself creatively.

“I then put pen to paper, but the story typically evolves into something meaningful and representative of my work,” he added.

According to most fans, horror films usually do double duty, offering up scares while also illuminating the concerns that lurk beneath the surface of our collective cultural norms. According to Avgousti, horror films, despite their fanciful elements, delve into people’s fears and emotions. “The fear of the unknown, for example, an eerie noise in a basement or a creaky door opening, is a pretty simple thing, but you can create so much and centre a theme them around it, regardless of the film’s location.”

He feels that the most difficult film genres to attempt are horror and comedy. “You can have a big budget and use the best filmmaking techniques, but if you do not make your viewers afraid or laugh, you have failed.”

feature2 the cyprus horror film festivalIn 2019, Avgousti won the Best Horror award at the Florence Film Awards for his film Petra, a short film about a woman who returns to her family home and witnesses strange events. The film also earned several accolades from other international festivals, including an honourable mention at the Los Angeles Film Awards. “The main location in the film was a house I saw when I was seven years old and knew I would use it in a horror film one day,” Avgousti told Living. “Being recognised for the film at renowned festivals, especially as a period piece with a Cypriot dialect, took me by surprise.”

Andreas’ other films, Music Man and Forget Me Not, have also earned critical acclaim and recognition from international film festivals, bringing his total credits to 38 wins and 24 nominations since he began making films in 2016.

It was only a matter of time before Avgousti founded the first Cyprus Horror Film Festival, making it an annual event to look forward to for horror movie fans on the island. “It was a surreal experience attending the first festival. I was blown away by the response, and the fact that the festival was nearly sold out showed that there is a market for horror films in Cyprus.”

The aestival attracted productions from all over the world, including Cyprus, Greece, Finland, Mexico, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Austria. “I am overjoyed that these filmmakers trusted a first-time festival with their productions, and even more thrilled that they had a fantastic experience, inspiring me to organise the second festival in October 2023, for which I have already received a few entries.”

Festival aside, Avgousti is now working on two projects: a short film and a full-length horror picture whose script is in development. “I genuinely enjoy this type of film, and I am pleased that we have finally filled a void in the Cyprus art scene.”

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