SITGES

When it comes to fantastic film events the Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantastic de Catalunya is the granddaddy of them all. Alan Jones keeps you up to date with films plus the great and good of the genre world as they mix and mingle in sun of Spain.

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  • DAY ONE  |  AS TIME GOES BYE

     

    DAY ONE  -  AS TIME GOES BYE

    It's the 46th Sitges Festival - or Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantastic de Catalunya to give this mega event it's full title - and I truly can't believe I've been coming to this wonderful place for thirty years or so. I've seen enormous changes in that time; the initial move from the centre of the picturesque resort to the Melia Hotel built for the Barcelona Olympics back in 1992, the local government changes that have impacted on its running, the wholesale building works that have turned the port area into a thriving social scene, the pedestrianisation of the beach fronts making the journeys between cinemas a joy. And now of course the austerity that Spain in going through that has necessitated numerous changes this year so ensure the Festival continues to thrive. One of those has been in the pass and ticketing departments that everyone has had to grapple with, but as with any such changes you soon catch the drift and things progress as normal.

    The opening night movie was Eugenio Mira's enormously entertaining Brian de Palma-esque GRAND PIANO, starring Elijah Wood (a Sitges habitué), which I saw in Cannes and thoroughly recommend if anyone in the UK finally decides to pick up. It was preceded by the Melies D'Or ceremony, that picks the best Euro fantasy of the year, the winner of which was the dark horse

    IN THE NAME OF THE SON, directed by Vincent Lanoo and starring IRREVERSIBLE's Philippe Nahon. Much to Dan Palmer's annoyance, the star of STALLED, which had been in the running. The lovely Dan was the first person I saw upon entering the hotel to check in and he was soon followed by PROXY director Zack Parker, one of his stars Kristina Klebe, THE RETURNED director Manuel Carballo, LOVE ETERNAL star Pollyanna (THE WOMAN) Mcintosh, and all the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation personnel here as usual for the bi-annual meeting to discuss all matters related to our collective well-being.

    First film today was THE GREEN INFERNO, director Eli Roth's tribute to all things Deodato and Lenzi. Those who came to FrightFest Glasgow this year will remember we had Roth, producer Nicolas Lopez and AFTERSHOCK star Lorenza Izzo as our guests. And here's Lorenza again as New York student Justine who with her idealistic friends heads off to Peru to prevent the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and disrupting the local tribes' lives. Unfortunately what begins as a live streaming protest ends with them captured by cannibals after a plane crash. That superbly staged crash - all severed heads, vomiting, wholesale mayhem - had the audience clapping with glee, a reaction that continued throughout all the Cannibal genre tropes expertly re-jiggled by the ever savvy Roth for today's market. Okay, lead actor Ariel Levy, playing the head of the protest group with an alternative agenda, is rather weak, but once the Greg Nicotero/Howard Berger created gore kicks in, it becomes everything and more you expect from a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which sported this shooting title back in 1980. From the centrepiece dismembering and throat-slitting suicide to the stoned cannibals getting the munchies and nightmare twist, this fun feast for splatter lovers delivers. And what an arresting image the red-painted natives against the lush green jungle is.

    Now it's time to see who else has turned up - the Ford Brothers, Bruno Forzani for THE STRANGE COLOURS OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS minus a heavily pregnant Helene Cattet, or the PATRICK roadshow with Sharni Vinson and director Mark Hartley. Although it was cold and rainy on arrival, the weather is now improving, and I'm sure we'll be having a Beach Blanket Bingo by tomorrow,

    Until next time.

    Alan.

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  • 'DAY TWO  |  IT'S ALL ABOUT PROXY

     

    DAY TWO  -  IT'S ALL ABOUT PROXY

    It was all about PROXY director Zack Parker last night. One of the best restaurants in Sitges is the Santa Maria on the beachfront in the Old Town. Because this local open-air fish hostelry was placed between the one-time hub of the festival and the hotel where the press stayed, it became the most popular meeting place and for many Old School Sitges attendees has remained the place to host all visiting talent at one point in their visit. I've taken everyone here from Robert Englund to Nicolas Winding-Refn, and last night was Zack's turn. Not that it was easy to get to mainly because that Euro-festival staple, the Zombie Walk, was taking place and the whole of the town was packed with weekender on-lookers and photographers. I find it amazing that such events here and in Strasbourg still command such high participation and mass interest. If we tried doing this in Leicester Square these days, we'd probably get a dozen people, but here it's such a massive big deal. Still. Anyway we managed to get to the Santa Maria eventually to talk all things PROXY and where FrightFest could fit in. Watch for an announcement very soon. PROXY is one of my favourite films of the year alongside BIG BAD WOLVES, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE and PATRICK and I'll be in the audience again tonight to support Zack during his opening introduction.

