Spanish horror

Over the past couple of decades, Spain has emerged as an expert on horror.  I’ve realized that many of the films that have terrified me the most, the ones that I share with friends, hail from Spain.  Even when the idea behind the some of the films seem like horror that’s been retreaded many times over, they’re injected with tension, effective scares, beautiful cinematography, and emotion that just gives it that refreshing twist.  I thought I’d share my absolute favorite, though it’s by no means the only Spanish horror films worth checking out.

5.) The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

The Devils Backbone

Set in a remote orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, the story follows young Carlos who was left behind by his parents.  As stories circulate about a child who went missing the day an unexploded bomb dropped into the orphanage’s courtyard, Carlos notices ghostly figures and creepy noises.  The plot is far more complicated than a simple ghost story; the effects of the war stretch even to isolated orphanages.  Though Guillermo del Toro’s first draft was set in his home country of Mexico and didn’t feature a ghost, I’m glad for the changes.  The addition of the ghost not only unnerves, but adds a layer of melancholy that enforces the tragedy of war.

 

4.) Witching & Bitching (2013)

Witching_and_Bitching

This zany horror-comedy by director Alex de la Iglesia follows bumbling thieves as they steal gold from a pawn shop.  Truly, the worst robbery ever.  Jose even brings his son along, since it’s his day for custody.  With the cops closing in the thieves try to evade them by heading to France, though they get stuck in Zugarramurdi, a little town known for being inhabited by witches.  Now they must not only escape the law, but the family of witches looking to serve them for dinner.  Though some of the humor falls flat at times, the banter between the thieves is a highlight and the horror elements are so bizarre that the film succeeds any way.

 

3.) Sleep Tight (2011)

Sleep tight

Directed by Jaume Balagueró, this intense thriller follows concierge César and his unhealthy obsession with apartment tenant Clara.  What begins with unhappy César playing pranks on his unsuspecting victim quickly escalates into far more sinister acts.  From wiping cockroach eggs everywhere to voyeurism, this film’s chills come from its realism and fear of privacy invasion.  The tension is palpable throughout, and the reason César does what is does is terrifying.  Well acted and often uncomfortable, this thriller feels on par with classics like Hitchcock and Polanksi.

 

2.) Fragile (2005)

fragile

Jaume Balagueró strikes again!  Shot in Spain and the UK, this supernatural flick is set in a rundown hospital, currently in the process of closing its doors for good.  Enter American nurse Amy, played by Calista Flockhart, who frantically tries to keep the remaining patients safe from a series of mysterious attacks.  Amy bonds with a young orphan, Maggie, who is suffering from fibrosis and together they discover the entity behind the attacks.  This ghost story may not be original, but its abandoned hospital setting, save for the children’s ward, may for very effective scares.  No other ghost may be quite as scare as the one that haunts the remaining patients, but it’s the emotional bond between Amy and Maggie that’s the heartbeat of this film.  Their growing adoration of each other not only gives this film purpose, but it pulls on your heartstrings.  With scares and soul, this is easily one of my favorites on any list.

 

1.) [Rec] (2007)

REC

Perhaps I should have just dedicated this list to Jaume Balagueró?  This time he shares the helm with co-director Paco Plaza.  In one of the most intense horror films I have had the pleasure of viewing, [Rec] is a found footage film in which television reporter Ángela Vidal and her camera man follow a local fire station for her show.  What starts out as a rather boring evening turns out to be anything but when the fire station receives a call about a woman trapped in her apartment.  Upon arrival they find the woman is completely crazed and aggressive, and bites one of the firemen before plummeting to the lobby floor below.  The CDC and police arrive and put the building on quarantine, locking everyone inside with an infection that’s spreading.  This is easily the most effective use of found footage.  The limited view of the camera contributes to some of the most tense scenes in any horror film.  When the lights are cut off, the camera also becomes the only source of light, eliminating the oft asked, “Why didn’t they put the camera down?”  The final moments will likely have your hands hovering somewhere around your face, and at the very least you will watch most of this film at the edge of your seat.  It’s not a bad idea to have a change of pants handy, either.  What appears to be a simple zombie film is anything but.

 

What are your favorites?

