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Ah Sitges! Day One
Ah Sitges! My favourite fantasy festival, after FrightFest of course, is the most picturesque in the world. Alex Chandon (INBRED) and I arrived on the balmiest of Friday afternoons, checked into the Melia Sitges Hotel, the hub of operations where the main auditorium is situated in the basement, and immediately bumped into practically everyone on my want-to-see list. So with Buddy Giovinazzo (THE THEATRE BIZARRE), Brett Pierce (DEADHEADS), Jason Eisener (our HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN Glasgow star), Juan Antonio Bayona (on the Critics Jury and presenting clips from THE IMPOSSIBLE), we hit the restaurant terrace for afternoon tea – well I did! – and I immediately got swept up in the fabulous atmosphere that is well and truly the 44th Sitges event. And who should join us but Michael Biehn, TERMINATOR icon and here for Xavier Gens’ THE DIVIDE and his own directed, written and starring movie THE VICTIM?
Here west of Barcelona, every day seems to be a sunny one, every film is an effortless 5 minutes away, and everyone you want to meet is crowded into the bar area 24/7. If Spain is supposed to be in a recession no one told its Saint Tropez resort equivalent. The main street is festooned in a hanging graveyard courtesy of Jack Daniels in readiness for the annual Zombie Walk they are sponsoring. Cemetery gates, gravestones and ghouls are suspended from the roofs of all the restaurants and it looks amazing. For the first time since I first came to this lovely town over 25 years ago all the local businesses have rallied behind the festival in a mega way. Could that be because of the well-reported woes organizer Angel Sala has faced over A SERBIAN MOVIE from last year? Such solidarity is heart-warming and with the range of stalls selling everything from DVDS to T-shirts, commemorative chocolates and toys now stretching beyond its usual barriers, Sitges really is fighting back big-time against the financial and legal problems.
Every genre film is showing you could possibly want to see and the first one I caught this morning was Jaume Balaguero’s SLEEP TIGHT. Sometimes, without his [REC] partner Paco Plaza, Balaguero’s movies can be quite dodgy. Hello FRAGILE! But this creepy psycho thriller with a very devious edge is excellent with Luis (CELL 211) Tosar giving a superb performance as a Barcelona apartment block concierge infiltrating the life of one of his tenants. It’s THE RESIDENT but done properly and supremely well with Tosar’s character Cesar chloroforming Marta Etura’s Clara every night so he can sleep beside her, doctoring her cosmetics so she’ll get an off-putting to other men rash on her face, and planting cockroach eggs in her apartment so she’ll need it fumigating to inveigle himself further into her life. While it does threaten to turn into FLASHDANCE on occasion, Clara suddenly dancing to the radio, this mordant ‘Stalker’s Guide for Dummies’ pulls off some very nasty moments like the teenage girl who learns Cesar’s secret, Clara’s boyfriend who guesses what he’s up to and Balguero fiendishly forcing the viewer to side with Cesar in the suspenseful denouement. I bumped into Balaguero after the screening and offered him my sincere congratulations for this bleak, black chiller with more than a few laughs along the way.
On THE ROAD again with the second attraction of the day - HELL. But director Tim Fehlbaum’s debut, executive produced by Roland Emmerich, has more than a few flashes of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE folded in to give his post-apocalyptic survival tale a gory lift. In the not too distant future solar flare activity turns the world waterless and those who endure the drought must face a searing sun. Three people thrown together in this dry terrain head for the mountains – they find an old Evian water bottle with the name of the spring on the label – but must fight a cannibal community en route to this Promised Land. Before the screening Fehlbaum told the audience not to get too excited by the title. For in German HELL means ‘bright’ not the opposite of heaven. However watching his bleached-out, tension-laden slice of suspenseful barbarism – look out for that cattle stun gun! – he’s wrong because HELL is exactly what he puts his characters through. A terrific debut and another great example of current German genre cinema in the wake of URBAN EXPLORERS. Now it’s time to join director Luigi Cozzi, here hosting a STARCRASH screening (seriously!), for a chat about Dario….
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