Through a lens darkly

Fest Traveler: Sitges Intl. Fantastic Film Festival 2012

The poster for this year’s Sitges Intl. Fantastic Film Festival — the town’s church tower sticking up ou00t of the earth like the Statue of Liberty in “Planet of the Apes” — captures one theme at the 45th edition and of recent productions: the Apocalypse.

Two lineup examples: Yim Pil-sung and Kim Jee-woon’s “Doomsday Book Yim,” a grossout comedy-cum-horror love story, and Douglas Aarniokoski’s grindhouse horror-thriller “The Day.”

“In and outside Spain, there are a bunch of Apocalypse-linked projects,” says producer-writer Alberto Marini, whose “Last Days,” about the residents of a big city paralyzed by agoraphobia, is in production.

“This isn’t about honoring the Mayan calendar. Genre is a metaphor and reflection of social change, so very close to audiences,” Marini adds.

But that’s not the only recent genre trend, says Sitges fest director Angel Sala.

“Genre has opened up to wider audiences. Films are tackling difficult topics, not just graphic bloodshed,” he says, citing Jennifer Lynch’s psychological thriller “Chained,” another Sitges player, plus Craig Zobel’s “Compliance” and Peter Strickland’s “Berberian Sound Studio,” a rumination on the essence of genre.

There’s still gore, of course, but in fewer productions.

“Terror is increasingly dealing with ordinary people and places, not big monsters. It’s right around the corner,” says Julio Fernandez, chairman of Filmax, a modern genre pioneer in Spain.

Sala notes a larger Asian and U.S. — especially indie — presence this year, compared to European titles. Emilio Martinez, director of genre website aullidos.com, says that a number of 2012 Asian titles have been first-rate, pointing to “Gangs of Wasseypur,” “Pieta” and “Nameless Gangster,” among many mobster movies.

Sitges’ Spanish Armada features Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” rave-reviewed at Toronto, and two much-awaited feature debuts — Juan Carlos Medina’s chiller “Painless” and Oriol Paulo’s suspense-thriller “The Body.”

Oscar Aibar’s “The Forest” combines Spanish Civil War and fantasy elements; Daniel Calparsoro’s post-Iraq War-set “Invader” is an action thriller with a social underbelly, in the vein of Daniel Monzon’s “Cell 211.”

“Thanks to Monzon, we learned that these types of movies could be made in Spain,” Sala says.

“Body,” “Forest” and “Invader” will world preem at Sitges.

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