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AG Studio’s Morbido TV Loads Up on Genre (EXCLUSIVE)

Latin American pay TV channel drives into original production, ramps up acquisitions, makes key hires

Scherzo diabolico

BUENOS AIRES –AG Studios’ Morbido TV, its flagship pay TV channel for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, is loading up on horror, fantasy, sci-fi, occult-and-more, and driving into original content production, as it aims for a spring 2016 launch.

Despite Morbido TV’s start-up status, its hires, own-shows and early buys rep one of the most ambitious rollouts of a regional genre channel which, in Morbido TV’s case, aims to be much more: A talent hub, production force and driver of a pan-regional culture industry richly grounded in Latin American sensibility.

Morbido TV will be the first 24-hour horror-fantasy-genre channel in Latin America, said Eduardo Caso, CEO of AG Networks, AG Studios multi-platform division.

Among new plans, Mexico’s Rafa Lara (“5 de Mayo: La Batalla”) is attached to direct “Terror Mx,” Morbido TV’s  first original production, an episodic series framing “the complete history of horror-fantasy cinema in Mexico,” Pablo Guisa Koestinger, the charismatic Morbido Fest CEO Morbido TV content head, announced at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window.

A multi-platform brand, with Guisa partnering with Alex Garcia’s AG Studios, Morbido has already yielded a the now Puebla-located Morbido Film Festival, up-and-running since 2007, a major prize-giver at Ventana Sur and partner on Cannes Blood Window showcase, a print magazine in Mexico, soon to be published in Argentina and Colombia, a five year-old radio show, for all Latin America, and Morbido Films, which has co-produced “Here Comes the Devil,” which swept the 2012 Austin Fantastic Fest and “Scherzo Diabolico,” a Tribeca Fest world preem and MIP U.S. pick-up. Morbido even owns the complete works of Carlos Enrique Taboada (1929-1997), one of the giants of Mexican fantasy horror whose 1975 shock-fest classic was remade as the Pantelion Film released 2014 “Darker Than Night.”

Garcia Bogliano, one of the major figures in Latin America’s burgeoning genre movie scene, has joined Morbido TV as its general coordinator and curator for all Latin American movies; Lemon Films producer Alexis Fridman (“KM 31, “Saving Private Perez,” “After Lucia”) serves as Morbido TV head of production, Guisa said.

Morbido TV’s SES-6 satellite footprint covers Spain, all Latin America and the southern U.S., said Caso,“At this point, we’re not going to launch the network in those countries yet. But the idea is that in the future we can expand. We’ll try to open those markets in three-to-five years, or even more,” Caso added.

In lynchpin acquisition deals, taking second or third broadcast windows for Spanish-speaking Latin America –in other words, all Latin America, except Brazil, on a non-exclusive basis:

*35 movies from Charles Band’s Full Moon, taking in the “Puppet Master” movie franchise, “Demonic Toys, “The Haunted Dollhouse,” “Vampire Journals,” accompanied by introductions, trailers, extras which used to be on DVD and Blu-ray: “That market is disappearing, and you cannot see all the featurettes anywhere else,” said Guisa. He also aims to include on Morbido TV the audio version of the films.

*From Paris-based Reel Suspects, an upscale genre specialist, Greek Yiannis Veslemes’ “Norway,” about a disco-dancing vampire; ghost village chiller ”Across the River,” from Italy’s Lorenzo Bianchini; Cezil Reed and Lydelle Jackson’s torture allegory, “The Taking.”

*45 movies from Toronto-based genre production-sales house Raven Banner Ent., among them, “Wolfcop,” “Septic Man,” “Resolution” and “One Hundred Years of Evil.”

Guisa said he had “projects for 2016, 17 and 18, really huge original content with big names and big production. Even its first productions, within startup budgetary constraints, suggest a large ambition.

Regarding features, “the intention is to make Latin American movies or films, because there is a lot going on in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, on the genre side,” Caso added.

Morbido TV will screen “Post Mortem” interviews made by director-producer Mike Garris with horror masters and produce a second season, subtitled in Spanish. It is also starting to work with Charles Band to transform some of Full Moon franchises into TV formats, maybe made specifically for the Latin market, Guisa said. Another idea is to deploy “Puppet Master”character’s on Morbido TV’s late night show. “I really believe that they have the power to be like the muppets of horror.”

Reprising another franchise, Guisa has licensed 365 of Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell – commentated trailers on films audiences should know or know much better, delivered by Guillermo del Toro and Eli Roth, among many others – and is in talks with Dante about a new season with Latin/Hispanic directors talking about Latin/Hispanic classics.

“We are not a horror channel. We are horror making a channel,” so the grid gamut ranges wider to “fantasy, dark fantasy, and sci-fi, maybe some thrillers. We’re not going to have action, just because it’s good action: It has to have a genre element,” Guisa said.

Since the TV channel is made by fans for fans, of course we’re open to a broader audience because we’re open to a whole continent, and we decide each and every format,” said Guisa, adding that he’d like to give a TV window to young web series directors from all over Latin America.

Launching with such ambition, Morbido TV can count on a brace of bigger picture tailwinds: A rich imaginary of indigenous universes and folklore whose mesh with genre is a growing trend in modern production: Think “KM 31,” but equally, animated sci-fi feature ‘Battledream Chronicle,’ from Martinique, drawing on the island’s folklore heritage.

For Guisa, “There’s a young generation that is not afraid of telling these stories and with all the technologies, they are able to do so.”

Equally, Latin America’s youngest director-producer generation is driving into often auteur genre with energy. Two cases to point: Latin Americans – Argentina’s Andy Muschietti (“Mama”), Uruguay’s Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead”) and Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) topped U.S. charts with genre fare; “Mama” and “Dead” were first features. Eli Roth has teamed with Chile’s Nicolas Lopez on a so-called Chilewood talent/production hub. First fruit include “Aftershock,” “The Green Inferno” and “Knock Knock.” Equally, “Latin America is a huge continent, but we have one advantage: That the continent mostly speaks Spanish, excluding Brazil,” said Guisa. This common language aids the rollout of TV channels, and indeed over-the-top operators.