The Closing Night award ceremony of Sydney’s A Night of Horror / Fantastic Planet Film Festival became una noche de celebración for Spanish genre cinema.
The 10th annual staging of the fan-favourite horror, science fiction and fantasy event closed out its 10 day program bestowing gongs upon body-horror shocker The Night of The Virgin (La Noche del Virgen) and twisted identity mystery, Gelo (pictured, above). Both films are in the early stages of their respective global expansion, continuing a festival tradition of rolling the dice on programming choices that don’t necessarily come with the safety net of overseas festival credibility in place.
A hilariously dark and twisted tale of foretold demonic reincarnation, The Night of The Virgin earned bragging rights with wins in three key categories in the A Night of Horror line-up. As the titular innocent who endures unspeakable black magic horrors, leading man Javier Bodalo (pictured, right) earned Best Male Performance; as the alluring W.I.L.F. whose sorcery unleashes all manner of torment upon him, Miriam Martin took home the Best Female Performance honours. Debutant director Roberto San Sebastián also guided his impressive debut to a win for Best Foreign Language Film, but was pipped in the Best Director category by Scott Schirmer for his dialogue-free woodlands cannibal pic, Plank Face.
The other highly-touted A Night of Horror feature was Matt Stuertz’s wildly entertaining gore-a-thon Tonight She Comes, a vivid and energetic reworking of classic cabin-in-the-woods tropes which impressed with its fearless doubling-down of shocking splatter effects, delivered with a wickedly perverse sense of scale and humour. The US production earned Best Film, while lead actress Jenna McDonald shared the Best Female Performance category with her Spanish genre sister.
Directed by the father/son team of Luís and Gonçalo Galvão Teles, the moody atmospherics of the Spanish/Portuguese co-production Gelo supported an ambitious, at times complex narrative. In addition to the Fantastic Planet Best Film nod, it earned the Best Female Performance trophy for its leading lady, Spanish cinema icon Ivana Baquero, best remembered as Ofelia in Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 fantasy masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.
The other Fantastic Planet jury favourite was Dead Bullet, a riveting Vegas-set neo-noir thriller that earned Erik Reese the Best Director trophy and actor John T. Woods (pictured, right; with co-star Andrea Sixtos) a Best Male Performance gong. Both trophies were collected by the film's associate producer and 1st AD Kat Castaneda, currently based in Sydney. Ian Truitner’s intergalactic survival adventure Teleios was granted a Head of Jury ‘Special Mention’ award for the technical prowess displayed in crafting the spectacular deep-space setting.
Held at the Dendy Cinema multiplex in the inner-city suburb of Newtown, a dedicated and enthusiastic crowd remained well into the Sunday night event. Following a rousing Q&A with actress Elizabeth De Razzo, star of the Closing Night feature The Greasy Strangler, festival director Dr Dean Bertram acknowledged his dedicated team, the support of his audience and the current high standard of international genre cinema. His Director’s Choice honourees were Tax Shelter Terrors, a work-in-progress documentary that chronicles the Canadian horror boom of the 1970s, and The Second Coming: Volume 2, director Richard Wolstencroft’s final instalment of his free-wheeling interpretation of W.B. Yeats’ epic poem.
Independent Spirit Award trophies were accepted by attending guests Seve Schelenz, for his zombie/stripper crowdpleaser Peelers, and Rob Taylor and Bryna Smith for their superhero/time travel send-up, Neil Stryker and The Tyrant of Time.