    Speaking of PATRICK, director Mark Hartley turned up yesterday along with his composer, the icon that is Pino Donaggio. Mark was in fine form, says he's starting ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE CANNON STORY next April, and had some rather surprising things to say about his leading lady Sharni Vinson. Can't wait to catch up with her and hear her side of his stories! Mark has promised to introduce me to Pino later as I'm such a fan, dating back to the Swinging Sixties days when he wrote and sang the huge hit 'Io Non Che Vivo' that Dusty Springfield turned into 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me'.

    Tonight is the European Fantastic Films Federation cocktail party at the Vivero restaurant situated high above the beach sporting a new bar terrace area. I have fond memories of this place as it's where Guillermo del Toro once took me and ordered a meal in reverse starting with desert. It has been hard to catch up with everyone here due to the scattershot screenings sectioning us all off into mini-groups so it will be good to talk about the issues we are all facing as outside forces keep impacting on our events.

    Today's movie was an absolute stunner. Produced by Jaume Collet-Serra (director of ORPHAN and UNKNOWN) and directed by Jorge Dorado, MINDSCAPE stars Mark Strong as a mind detective, a person who is paid to enter people's memories and uncover the real facts behind crimes. Because so many couch their memories in selective images and false recognition, it's down to people like Strong to sift out the fact from fiction. As the movie begins we are told that courts now accept such detectives' research in evidence like DNA. After an incredibly attention-grabbing opening showing Strong investigating the suicide of his own wife, we learn he's just about to go back to work in order not to have to sell the beach house that meant so much to him during his tragic marriage. So boss Brian Cox assigns him the case of a brilliant but troubled teenager, Taissa Farmiga, who is refusing to eat much to the consternation of her wealthy parents. As Strong enters her mind, it seems she was bullied at school and suffered from sexual abuse. But as he becomes more entwined in her memories he has to divine if she is indeed the victim of unspeakable trauma or a very clever and manipulative sociopath. Smartly written by Guy Holmes, and consistently kept super-stylish by Dorado's exemplary direction, this utterly compelling chiller is a winner right to the devilish twist ending. Strong and Farmiga are exceptional at punching across quite a difficult scenario with panache and a darkly emotional resonance, and for me MINDSCAPE will be hard to beat as a festival favourite. Easy to see why Collet-Serra warmed to this concept considering the sneakiness of his past two works. Strong is here at Sitges and I hope I get the chance to tell him how much I enjoyed his ace performance.

    COHERENCE is up next....until then.

    ALAN

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  • DAY THREE | A BIT OF COHERENCE

     

    DAY THREE - A BIT OF COHERENCE


    Stars Charles Dance, Sharni Vinson, director Mark Hartley and composer Pino Donaggio rocked the house with the screening of PATRICK last night. Gaining enormous critical support here Hartley's remake of the Ozploitation Classic is going down a storm with Spanish audiences. Mark was true to his word and did introduce me to Pino. I told the icon how much his music has meant to me over the years so now I can die a happy fan.

    PROXY director Zack Parker did his entire introduction in Catalan and Spanish much to the delight of the locals - that's always a good way to get the crowd on your side from the start. And Jon Ford, here without his brother Howard who is attending Screamfest in Los Angeles, had a far better experience with THE DEAD 2: INDIA than with the original, which had such a weird time-slot that it attracted a very strange reaction. Not the case this time around as Jon has been basking in the positive comments for their labour of love.

    It's Monday, the weather is Indian Summer glorious, and the next wave of talent has arrived. Bobcat Goldthwait has turned up for WILLOW CREEK and as usual had me in hysterics at breakfast discussing how he's anxious to see how the Spanish have translated Bigfoot on the subtitles. I think it will be literal i.e. Pie Grande - while he thinks it will simply be Sasquatch. Bruno Forzani arrives later today to present THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS. And JT Petty joined Bobcat over breakfast because his HELLBENDERS 3D unspools tomorrow late night. Also making his usual Sitges trip is producer Alberto Marini, the main man responsible for letting us show the Pastor Brothers' amazing THE LAST DAYS in August. He was thrilled with the reaction and told me he is now working on two more genre movies, one a slasher with the working title SUMMER CAMP (and he groaned just as you are right now) plus the new Pastor project, a sort of LOOPER concept he couldn't get too specific about. Alberto is a stand-up guy and he's promised to keep me posted on everything.

