Crazy things are afoot in Spain. Whether it's something in the water, something in the air or just a confluence of the right people in the right place at the right time, Spain has become a European hub of incredible genre filmmaking. Whether it's last year's incredible The Orphanage, Nacho Vigalando's fantastic time travel thriller Timecrimes (Chronoscrimines), or the dark, brooding, claustrophobic The Cold Hour (La Hora Fria -- my second favorite film last year), Spain is churning out a generation of filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries in terms of what can and can't be done in modern cinema.
I've spoken with a number of Spanish filmmakers, trying to figure out what the hell is going on over there, and the same answer keeps coming up. Spain opened its first film school roughly a decade ago, allowing Spanish students to study in Spain, then move into commercial and TV work -- and now is just the time when that generation is breaking into the burgeoning film business. And we are all the better for it.
Which is why it came to me as no surprise that they've begun making their own packages. The first one to cross the pond is a fun little DVD set titled 6 Films to Keep You Awake, out now from Lionsgate. Billed in Spain as the Spanish Masters of Horror, six filmmakers were given budgets and crews and told to make contemporary horror films. The result is six very different films, each with a different mood and feel. Some are really solid efforts, while others are a bit mystifying. Sadly none of them really rates on the "must-see" meter -- but overall the set is worth a look, especially from curious horror fans looking for something different. Because different this is.
Sometimes wrestling with such classic genre staples as voodoo, witches, haunted houses, chainsaw-wielding slashers, the films also skew into the stranger, playing around with time travel and abortion. One film -- my favorite of the lot, titled Spectre -- tells the story of an old man revisiting his home and his past in hopes of putting to bed (almost literally) the love of his youth. Trouble is, she's dead. And he might be responsible. This slow-burn psychological ghost story perfectly illustrates the classic contemporary approach to horror and has a few great and memorable scenes.
On the flip side of that, Blame was far from my favorite, being just a bit too heavy-handed in its message. It did, however, contain a number of jaw-dropping scenes and moments that are forever burnt into my brain. The antithesis to the John Carpenter Masters of Horror episode Pro-Life, this film is about an after hours abortion doctor who is being stalked and haunted -- by what may or may not be the spirit (or corpse) of one of her patients. No. The OTHER patient. Ick. Ew.
In another episode, a young girl tries to deal with her humdrum existence by inventing imaginary friends. Slasher killers, vampires and creepies of all kind. She talks with them, plays with them. But what if they're not really imaginary?
The film series is an interesting experiment and well worth checking out if you're a horror fan always in search of new voices. And with such a low price-point, the set comes to about $4 a film -- roughly the price of a rental. I'm glad to see Lionsgate getting behind something like this and bringing it over here to the states. Spain has a very interesting scene right now, and this might prove an intriguing introduction.