Blood Window LAB 2021: Impressions From This Year's Projects
En el claro del bosque
In the Clearing of the Forest
Argentina Director - Leandro S. Cozzi
In a place far from the city, a couple trying to mend their bond confronts supernatural forces that bring to light their relationship’s darkest secrets.
Ooh, this is very interesting for a number of reasons. Primarily the central characters are a couple that have been wed for 30 or so years. Seldomly do we have central characters in a horror film that are not a pack of roving teenagers or young adults. This puts them, what, early 50s at least. Does that help break away from the go-to demographic and widen the audience that it speaks to? There is the promise of traditional and familiar elements that appeal to horror films around the World too. So even if you’re not in a position where you are contemplating your relationships you can also enjoy what looks to be a decent idea for a mystery horror in the woods.
Argentina Director - Facundo Escudero
Ana, a young orphan obsessed with horror and fantasy books, moves to the house in the forest where her only friend Tini lives. Her father’s ambition to take over the nearby lands will awaken an old pagan cult that will use Ana as their only option to protect the place.
We like what Escudaro wants to pull off here, a reversal of the folk horror story style. Instead of fear of urbanites going out into rural environments Escudero would reverse it and have the fear in a rural setting that is threatened by foreign invasion. He would be taking a battle of Christian and Pagan beliefs, typical of the folk horror genre, and creating a new conflict, exploitation of the environment where the pagan cult lives, in the name of science and progress. Therein lies the international appeal, the exploitation of the environment, the invasion of the natural world. Everywhere there are stories of ‘progress’ taking over and exploiting lands. Here in North America most recently the story has been about lands owned by our indigenous peoples and efforts to move pipelines through parts of them. Yeah. This one has some real international relevance to it.
This project has support of local Argentine programs. They’re awaiting word from European programs and they said they plan on submitting the project to Frontieres next Summer. Cool. The proposed budget is on par with most of the projects in the LAB, something that seems attainable. They’ve got about 30% so far and are looking to shoot around this time next year.
La hour de los brujos
Hour of the Sorcerer
Christian Ponce Argentina
A small town bank robbery where nothing is what it seems; where the robbers use mass hypnosis, psycho-electronics, and witchcraft to achieve their goal; where the local police turns to a powerful coven in search for help; and where the loot of the heist is a key that allows its owner to escape reality.
I’m a fan of Ponce’s recent film, History of the Occult and though Hour of the Sorcerer is still in its earliest stages it has a very intriguing premise: a bank robbery where money is not what the robbers are after. Also cool is the idea that they use mass hypnosis to carry out their heist. Ponce said in his pitch that he’s going to change up the visuals as the story progresses. Without going into any details, to put it simply it would be like showing each chapter of the story through a different lens or filter per se. And if robbing the bank of money is not the goal of the robbers, what are they after? Time will tell. We hope Ponce gets the support he needs to get this next film made.
La virgen de la tosquera
The Virgin of the Quarry Lake
Director - Laura Casabé Argentina
2002, hot summer. Natalia, Mariela and Josefina, inseparable friends since high school, fall madly in love with Diego. The idyll is interrupted when Diego meets Silvia, a very eye-catching woman. Natalia, with the help of her grandmother Rita, conspires against Diego and Silvia, appealing to an old enchantment. This tragic story takes place around a quarry lake, a strange place in a country suburb lost in the province of Buenos Aires.
Casabé made waves with her last film, The Returned, so she has international recognition on her side. This would be a coming of age and social horror film from a screenplay by Benjamin Naishtat, based on two works by author Marian Enriquez. The story takes place in the summer of ‘02 after the economic crash of 2001 in Argentina. The setting will be tosqueras, pools left behind after construction companies pulled materials from the land. They are the pools of the poor - places where teens would hang out because they couldn’t afford anything else. A tale of love interests, a long summer and witchcraft, which is always a sure fire winner for the horror crowd. For locals it will be tapping into their cultural fear of losing everything.
The project is on it’s third draft of the script and promised 40% of funding from local programs.
Argentina Director - Fercks Castellani
Luis (50) is a perfectionist man who lives in a small town. He only seeks inner peace to continue with his routine, but a strange woman from the past has returned to alert him and put his beliefs and obsessions in check.
