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Underscoring the growing interest in genre pics among upscale filmmakers, Spain’s Morena Films is prepping two films — “La Zona” and “Nocturna” — which place social and political storylines within thriller and chiller formats.

The $3.2 million J.G. Ballard-ish “La Zona,” will be helmed by young Mexican helmer Rodrigo Pla.

Pic is set in a wealthy residential district in Mexico City. When a group of teens from the city’s slums penetrate “La Zone,” its rich inhabitants hunt them down like animals.

Rolling in January, pic is co-produced by Mexico’s La Zona Films, the banner of Tota Lombardo. Wild Bunch will handle international outside Spain.

A second modestly budgeted Latin American themed pic, the $3.8 million “Nocturna.”

In it, a Spanish family travels to Argentina to disconnect the estranged father’s life-support machine. They put up at a hotel, and are haunted by the terrified ghosts of another family who were tortured and murdered under the Argentinean Junta.

Pic shoots from October, helmed by Spanish first-timer Paco Cabezas.

Pics follow the Morena co-produced “Cargo,” an attempt by Ken Loach screenwriter Paul Laverty (“Sweet Sixteen”), to move from social drama to mainstream thriller waters.

“Getting political and critical issues into genre allows you to cross over from trad arthouse audiences to younger spectators who might not necessarily go to ‘political’ films,” said Morena co-CEO Juan Gordon.

Further extending Morena’s theatrical docu production line, Jose Luis Lopez Linares, one of Spain’s top docu-makers, will helm “La Copa” (The Cup), about the history of the America’s Cup, which will be held in Valencia, Spain, spring 2007.