 

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Texas Frightmare Weekend 2014

This past weekend I attended my first horror convention, and suffice it to say that I’m now hooked.  A full weekend submersed in all things horror seemed like a blast going in, but I had no idea.  Screenings, panels, vendors selling all sorts of horror related items, and access to so many horror icons all persuaded me that this was an event I needed to attend.  But what I didn’t know about Texas Frightmare Weekend, what made this event truly awesome, was getting to see first hand just how amazing people are in the horror community.

Texas Frightmare, it turns out, is a social event.  Long line to meet your favorite horror celebrity?  You’ll hardly notice, because your line neighbors will strike up a conversation with you and share their horror experiences.  Do you look confused because you’re not sure which line you’re supposed to be in?  Before you have to ask, someone will smile and show you the ropes.  More than an event to connect fans with their favorite icons, it’s an event to connect fans with each other.  It sounds sappy, but never have I been prouder to be a horror fan.

Before you even step foot into one of the event’s rooms, you’ll notice an array of fans showing off their very well put together costumes.

How cute is he??

How cute is he??

cosplay

So many faves in one spot

 

Anyone in costume were typically surrounded by a thick crowd, so I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked.  I did notice a creepy clown theme, so beware those who have a clown phobia.

Being a huge cinephile, I was stoked to meet the celebrities and attend their panels.  I absolutely love learning about the behind the scenes experiences and what goes into the making of my favorite movies.  It’s neat to see actors gather on stage together when they probably haven’t seen each other in years.  The Terminator panel included Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Jennette Goldstein, Earl Boen, and Peter Kent.  Seven people to discuss three Terminator films, all crammed into an hour.  Other panels featured a sole guest, like Tobin Bell or Scott Wilson.  There were enough scheduled to cover just about all interests.

I believe there were over 40 celebrity guests in attendance, so meeting some of my favorites was a definite highlight of the trip.  You get brief one-on-one time to engage them in conversation, sometimes longer as some of them had no line at all when I passed by their table.  Lou Taylor Pucci, for example, spent a good while answering questions as I grilled him about his role in the 2013 Evil Dead remake.  For example, there were only two takes, period, to nail the arm scene in the film’s climax.  Really makes me marvel at the scene even more knowing the pressure they were under.  Or, that Lou spent a lot of time between takes jumping rope to not only maintain energy levels but to try to keep things fresh.  He didn’t want his expression of fear to become stagnant, so that was his way of trying to keep things varied.  He also was very hesitant to even audition for the film in the first place, because the original is so sacred to him.  So when he was called in to audition he intentionally gave his worst audition.  Also, the long hair and beard was something he had to convince the director and producer to keep.  That was his way of paying a sort of homage to the original.  He was so enthused to meet and speak with fans that he lost his voice by Saturday.

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Lou Taylor Pucci and me

Other tidbits I picked up over the weekend:

  • Sharni Vinson’s role in You’re Next was a cake walk compared to prep for her role in Step Up 3d, which required weights, capoeira classes, and a variety of other training classes.
  • Doug Bradley’s feelings on the term reboot, “Bullshit.”  And his message to those wanting to remake Hellraiser, “Fuck off.” (Just so you know, he’s also one of the biggest sweethearts I’d met at Texas Frightmare.  He felt guilty about misspelling my name and chased me down to compensate for it in a huge way.)
  • Barbie Wilde, female Cenobite, is now a writer for Fangoria magazine.  Getting covered in plaster in preparation for Hellraiser 2 was nerve-wracking for her.
  • Robert Patrick studied a variety of animals to achieve his character’s persona in Terminator 2, including a praying mantis.
  • Kristanna Loken wanted to fans to associate her terminator as female, so she tried hard to maintain a sense of femininity in the role despite being an inhuman character.
  • Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn both thought they were signing on to do a sci-fi flop when doing the original Terminator.
  • Chris Marquette has recurring nightmares about Chucky the killer doll.
  • Kyle Labine is not so good at beat boxing.
Settling in for the Terminator panel

Settling in for the Terminator panel

I’m bummed it’s over, but now that I have a feel for how things work I can plan better for next year.  Because I will be going back.