Ojos Intrusos will be set in the 70s, out in the rural areas surrounding Buenos Aires, prior to the military regime takeover in '76. From the presentation producer Tomas González Montalvo spoke of making a proactive statement in the film through the religious folk-horror sub genre, spotting it with comedic breaks from Luis' best friend. It first seems to fall in line with psychological horror fllcks and Montalvo spoke of his director's influence from creatives like Hitchcock, De Palma and Lynch.
Brazil Director - Kapel Furman
Two paramedics discover a treasure in an old cellar. Accidentally, they activate an inter-dimensional portal, bringing to life the creature known as The Engineer, a being with electromagnetic powers who will stop at nothing to recover the jewels that allow him to travel between dimensions.
Kapel is one half of the team that made Skull The Mask and while I had some concerns about the overall storytelling there was no denying that the gory effects were awesome and that film played very well on the festival circuit. The project is already state funded and came to the Lab looking for an additional small sum to complete funding. The budget itself seems meager but Furman’s background is special effects. The small amount the team is looking for might be made up in pre-sales depending on who backs the project
Skull also had a good international sales team behind it, our friends at Raven Banner. I'm not suggesting they get behind this one but there is at least a prior relationship there. Our friends at Fantaspoa are producing the flick.
Costa Rica Director - Miguel Gómez Orozco
Samanta (Sam) is a young clinical psychology student who would like to understand the human mind and its relationship to the world. She feels that her love life deconcentrates her from her goals, lately she has been behind in her thesis and is already getting impatient with Carlos, her best friend and research partner, this due to her latest love failure, which has had her drained and uninspired.
Billed as a sci-fi adventure romance, Orozco created a teaser for his pitch video and honestly this felt like it would work better as a web series than a feature film. Never mind he announced that this would be part of a planned franchise of films. It did draw some attention at Sanfic Morbido in Chile the other month which will give them 30% of their budget. Those of us in a position of higher power see something in Chrono Capsule worth investing in. The script is done and looking to shoot in the Summer.
Ecuador Director - Diego Araujo
Diana, 27, travels to a remote island with her boyfriend Pit, 45, to salvage a halting relationship. When Pit is bitten by something, his already toxic behavior takes a more sinister turn. Diana convinces herself that it’s all in her head, even when Pit starts looking and behaving like a hairy beast after dark. When the half-eaten cadaver of the resort’s cleaning lady appears, Diana realizes what kind of beast the island has unleashed.
Araujo plans to use the horror genre to tell the story of an abusive relationship and aims to place the lycanthrope against a tropical backdrop. He also wants to explore the patriarchal society that allows the monster to exist, metaphorically and figuratively. Themes will include abuse and gaslighting, which Araujo hopes will speak to a female audience slightly older than the genre’s target audience of teen to 30s.
Venezuela Director - Gisberg Bermúdez
A dystopian world that explores the dark side of blind ambition, ego and their lead to destruction. Takes place in an infinite time loop that transcends the past, parallels the present and is without reach of the future. The story is set against an aged sanatorium with a mythical lake that houses a creature. It follows Henry’s blindsided quest into finding a cure for his daughter’s cancer.
The video was too short and did not go into the film or the director’s vision as well as other videos have. Gave us very little to go on so we really cannot comment on impressions that we got. However, this project came to the market with one of the highest asking prices this year and they are looking for pre-sales to make the last %30 needed. It makes for a large amount of investments on behalf of joining production companies. Yikes. Looking to shoot in Romania, have already taken advantage of the country’s rebate program.
Líbranos del mal
Deliver Us From Hell
Colombia Director - Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
The eighties pass in a remote and conservative community that surrounds a hydroelectric plant. A family made up of three young brothers, father and mother, has grown apart for unknown reasons, but the death of their father will bring them together again. This is just the beginning of a family tragedy that will lead them to discover and decipher dark puzzles of their lineage, and terrifying and ancestral truths of the community.
Resigning to put his ambitious project Searching for the Black Rainbow on the back burner for now my friend Juan Diego came to this year’s LAB with a smaller but far more combustible project Deliver Us From Hell. Taking hard topics like pedophilia, atrocities from the church and injustice towards civil, social and human rights and looking at them through a genre lens he’s not going to pull his punches. With more and more injustices towards children being uncovered on all corners of the world a film like this would be like a match thrown into a tinderbox. A voice for innocent children by way of a phantasmagoric horror. Then JD threw in Sinister, Relic, Midnight Mass and The Lodge as references. With a below modest asking price and letters of intent from some of Colombia’s leading talent, if we were committed to a top five list this would have been on it.
