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Genre Kings Weigh Their Market Options

Variety logo Variety 5/22/2017 Emilio Mayorga
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Catalan genre films come with high expectations this year, with movies from two heavyweight auteurs, Jaume Balagueró’s “Muse” and Rodrigo Cortés’ “Down a Dark Hall,” looking set to hit major festivals.

But while names such as J.A. Bayona, Balagueró and Paco Plaza are regarded with fanboy reverence, Catalonia’s genre film movement, which boasts “[REC]” and “The Orphanage” among landmarks, is undergoing market mutation.

“Spanish thrillers keep selling, although the best sales are titles with high production values and political or social elements,” says Film Factory Ent. Vicente Canales, citing “Marshland.” For horror, the key is “to go theatrical, fleeing from the B-movies, which is a saturated sector.”

Another key may now be language; major directors are shooting in English, opening projects up to international casts.

Filmax’s supernatural suspense thriller “Muse” stars Elliot Cowan, Ana Ularu and Franka Potente and tells the story of a man with nightmares of a woman’s brutal murder, which then occurs in real life.

Sold by Lionsgate and produced by Adrián Guerra’s Barcelona-based Nostromo Pictures, “Down a Dark Hall” stars AnnaSophia Robb, Isabelle Fuhrman and Victoria Moroles.

Also upcoming: “Cold Skin,” a co-production between Madrid and Canary Islands’ Babieka Films, Kanzaman France and Barcelona’s Pontas Films. Directed by Xavier Gens (“The Divide”), “Skin” is an Antarctic Circle thriller with sci-fi elements.

Exec-produced by Bayona and the directorial debut of “The Impossible”’ scribe Sergio Sánchez, horror drama “Marrowbone” is a Lionsgate acquisition and Telecinco Cinema production.

All with English dialogue, this season’s biggest Catalan bets face an evolving market.

“There’s a demand for genre, terror in Latin America and Asia. But it’s becoming more difficult for the Spanish market where audiences are changing and young spectators are unpredictable,” says Iván Díaz, Filmax Intl. head of sales.

Creators are looking to bring a touch of originality and humor to the genre.

Produced by Asallam Films and sold by Paris’ Reel Suspects, the English-language “Black Hollow Cage” from Sadrac González-Perellón (“The Vampire in the Hole”), centers on a girl living in isolated woods who discovers a mysterious device that is able to change the past.

Zombies get a neo-religious comedic makeover in “Once Upon a Time in Jerusalem,” by David Muñoz and Adrián Cardona, featuring Jesus, Judas, zombies, demons, post-apocalyptic punks and all kind of critters. Vampi Films also resorts to humor in mockumentary “Denise Castro’s Dracula,” a low-cost spoof on a Transylvania film shoot. Catalan sci-fi comedy-thriller “The Year of the Plague” by Carlos Martín Ferrera (“Suspicious Minds”), is set in a world where people appear to have lost their emotions.

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