‘Neon,’ ‘Kidnapped’ shine at Sitges

Rezo takes international on 'Neon'

SITGES — Two radically different takes on violence, Paco Cabezas’ “Carne de Neon” (Neon Flesh) and Miguel Angel Vivas’ “Secuestrados” (Kidnapped), made much of the early running at the 43rd Sitges Festival, Europe’s main genre meet.

World preeming Saturday, three days into the fest, the Morena Films-produced “Neon” prompted the longest ticket lines over Sitges’ early stretch.

A big city underbelly caper-turned-thriller, with three Latin lowlifes setting up a whorehouse, it also sparked some of the longest applause.

“Neon’s” V.O.s, jocular lowlifes, flashblacks, short-fused thuggery, and a motley crew of gormless proles and crazed kingpins recalls Guy Ritchie. Some Sitges journos were quick to point that out. But that cocktail is pretty fresh for Spain, and is underpinned, according to Sitges critical consensus, by terrific perfs all round.

Paris-based Rezo has just taken international on “Neon,” Morena producer Juan Gordon revealed at Sitges.

Unrelenting and realistic, “Kidnapped” achieved the near impossible: leaving a hardened horror fest in a state of shock. Vivas lensed the pic in 12 sequence shots, giving the sense of action unfolding in near real-time.

Vivas’ second pic, and produced by Vaca Films, which teamed with Morena on sleeper “Cell 211,” “Kidnapped” hit the ground running in Sitges after director and horror pic nods at the Austin fest on Sept. 25.

The chronicle of a house break-in, which spirals toward unpredictable and ghastly brutality, conquered crits and auds alike.

“A forceful thriller,” proclaimed Barcelona’s El Periodico. “Sitges succumbs to ‘Kidnapped’,” echoed Spain’s Efe news agency.

Filmax Intl. licensed 26 territories off two Toronto market screenings, including Germany (Universum), Latin America (Gussi) and Scandinavia (CCV Ent).

The U.S. will close shortly, Vicente Canales, Filmax Intl. head, said at Sitges.

Cabezas had attended Sitges with his debut “Aparecidos.” Sitges’ early stretch saw the return of two other prodigal sons: Guillem Morales (“The Uninvited Guest”) with “Julia’s Eyes,” and Eugenio Mira (“The Birthday”) with “Agnosia.”

Reteaming “The Orphanage’s” Rodar y Rodar and Guillermo del Toro, and co-produced by UPI, “Eyes,” like “Agnosia,” fared much better with mainstream crits, who dubbed “Eyes’ ” excellent lead Belen Rueda Spain’s “New queen of horror.”

The geekier crowd proved more reticent. But this split may reflect a growing divide in genre auds. Twenty years ago, in Spain as elsewhere, genre was a fanboy fiefdom.

Now it’s big business, with some chillers hitting the mainstream: “Eyes” looks like one of Spain’s biggest fall bows. And that, if Sitges is anything to go by, irks in parts of fandom.

Two Sitges entries from Latin America, both unusual but with classic schlock elements, played to upbeat responses at the fest. Riffing off a classic scenario — a psycho loose in a benighted house at night — Uruguayan Gustavo Hernandez’s one-shot “La casa muda” (The Silent House) had audience bursting into applause at two virtuoso scenes. Sitges’ geeks warmed also to Mexican Jorge Michel Grau’s “Somos lo que hay” (We Are What We Are),” a pragmatic, humored and highly humanistic take on a Mexican City family of cannibals.

Of non-Spanish-language titles, Quentin Dupieux’s Cannes hit “Rubber” and Tetsuya Nakashima’s “Confessions” played to upbeat reactions in Sitges’ main Fantasy Competition.

Collecting an honorific Gran Premi award and tubthumping “Our Day Will Come,” which he produced and toplines, France’s Vincent Cassel told the Spanish press he is co-writing a romantic comedy. Kim Chapiron (“Dog Pound”) will direct; Cassel and Monica Bellucci co-star.

Actor-director and makeup and SFX pioneer Tom Savini and “Masters of Horror” series creator Mick Garris both picked up Time Machine awards.

The fest runs Oct. 7-17.

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