MADRID — There are few countries which share the U.S.’ sensibilities for high-end, soulful horror quite like Spain. Mexican genre legend Guillermo del Toro directed out of Spain two of his early films based around the Spanish Civil War: 2001’s “The Devil’s Backbone” and 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” – the latter earning his first film’s Academy Awards, before godfathering Spanish director J.A. Bayona’s debut feature “The Orphanage,” which premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes 2007.
Inspired by those films, coupled with a love for American genre from directors such as M. Night Shyamalan, Spanish director David Casademunt teamed with regular co-writers Fran Menchón and Martí Lucas on the screenplay for the headed-towards-production psychological horror-thriller “The Beast.”
As is to be expected from a movie with a Shyamalan-inspired twist, plot details are being kept close to the vest, but the film will take place in a shack in the middle of nowhere, where a mother and her young son spy a chilling presence on the horizon that looms closer and closer each day.
The script was started in 2012, but in 2017 things really took off when it was selected at Filmarket Hub’s Sitges Pitchbox to head to Ventana Sur to participate in Blood Window pitching sessions, arguably the most prestigious forum for all thing genre in Latin America. From there, it participated in the inaugural Incubator of ECAM Madrid Film School, a new forum launched this March focused on the creative and practical development of first or second features – which Casademunt credits as the final touch needed to finish the screenplay.
Now, thanks in part to that script, and in part to Casademunt’s Austin Fantastic Fest Grand Jury and Special Jury Award winning short film “Sleeping Death,” the director is headed to the TIFF Industry: Filmmaker Lab.
“The Beast” is a co-production between Fitzcarraldo Films, Casademunt’s label, and Tándem Entertainment. Casademunt and Tándem’s Laura Rubirola fielded questions from Variety about the project, its influences and the TIFF selection.
Off the back of a number of other important selections, what does getting picked for Toronto’s Filmmaker Lab mean to you?
Casademunt: I never imagined we would be there. When I got the email I re-read it time and again for five days because I couldn’t believe it. It’s a huge prize to me as a director and a creator. There will be a lot of incredible directors there from Hollywood and around the world, and what I’m looking for, expecting, is to receive the best education I could hope for as a director. I haven’t directed a feature yet, so I expect to get a lot of good feedback from the directors and the other participants. Let’s see what happens! I’m really excited.
And what stage of the process are you in now?
Rubirola: Now the script is finished, and thanks to the Toronto selection, financing is going well because of that recognition of David’s talent. He is a new director and the Toronto selection is like an endorsement to potential investors, as well as an opportunity to continue working on the project.
Recently, films such as “Get Out,” “A Quiet Place” and “Heredity” have demonstrated that there is a space in the mainstream marketplace for horror, especially if it has a deeper emotional draw. It sounds like “The Beast” would like to occupy some of that space.
C: The film we want to make is exactly that kind of movie. We aren’t trying to make a horror film just for horror fans. I have tremendous respect for those fans, but we want to make a film that can touch the soul of people that normally might not go to see horror films; a horror film with a lot of emotion that could be loved by all audiences.
What do you find particularly attractive about genre filmmaking?
R: For us genre is a really good vehicle to talk about emotions in a way that goes beyond the normal. We looked to “The Orphanage” as a great example to follow. It too focuses on the relationship between a mother and a son. And then, thanks to the phenomenon of “Verónica” from Paco Plaza, things have been put back in the spotlight. I think it’s a good time to follow that trail.
Pictured, top to bottom, left to right: Laura Rubirola, David Casademunt; “The Beast.”