What the hell is going on in Spain right now? While here in the States most people are currently still blissfully unaware, those of us who have just returned from the eight-day genre film festival known as Fantastic Fest are all asking the same question: what is driving a current crop of Spanish filmmakers to all come out of the woodwork simultaneously to unleash a wave of amazing horror, thriller and science fiction films onto an international audience hungry to gobble them up?
I got the chance to speak to three different Spanish filmmakers and not a one of them offered a clear response. Apparently, the best I could surmise is that it was only within the last decade that film schools opened in Spain and that first generation of Spanish schooled filmmakers have finally convinced investors to trust them with large sums of money for genre films. For many of these guys, they have just made their first films. And, without studios to meddle in the process these filmmakers are able to experiment and make engaging, original films to challenge audiences. Here are four incredible films I saw last week -- several of which are the best films I've seen all year -- that you should keep your eye out for.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan's Labyrinth), this horror story was put together by a first time filmmaking team that not only scored at their first at bat, but knocked it out of the ballpark. It is an elegantly told horror story that actually had me in tears at the end. Set in an abandoned orphanage, it is the story of a mother whose son has disappeared. She discovers that there might be spirits at work behind the disappearance. Not only has this already been picked up by distributor Picturehouse, but it is also Spain's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars. This is the one I'm rooting for.
The Cold Hour:
Currently only in release in Spain, this dark science fiction/survival horror film is easily the best of both genre's released in years. No probably about it, it is definitely my favorite. I've seen this film three times already and can't wait to see it again. Set in an underground facility, it is the story of a little boy trying to survive with a small group of refugees at what may be the end of the world.
Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine star in this slow burn thriller about two hunters who find a deformed girl locked away and abandoned in the woods and attempt to get her help. But before they can, the family of the girl comes looking for her in hopes of keeping their dark secret just that. I haven't heard about distribution for this yet, but with the stars alone you know it will be out here on DVD soon enough.
I'm proud to have been at the world premiere of this low-budget science fiction brainteaser by Spanish actor turned Oscar nominated short film director Nacho Vigalondo. Timecrimes the story of an average man who sees something odd in the woods and becomes involved in a bizarre time loop in which he attempts to fix everything he keeps screwing up. A tautly constructed thriller and easily the best time travel film in decades, this film won both the Gold Medal for its category of Fantastic Fest Best Features as well as the Silver Medal for the Audience Award. Something tells me this won't be the last you hear of this film.
Nobody knows quite what's going on. All we have are theories. What's important to note is that right now Spain is the place to be for cutting edge genre films. Keep an eye out; these are definitely coming your way.
C. Robert Cargill - - - Email Me
Austin-based Cargill, who not only loves but owns The Cutting Edge, writes on movies and DVD five times a week.