Bolivia Director - Juan Pablo Richter
Bolivia, the early sixties. The Hemorrhagic Fever epidemic, produced by an unknown virus, is wreaking havoc on the population of San Joaquin, an Amazonian small town. Valdemar, a writer immersed in grief after the death of his daughter, has been chosen by Death to narrate the horrifying events; it is his journey through Hell looking to heal his punished soul.
The production team is looking for a screenwriter to bring Richter’s treatment to life. Everyone likes a good underdog story, even if it is a potential horror movie called The Cats. Based around real life events involving a pandemic in Bolivia in the 60s it looks like Richter and his producer Paola Gosalvez are aiming to look at the event with a sort of gothic horror eye. It would be rife with characters associated with Death, a narrator speaking on their behalf, an international doctor who caused the death of his wife and a mysterious nurse who just happens to be the last person patients see before they die. Richter would take visual cues from early Del Toro faves The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth but said he would mostly draw from Dreyer’s Vampyr. Cool. The budget seems a bit high but if you don’t ask you don’t get. They will likely have to trim that down if the project moves forward.
Peru Director - Enrique Méndez Valverde
A young youtuber is unexpectedly tortured by piercing headaches. Meanwhile, some specters appear to him every night, which seem to be derivations of his computer into the real world and which also represent the characters of his network consumption. Something indecipherable is unleashed.
Manifesta is interesting, if not for just coming from Peru but there is this underlying punk rock world that can be interesting. Valverde appears to work in a very indie state of mind and Manifesta also looks to take place in a low-down urban setting, of broken pavement, factories and warehouses. International appeal may come with the main character’s online presence and persona, as deep as we are in this social age.
This is a micro budget horror and with a large amount of the sum already committed prior to the pandemic the team only needs to secure a small amount for production and visual effects work.
Of note, and probably something that will come up when speaking with international partners, is that Valverde’s prior films do not appear to have played outside of Latin America. We’re missing more information about his prior independent films that would prove otherwise.
Não Morto #0
Brazil Director - Carlão Busato
On All Souls’ Day, Gilvan, a lonely middle-class young man, suffers a domestic accident and is visited by Death. But our hero refuses to die. The unexpected decision hampers Death’s schedule that, stuck to Gilvan’s stubbornness, is forced to miss her commitments. No longer taken by her, the dead begin to roam the world that collapses while Gilvan and Death resolve the impasse.
Carlão Busato had me when he mentioned The Meaning of Life in the pitch video. I’m pretty easy that way. Tell me Monty Python was an influence on your project and I’ll push you right to the top of the list. This also feels like something that would happen in a Prachett novel as well, someone refusing to die and putting Death in limbo. And Death wouldn’t be the only one in limbo either. In the pitch video Busato revealed that another character would be a serial killer who is quite upset that Death is not keeping their end of the bargain. Man, that’s dark.
This project has a hefty price tag attached to it. Even after the math it’s a bit for investors to recuperate with international sales. But the idea that Death is thwarted and just stops doing their job is darkly funny and has potential.
Síndrome de Wendy
Director - Sinhué F. Benavides Mexico
Consuelo will spend a life in prison for the murder of her husband. She gets an authorization to spend an afternoon at her house for the last time; her children Ana, Ángel and Raquel will be there too. During the afternoon, the past emerges in each of them and it is not always generous. One question will be asked: How much do you love your children?.
Ah. So this is interesting on a social level, the rise of domestic violence during the pandemic because everyone was forced to stay at home, together. It is something that we would not think about during these times. Wendy’s Syndrome sounds very personal to Mexican director Sinhué F. Benavides, basing the script off of stories from his family and his own fears of his father’s rage.
The Sisters of Blood
Spain Director - Óscar Martín
Spain, 1755. A young woman is sent to a cloistered monastery in which several novices have been mysteriously bled to death. An unconventional Franciscan looks into these unsettling events. Everything seems to lead to an ancient tale that the new Enlightenment society would rather keep out of sight. A bloodthirsty upiro seems to have infiltrated the convent.
