This year’s edition kicks off today with the UK premiere of Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.

The 12th edition of the Film4 FrightFest starts today at London’s Empire Cinema with the UK premiere of Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, with the festival directors promising a focus on audience interaction.

Festival co-director Alan Jones told Screen: “We see that as a really important part, that interaction between the fans and the cast is what I think makes us so good. And to a man, every single person that comes here and appears with us would say they get the best questions from the FrightFest audience.”

A host of talent will be in attendance at the festival, including Kill List director Ben Wheatley along with some of the film’s cast, Fright Night actor Anton Yelchin, The Wicker Tree Robin Hardy, and Swiss director Michael Steiner for Sennentuntschi.

Festival co-director Paul McEvoy added that “generally, all the directors will be here for the entire weekend, mixing with fans and being open to chat about their films.”

The festival directors are “humbled” by their close relationships with directors such as Guillermo Del Toro who insisted Pan’s Labyrinth show first at the festival. Greg Day noted: “It’s not just a film festival so it’s very good for us because we have followed the careers of certain directors that they put as much of their own persuasion on distributors to allow us to show the film.”

Along with the returning directors this year, including Lucky McKee and Ti West, Jones believes that Emily Hagins, director of My Sucky Teen Romance, has the potential to follow in their footsteps. “Ian [Rattray, festival co-director] is particularly keen on My Sucky Teen Romance and he wanted to show it and bring the director in. She’s a very talented girl who could go far, so it’s worth us doing. That’s what we’re about: grabbing the people when they’re on their trajectory. We’ve proved we have a great track record of backing the right people at the right time.”

When it came to programming this year’s festival, they were keen to avoid any of last year’s controversy where A Serbian Film was pulled last-minute after the BBFC enforced four minutes of cuts. Lucky McKee’s The Woman was a potential concern that in the end caused no problems, but The Human Centipede II was going to be the closing film until the BBFC banned it.

“There was no way legally we could have shown it. We thought of every single angle and there was just no way,” Jones noted.

McEvoy added: “To be honest, that’s still ongoing. We’ve been offered the film for pretty much any event that we want going from here but we have to abide by the law, we’re just waiting for a decision on that.”

There was also a determined effort to “lighten the load” after last year which McEvoy felt was “all about rape”, but he felt was also important to not reject anything dark out of hand in order to keep the balance in proportion. He said: “We’ve always been, since the very beginning, a snapshot of where the worldwide genre is today is what we are. We don’t make the films at the moment, it’s up to the filmmakers; we can only reflect what they are putting through the lens.”

Jones believes that the festival has become a “litmus test” for the films it shows, not just for other festivals but for distributors as well with the likes of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Let The Right One In going onto wider theatrical releases after strong audience responses at the festival. This has also led to films being pushed back theatrically, in order for them to screen at FrightFest first, with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark a prime example as it originally could have been day-and-date with America.

“Also a lot of people, naturally younger or raw filmmakers, actually come to us because they see FrightFest as really the only gateway to perhaps have a chance to have something shown,” Day added.

Joseph Khan’s Detention is one such example this year and Panic Button got chosen after Day and Jones worked on Elfie Hopkins and was recommended it by the production designer Tim Dickel.

Work on the 2012 festival has already begun with the opening film already locked. As for potential changes, a market aspect has been thought about for the last three years, although the directors are wary of turning it from a public-driven event into an industry one and to rob it of its atmosphere.

“There are some key people in the industry who relish coming to the festival because it isn’t like that. They can enjoy that and forget their high-profile job and just be one of the fans; they out themselves. The rest of the year, they’re like ‘oh, I don’t know if we can distribute that because it’s very niche’,” Day commented.

The focus instead is on expanding the FrightFest brand with more regionalised events, such as the FrightFest weekend during the Glasgow Film Festival. McEvoy said: “That [Glasgow FrightFest] has grown and it’s a fantastic event. We had a great time with Jason Eisener with the Hobo With A Shotgun European premiere, he was a brilliant guest and we’ve already locked two or three films for that which are bloody fantastic. Really big movies.”

As for the London FrightFest 2012, Jones believes that they are perfectly placed with it running Aug 23-27 to situate it after the Olympics but before the start of the Paralympics

FrightFest runs Aug 25-29. All weekend passes have sold out, along with day passes for Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. But some individual tickets for films are still on sale.