    Today's film was James Ward Byrkit's COHERENCE, a hit at the recent Fantastic Fest in Austin. Byrkit and his name star Nicholas (BUFFY) Brendon took the stage to say that their film was "a puzzle movie" and that the puzzle started from the opening frame. Written by Byrkit too (whose main credit to date seems to be storyboard artist on the cartoon RANGO), it centres on a dinner party taking place just as Miller's Comet streaks across the sky above. The last time the comet appeared in Finland in 1923, a woman called the police to tell them the man in her home wasn't her husband because she had killed him the day before. And in this peculiar instance the comet creates multiple versions of the bickering guests that keep interchanging as they enter different realities and interact with their alternative friends and sometimes even themselves. The puzzle I couldn't work out was why anyone cared what was happening on screen in this tiresome and rambling comment on human duplicity. Or I think that's what it was about! I gave up trying to follow the endless plot contortions shot with a shaki-cam aesthetic that amounted to nothing but irritation. INCOHERENCE more like, and although many people gave the film a round of applause at the end, I defy them to tell me what was the point of this reasonably acted but hollow exercise that disappeared up its own arsehole pretty quickly.

    Hopefully HOOKED UP will be better. Now I have to run because I'm being filmed for a new documentary on the Giallo genre.

    Until next time.

    Alan.

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  • DAY FOUR | PEOPLE AND PLACES

     

    DAY FOUR - PEOPLE AND PLACES

    Because Eli Roth and Lorenza Izzo had so much press to do in Sitges on THE GREEN INFERNO, I actually didn't think we'd be able to get together at any time for a catch up. But we finally managed it last night and had a great dinner in the picturesque Port just below the Melia Hotel where we filled each other in on what we were up to since our last meet at FrightFest Glasgow. Eli wanted to know all about the book project I'm involved in with Nicolas Winding- Refn, while I wanted to hear all the INFERNO shooting stories and details about the sequel BEYOND THE GREEN INFERNO, to be directed by his AFTERSHOCK partner Nicolas Lopez. Once you've seen THE GREEN INFERNO I think it's quite clear what the trajectory of the sequel will be - not that Lorenza ever wants to go back to the Peruvian jungle after all the insect bites, python encounters, parasite burrowing and tarantula creeping the cast went through, which even made me shudder. Eli is working on some fantastic other stuff at the moment too, one sci-fi project particularly interesting due to the top people involved. Eli reminded me it has been 11 years since we first met on CABIN FEVER, and how he will never leave the genre because of how good it has been to him. We have all gained from Eli's keen involvement in ramping up the industry's interest in what many thought was a poor relation - horror's current high profile owes a lot to his dogged determination and I for one will always be grateful.

    Unfortunately Eli won't be here to present his production of Ti West's THE SACRAMENT, which is Sitges' closing attraction. Nor will West apparently although he's in London for the screenings there. What's up Ti? Instead the intro honours will be left to indie horror star AJ Bowen, not such a shabby replacement.

    Since arriving I've been wearing an array of cast and crew movie T-shirts but none of them have caused the problems THE RAID 2 tie-in has. Director Gareth Evans gave it to me fresh from the set and everyone from Sitges head honchos to fans in the street have commented on it and asked to buy it off my back for quite high sums. I'm considering their offers especially since Bruno Forzani has now presented me with one of the rare THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS T-shirts which I've already decided I'll be wearing for our Halloween all-nighter next week.

    Today's film was Juan Cavestany's GENTE EN SITIOS/PEOPLE AND PLACES and to say it was a hot ticket is an understatement. The Prado cinema was heaving because Cavestany has quite a reputation for his theatre productions under the Animalario Company banner. I wanted to see it because my friend from Strasbourg, WITCHING AND BITCHING star Carlos Areces, appears in it briefly, but although it got a huge round of applause at the end this political treatise was a hard slog. Basically it comprises of a series of vignettes that finally do connect to make a point. So a waiter takes ages writing down his customers' order, a man looks for a job in a wig, a housewife asks her neighbour to remove a sexist doormat, a man's wife has a face graft but he doesn't notice - an endless series of absurd, surreal, funny episodes unfold. As its l-o-n-g 81 minutes comes to a close, a woman hits her head and sees a blurred Spanish flag, while a man is taught how to walk, drink and sleep. Yes, it's a comment on austerity Spain where the focus has gone from the nation, the nanny state is trying to fool the public and people are becoming more cynical by the minute. Shot in crude early VHS style, this blunted satire should be on TV not in the cinema and I will be watching this film's fortunes with interest because Sitges will be the only place it will ever be taken seriously.

