Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Fantaterror Takes Manhattan, Too!

Earlier today I told you about the great big Dario Argento series that FLC is putting on for a couple of weeks across June here in NYC, but that's not the only horror movie series of note that my hometown will be snatching us from the scorching streets and into the air-conditioned cinemas for this month -- at the Metrograph they've got "Fantaterror Español" starting up this weekend, running from June 3rd until the 26th, and it's chockfull of spectacular Spanish oddities that one might commit all manner of atrocities for the opportunity to see on the big screen. (They'll also be streaming via Metrograph's website too!) 

Several of these are films that I've only seen myself in the past couple of years -- I think they've only started making names for themselves outside of the lowdown and dirty cult circuit that birthed them. Like I'm always late to the party, but I'm glad I finally saw Eloy de Iglesia's 1972 freak-out The Cannibal Man (pictured up top) a couple of months ago -- Severin put out a fancy blu-ray that I bought on a lark and it's a flick that immediately become a big-time fascination to me. Actually a lot of Eloy de Iglesia's movies have actually made their way state-side recently thanks to the specialty label boom in physical media and his stuff is super-queer, I recommend you try to seek them out! Metrograph is also showing de Iglesia's 1973 flick Murder in a Blue World, which is described as a twist on A Clockwork Orange, and they're showing two of the Tombs of the Blind Dead movies, a series of films about Zombie-fied Templar Knights (!!!). That and more, hit the jump for the entire press release...

Metrograph presents "Fantaterror Español"
beginning June 3 at Metrograph In Theater and At Home

For a couple of decades, beginning with Jess Franco’s films of the early ’60s, the nation of Spain produced some of the most beautiful, terrible, and ingeniously perverse horror movies ever to taint cinema screens. These movies were tagged as Fantaterror: a portmanteau word combining Fantasy and Terror. The phrase never really caught on abroad, like the Italian giallo did—and many Fantaterror films share personnel and themes in common with the gleefully illogical giallo thrillers—while in Spain, these movies have sometimes been dismissed as a best-forgotten part of the puerile popular culture that reigned during the repressive dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. But a closer look reveals a deeply rich, strange, and subversive cinematic tradition—its banner held high by such formidable talents as Paul Naschy, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, León Klimovsky, and Carlos Aured—as well as a bounty of atmospheric oddities that explore almost every imaginable forbidden subject under the cover of genre. With two sexily secret screenings extending the program announced, it’s a heaping paella platter of bad objects; come dig in. Curated in collaboration with Nick Pinkerton. Fantaterror Español will continue through June.

dir. Ivan Zulueta, 1979, 115min

Studio hack director and heroin addict José (Eusebio Poncela) returns to his Madrid apartment one day to find a reel of 8mm film and a confessional audio recording from Pedro (Will More), an ex-girlfriend’s cousin of former ago acquaintance who describes having undergone some kind of shocking transformation, beginning a down-the-rabbit-hole journey into memory and madness for José. Zulueta, an intimate of the young Pedro Almodóvar and poster designer for several of his early films, draws a provocative parallel between drug addiction and cinephilia in his true one-off Arrebato, a document of the excitement of the punkish “La Movida” subculture that emerged in Madrid after the death of Gen. Franco, and an undercover horror movie that finally addresses fear of cinema itself. Preceded by introduction from Nick Pinkerton.

dir. Carlos Aured, 1974, 89min

Paul Naschy, the brooding, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested leading man who was the biggest name in Fantaterror, co-wrote Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll with director Aured, and stars in it as a skint drifter who hitches his way to a new town and finds handyman work at the manorial home of three strange sisters. It transpires that he’s an escaped con and a chauvinist creep haunted by violent nightmares, but these ladies seem scarcely less sinister—not for nothing was the movie released on VHS as House of Psychotic Women—and you’re kept guessing as to who is killing blue-eyed girls around town and scooping their peepers right up to the final unnerving unmasking.

dir, Eloy de Iglesia, 1972, 98min

Poor Marcos. The young slaughterhouse employee (a suitably intense Vicente Parra) only wants to cover up his accidental killing of a cab driver, but when his girlfriend threatens to tell the authorities, well, he has to kill her, too, and as other people around him then start to poke around in his business, there’s only one solution… A gripping, macabre depiction of an ordinary man’s downhill slide into bloodlust and snowballing slaughter, which many have read as a satirical statement concerning the Franco dictatorship in Spain and the culture of secrecy and savagery it cultivated. Preceded by introduction from Nick Pinkerton.

dir. Eloy de Iglesia, 1973, 98min

A Clockwork Orange with a Fantaterror twist, Murder in a Blue World takes place in a not too distant dystopia where bullwhip-wielding Droogs terrorize the city and a serial killer is carving up young men with impunity. Amidst all of this, ultra-dedicated nurse Anna (played by Sue Lyon, of Kubrick’s Lolita) would seem to be an oasis of compassion, but her perverse passions run deeper than just her love for Pop Art. A disgraced gang member (Christopher Mitchum, Robert’s kid) discovers the secret of her extracurricular experiments, but can he stop her before he’s strapped into a Ludovico-style treatment for criminals?

dir. Amando de Ossorio, 1975, 89min

The last ride for the Knights Templar, this richly atmospheric capper to de Ossorio’s Blind Dead series lays its scene in a coastal village where a young doctor and his wife (Victor Petit and María Kosty) have newly settled, and will learn its terrible secret. Every seven years the knights return to terrorize the townspeople for seven days, only held in abeyance by the blood sacrifice of virgin women. The doctor’s scientific mind balks at such backwards superstition, before he faces supernatural evil beyond rational comprehension. A vivid waking nightmare in somber, muted tones, and a series high note.

dir. Amando de Ossorio, 1972, 101min

The first of de Ossorio’s Blind Dead tetralogy—the last, Night of the Seagulls, is also included in the program—Tombs of the Blind Dead opens at a sunny seaside resort, then plunges into a dusky world of centuries-old terror, when a young woman flees a lover’s quarrel into an abandoned medieval town once ruled by Knights Templar who sold their souls to Satan for immortality, and who still ride out to terrorize the countryside by night. The revenant knights on horseback are among Fantaterror’s most indelible images, and the sense of immanent apocalypse recalls de Ossorio’s admitted inspiration, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Preceded by introduction from Nick Pinkerton.

dir. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, 1976, 111min

English couple Tom and the heavily pregnant Evelyn (Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome) are off for a last vacation before the baby comes, looking for rest and relaxation on a secluded island off the Spanish coast— but it turns out they might be on their last vacation, period. The island seems to only be inhabited by roving gangs of children, constantly tittering as though in on some secret inside joke; the secret is the fate of the island’s adult population, and once our protagonists discover it and race to escape mobs of mad moppets, the relevance of the title becomes terribly clear. Widely regarded as one of the finest and most unsettling of all Fantaterror films.

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