Martin has based his film on the first case of vampirism in Spain! Neat. What also should be known is that the nuns in the convent have committed to a vow of silence so anticipate a lot of storytelling with just images alone, at least at the beginning. Until the screaming starts.
SPOTLIGHT / BLOOD WINDOW / VENTANA SUR 2021
Antes del cuerpo Before the Body
Argentina Directors - Carina Piazza, Lucía Bracelis
Ana cares after an ill old man from whom she receives not only money, but also blood to feed her young vampire daughter, Elena. Luca, Ana’s eldest son, is in charge of looking after his sister while his mother works. In a moment of carelessness, Elena goes on the hunt. Meanwhile, the doctor who tends to the old man grows suspicious when she discovers strange marks. It all unravels when the family is forced to flee, like so many times before.
Four people who are uncomfortable with their own bodies either by health, desire, or identity. There is the horror element that is always cool, vampires will never go out of style. The angle of the health working mom who steals blood from her patients to feed her daughter is cool. There is also something about Luca that gives the film a place in the LGBTQ community. We’d rather not say outright what it is in case this is something that the directors have as a device in their story. But it makes Before the Body something that LGBTQ film festivals with genre programs would keep an eye out for as this is still an area of needed growth within the genre community.
Thailand Director - Sarah-Tabea Sammel
Forensic specialist Gorgia becomes a single mother through artificial insemination. The discovery of her employer’s embryo gene-manipulation business casts doubts about the DNA identity of her baby. Alone, she must dive deep into the underbelly of surrogates and human experiments. She has to lose control to find the right path, fighting for the future of her unborn child
This definitely gets the award for the most bombastic presentation with a rousing score backing a mood reel at the end. This sci-fi thriller from director Sarah-Tabea Sammel is probably the most four-quad project in the program this year. A movie like this would stand a greater chance of being scooped up by one of the major streaming platforms because of elements like corporate culpability, questionable business practices, a main character who is probably affected by those very same questionable actions. They even have a good old car chase thrown in to up the action factor. And with folks questioning what they’re putting in their bodies with things like the vaccine rollouts, gene-manipulation will still be a part of the conversation if this were to be made.Yeah, one of the more commercially accessible options this year.
France Director - Julien Paillet
Passionate about cinema, police lieutenant Maxime Melville, chases a serial killer who hates movies. Nicknamed Mr.Film, he sneaks into movie theaters to savagely kill spectators. As his investigation progresses, Maxime discovers that it is his own relationship to fiction that he will have to question so as not to end up also a victim of the killer.
It was a very short video presentation but it was certainly one of the most interesting concepts in the program, that of a serial killer who kills movie patrons because they believe that movies ensnare us in a fantasy world and make us incapable of living in the real world. The images that Paillet cut for his video gave a sort of giallo vibe and of course the killer gouges out the eyes of his victims. No one has done eye trauma better than giallo. There is questioning of a state of mind in it that would be interesting to see how that plays out as well. Interesting to see how we as moviegoers and connoisseurs would react to the killer’s motives. Paillet is at the script stage with this project and with meetings this week may discover that his ambitious budget may have to be parsed down if it were to go into production. But European projects have almost always come with hefty asking prices.
Canada Director - Kaye Adelaide
Jane’s smart, she’s trans, she’s legally dead, and she’s mad as hell. After a botched facial feminization surgery, Jane was dumped in a frozen ditch and left to die. Now she’s back, and she’s ready to even the score with elaborate murders. But when she discovers her enemies belong to an alt-right hate group, she’ll have to decide between self-satisfying revenge, or justice for the greater good
When we saw this pitch for TransVengeance at Frontieres in the Summer we were already on board this Canadian horror comedy. Not just out of patriotism but also the necessity for more genre films from the LGBTQ community. The premise of a trans serial killer is bolstered by the promise of escalating levels of violence. We will continue to say that the genre community needs more LGBTQ cinema, not just for the sake of festival programmers looking to provide midnighter programs at their LGBTQ film festivals but to continue to spread openness and acceptance within our community. There is nothing more rebellious than showing support for true outsiders. The price tag is a bit scary but there are great incentives from the Canadian government and the provincial programs in Quebec. That provincial industry operates as its own self sufficient entity but it would be nice to see not only the rest of Canada but other groups around the world support this project. Now, if someone could help me down from my soapbox?
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