    Now it's HELLBENDERS 3D time and hopefully the question - why has no one picked this up for US or UK distribution since Toronto 2012? - will be answered.

    Until the next time.

    Alan.

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  • DAY FIVE | A GREAT DAY FOR MOVIES TODAY

     

    DAY FIVE - A GREAT DAY FOR MOVIES TODAY

    A great day for movies today, the four FrightFest favourites CHEAP THRILLS, VHS 2, WILLOW CREEK and DARK TOUCH play later on, but I kicked off with Ari Folman's THE CONGRESS that for the most part is one of the more extraordinary movies of the year. Folman of course became internationally famous for his Oscar nominated WALTZ WITH BASHIR and his latest astonishing work is based on Stanislaw (SOLARIS) Lem's sci-fi novel 'The Futurological Congress'. Here Robin Wright plays an incarnation of herself, the star of THE PRINCESS BRIDE and FORREST GUMP, who needs money for an operation to stop her son Aaron going deaf. So she signs a 20 year contract with Miramount Pictures to make a copy of her person in digital form they will be able to use in any future movie they wish. But she must never work again for real, because as Miramount head Jeff (a vitriolic Danny Huston) tells her in no uncertain terms her recent work has been crap, she clearly can't manage her career, and she's looking too old.

    Two decades later Robin attends a Miramount congress to be their guest of honour. In the interim years she's become the studio's biggest action star and they want her for another contract in which she must sign away her substance rights as they wish to market her as a liquid you sniff to become a hallucinogenic avatar in order to live in a permanent Hollywood fantasy world divorced from the ugly reality of future poverty and crime.

    The first hour of Folman's incredible journey into Utopian illusion is acted drama with Wright and her agent, a terrific Harvey Keitel, discussing her leap into virtuality culminating in a bravura sequence where he leads her through all the emotions needed to be recorded by CGI technicians in a massive light globe? Then for the Congress it switches to YELLOW SUBMARINE animation via WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and REN & STIMPY to becomes a surreal Pepperland populated with Marylin Monroes, Michael Jacksons, Elvis, Cleopatras and Tom Cruises.

    But it's in this nightmare of jagged, stunningly designed, unreality that Robin rebels and begins a quest for her long lost son. Folman's fabulous extravaganza is an extension of LOOKER and SIMONE true, yet full of potent celebrity culture comments and corporate satire on the money wasted to pursue the superficial rather than the vital. It is far too much of a good thing to work as a successful whole. Yet when he pulls it together, like the revolt in the animated world and Robin understanding the true values in her life, it zings with genius and is one movie everybody should see because everyone will find something of worth in its wealth of amazing ideas.

    Now I'm out for dinner with Bruno Forzani and his STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY'S TEARS associates to celebrate its success, both in critical and commercial terms, before preparing for the world premiere of Victor Garcia's GALLOWS HILL.

    Until next time.

    Alan

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  • DAY SIX | SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN BED

     

    DAY FIVE - SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN BED

    It was the world premiere of Victor Garcia's GALLOWS HILL this morning, and I wish I could tell you it was worth getting up at 7am to see. At least Garcia has moved on from torpid sequels (MIRRORS 2, HELLRAISER:REVELATIONS, RETURN TO HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL) to an original, well as much as a witch possession saga can be, with a script written by THE CALL's Richard D'Ovidio. Peter Facinelli stars as a young widower in Bogota, Colombia, with his new fiancée Sophia Myles, to get his rebellious daughter, Nathalia Ramos, to attend their upcoming wedding. Their car crashes in a flash-flood and they take refuge at the remote Gallows Hill inn much to the sinister owner's clear agitated annoyance. Exploring the place that has been closed since 1978, they find a young girl locked in the basement and decide to free her. Big mistake - she's the flesh vessel for the spirit of a witch seeking revenge on the ancestors of the people responsible for her imprisonment. The script has nothing new to offer in the demonic body swap department and as this possession tango moves into gory overdrive for the finale already hinted at in the opening credits, it just seems to mark time with the usual suspects who should know better acting in ever more ridiculous ways to keep the extended plot going. There's a nice scythe-in-eye shock and an interesting moment where Ramos' boyfriend is revealed to be a drug mule scout who finds out what it's like to have a cocaine condom explode in his stomach. But you've seen it all a million times before even if cinematographer Alejandro (THE SQUAD) Moreno has given the cliche images a modicum of style.

