New wave of young filmmakers mark onslaught

BUENOS AIRES — “Visitante de invierno” (Winter Visitor) is leading a push into horror films in Argentina.

The pic will premiere March 6 in Buenos Aires as the first homespun horror film made for theatrical release in two decades — at a time when leading producers are making their first bets on the genre.

Distributed by Primer Plano Film Group, the $500,000 film is about a young man who moves to a seaside town to relax only to find a house that kids enter but never exit.

“There is a whole generation of young directors that have made low-budget horror films,” says Horacio Mentasti, who produced “Winter Visitor” under his Cinemagroup banner. “Now they have developed confidence to make the jump to more professional productions.”

“Winter Visitor” director Sergio Esquenazi honed his skills with films like “Bone Breaker” that went straight to DVD.

He is among a platoon of filmmakers in an underground movement that spawned the Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre international festival for horror, fantastic and bizarre films that will be held for the ninth year in November.

Yet theatrical release has eluded the local contingent even as the “Hostel” and “Saw” franchises and recent releases like “AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator — Requiem,” “I Am Legend” and “An American Haunting” have pulled in spectators.

“People like horror films in Argentina,” says Alejandro de Grazia of distributor Pachamama Cine, which will release George Romero’s “Diary of the Dead” on Feb. 21.

“We want to capture some of this market,” says Adrian Garcia Bogliano, director and writer of titles like “Grite una noche” (Scream the Night) and “36 Pasos” (36 Steps). “We are convinced that our films will work well commercially.”

Patagonik Film Group, the biggest producer in Latin America, this year will produce “Ataud blanco” (White Coffin), which Garcia Bogliano wrote with his brother Ramiro.

It is the Disney-backed outfit’s first entry into horror and part of an industrywide push into genre pics as producers aim for wider sales than the auteur films that have dominated the industry over the past decade.

“The horror genre has a large fan base” and this promises a healthy return on low production investment, says Patagonik producer and artistic director Juan Vera.

Daniel de la Vega, who helmed “Jennifer’s Shadow” with Faye Dunaway, will direct “White Coffin,” a $400,000 road pic about a mother trying to recover her daughter alive within 24 hours.

K&S Films, another leading producer, is prepping horror film “Cimarron” this year, directed and written by Israel Adrian Caetano of 2006 Cannes-nommed “Cronica de una fuga” (Buenos Aires 1977).

“Horror films are small-budget films geared to a target,” says Cinemagroup’s Mentasti. “A horror film can work internationally. The big challenge is the language and subtitles.”

To sidestep this issue, Paura Flics, which is co-producing “White Coffin,” has sold the remake rights to Garcia Bogliano’s “Habitaciones para turistas” (Rooms for Tourists), a $3,000 production that had a theatrical run in New York two years ago, to the Collective, a Los Angeles management firm and production entity that owns the horror-film website Bloody-Disgusting.com.

Shooting is slated for the middle of this year, with Garcia Bogliano directing the English-language remake about five city girls who must spend a gruesome night in an isolated house in Mississippi. Lionsgate is tipped to produce.

“There is a new movement of Latin American horror films that is coming out of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Puerto Rico and other places,” says producer Hernan Moyano of Paura Flics. “The movement is gaining attention abroad.”

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