    I'd missed Jim Jarmusch's ONLY LOVERS LEFT alive in Cannes and I wish I'd missed it again here too. Jarmusch hasn't really made a decent film since STRANGER THAN PARADISE and this post-ironic TWILIGHT twaddle doesn't break the chain. But then accusing this essay on the ennui of vampire-dom of being boring I suppose is its own self-aware critique. Undead Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton in bad Brian May inspired fright wigs moon around Tangier and Detroit drinking pure blood bought from hospitals, composing rock music, listening to old 45 singles, reminiscing on meeting Byron and supplying Schubert with adagios. Oh dear - Swinton's rebel sister turns up and, even though they have had hundreds of years to work out what she's really like, leave her alone with zombie (what they term human) Anton Yelchin, in another hilarious wig, whom she drains of all sustenance. Meanwhile back in Tangier, John Hurt has been given contaminated blood, and because he's playing Christopher Marlowe, won't be able to write any more fake Shakespeare plays. Pretentious claptrap doesn't come any more tedious as this longeur-infested nocturnal nightmare, the only light relief being a clip of the French Disco hit 'Soul Dracula' by Hot Blood, which is erroneously dated at 1975 instead of 1977. As sloppy as the rest of this movie then! THE HUNGER did it all so much better 30 years ago.

    I was going to end this postcard with a review of Alejandro Jodorowsky's LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD/DANCE OF REALITY, but I was so blown away by it this evening, in the presence of the great artist himself, I want to think about it for a while and collect my stunned thoughts.

    Until next time

    Alan

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  • DAY SEVEN | HE CAME, SAW AND CONQUERED

     

    DAY FIVE - HE CAME, SAW AND CONQUERED

    Alejandro Jodorowsky came, saw and conquered Sitges last night with his incredible magical realist autobiography THE DANCE OF REALITY. The cult director took to the stage and told the audience that he didn't shoot his latest work in secret for the money but "to make great art", and that is precisely what he's achieved with this hallucinogenic exploration of his early life as a child growing up in Tocopilla, Chile. With his Stalinist loving father Jamie (Brontis Jodorowsky giving the bravest performance of the year) trying to turn his son into a real man through dental trips minus anaesthetic and slapping contests, his over-protective mother Sara (the extraordinary Pamela Flores) singing all her lines in high opera and wearing tight cleavage-revealing dresses, the symbols, mysticism and sexuality that will inform Jodo's subsequent work from EL TOPO to SANTA SANGRE are all present and correct in what can best be described as Jodorowsky's AMARCORD.

    What's real, what's imagined, is the crux of Jodo's sensational sensory trip through the colours, atmospheres and music of 1920s South America. Halfway through this 130 minute epic Jamie takes centre stage embarking on a quest to assassinate the hated dictator Ibanez but becoming paralysed by fear before pulling the trigger. This then sends Jamie on a voyage of self-discovery through slums and carpentry leading to his family's migration to Mexico where Jodo grows up to spearhead surrealist theatre and invent the Midnight Movie.

    The 84 year old Jodorowsky appears throughout to comment on the action and add his own thoughts on life. He told us lastnight that if the money had run out before he had shot the entire movie, he had every intention of completing it by sitting in a chair and relating the images. Funny, vulgar, shocking and emotional, THE DANCE OF REALITY is a masterpiece from an amazing artist who, based on this provocative and compelling half-truth, is far from being the spent force many thought he might be after years of trying to get another project together. It's all here - circuses, masks, the severely disabled, umbrellas, theosophists, Nazism, urination, torture - snapshots of Jodo's past, present and futuristic imagination installations as vibrant and potent as ever.

    Jodo attended the first Sitges festival with FANDO Y LIS and now he's returned 46 years later older, wiser and even more confrontational than before. I adore the man who I've worked with on numerous occasions, the last being his PA in Cannes when his earlier works were restored for DVD release. I still have never met anyone like him and if you get the chance to see the documentary JODOROWSKY'S DUNE, you will also see why his unique conscious has impacted on all sci-fi movies from ALIEN to PROMETHEUS. That doc made a great double bill with THE DANCE OF REALITY and left everyone on a major high. None of us have stopped talking about this movie today, scenes keep haunting us and we have to talk about them and share our ever-changing impressions. Now that really is what I call great art.

    Today's movie was the Tribeca and PiFan hit THE MACHINE. Written and directed by Caradog James and shot on what looks like an industrial complex in Wales, this is a superbly crafted Man vs Robot sci-fi miniature. The UK is immersed in a Cold War with China and the Ministry of Defence has asked scientist Vincent McCarthy (ever dependable Toby Stephens) to develop cyborg super-soldiers. Research is affected when a computer error gives life to his invention, leading Vincent to ask for help from AI expert Ava (an affecting Caitzy Lotz). Finally a cybernetic machine is invented that is strong and can kill with one blow. Sinister MoD man Dennis Lawson wants to eradicate any feeling of remorse from it, while Vincent sees that human streak as a necessary element in its moral judgement. Only one side will be victorious in the battle between heart and mind.

    With terrific use of CGI and a story that adds intriguing wrinkles to such similar ones before it, THE MACHINE deserves its gathering reputation as a commercial festival favourite. Released in the UK next March, this one is well worth checking out because of the deceptive simplicity with which it has been lovingly made. Now it's off to the ASMODEXIA party as we countdown the minutes to the first showing here of Ti West's THE SACRAMENT.

    Until the last day tomorrow.

    Alan

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  • DAY EIGHT | THE SACRAMENT

     

    DAY FIVE - THE SACRAMENT

    Sitges co-director Mike Hostench launched the 'Dear Fear' platform last night in the Melia Hotel gardens with a lavish cocktail and dinner party event. The website will be open for business next February and allow access to unique horror content like short films, trailers and games. Part of the business model also includes feature production, the first being Marc Carrete's ASMODEXIA, co-written with Hostench, starring Mireia Ross and Lluis Marco as granddaughter and grandfather exorcists plying their trade in the Barcelona area. The trailer certainly makes it look gory with some interesting special effects.

    Revealed exclusively was the company's next production, FIST OF JESUS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN JERUSALEM, a sequel to the on-line short film sensation directed by Adrian Cardona and David Munoz. They were the guys behind the FrightFest fave BRUTAL RELAX. Marc Velasco, the returning Jesus, told the crowd that the intention was to make the sequel "like LIFE OF BRIAN met MAD MAX" which sound a pretty good combo to me. I'm hoping we can entice Mike over for FrightFest next year with ASMODEXIA as a world tour does look to figure in their release plans.

    Today's film was the highly anticipated THE SACRAMENT. My concern going into Ti West's latest well-crafted nightmare, one I voiced to producer Eli Roth the other night, was the fact that everyone knows it's closely allied to the actual Jim Jones/Guyana/Kool-Aid truths, so how much of a surprise can it be? The answer is not a lot, but that hasn't stopped West pulling a few major moments out of the mixed bag. Two reporters, AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg, with the TV expose show VICE, travel to a secret para-religious group to meet up with their fashion photographer friend's sister, a one-time junkie, who credits turning her life around at the jungle-set Eden Parish run by the charismatic Father (Gene Jones). Is the place a paradise on Earth free of cares, racism and stress, or the sinister sect the news duo think it is? That question is soon answered and both men find themselves fighting for their lives as Father orders a mass suicide.

    Easily Ti West's most accomplished movie, and a confident handling of the partial found-footage gimmick, the suspense mounts as little hints at what's really going on start to occur. I wasn't bored for an instant even though I knew exactly where it was going with some sequences really creating a disturbing atmosphere. Tyler Bates' music a major plus it must be said, pulling you in right from the word go and bubbling the tension along nicely. While not the ground-breaker I was hoping, it's yet another edging forward for a filmmaker who will one day make an absolute classic.

    It being the last day, the prizes were announced straight after THE SACRAMENT. Best Film was BORGMAN ( no surprise there), Best direction went to Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales for BIG BAD WOLVES (hooray!), Best Actress for Juno Temple (the only thing worth mentioning about MAGIC MAGIC), Best Actor Andy Lau BLIND DETECTIVE, Best Cinematography to Larry Smith for ONLY GOD FORGIVES (hooray!) and Best Script to COHERENCE, even though the director has said there wasn't one - don't you just love celebrity juries?

    And so my time at Sitges has come to an end. The weather was fabulous, the company fantastic, the guests lovely and the movies were the usual eclectic mix. Food discovery of the year has to be the cafe in the Prado cinema, the best tapas in town, while most voted La Caleta the best bar - it's the one by the nude gay beach! Thanks Angel Sala and Mike Hostench for being the best of hosts as usual and here's to 2014.

    Alan

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