Back in the Horror Groove - Jumping Into the 51st Sitges Film Festival
by Alex Billington
October 5, 2018
After attending for my first time last year and enjoying every minute of the fest, I'm back in the town of Sitges, Spain (or Catalonia) to kick off the 51st Sitges Film Festival. It's the Spanish cousin of the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest with all kinds of genre films playing over the next 10 days. Lots of horror and sci-fi and action and more. I'm really excited to be here. I'm really excited to see a bunch of these films. It's just an excellent film festival, right on the beach, with enthusiastic audiences that love genre films. And this year I decided to stick around the entire time (and not head up to the London Film Festival like last year) so I can fit in more films and enjoy this charming little beach town. Plus it's October - the perfect time to watch horror movies and discover something new and wild and amazing in the mix. Time to jump right into Sitges.
Sitges 2018 kicked off on Thursday, October 5th and runs until October 15th this year. I attended last year because it was their 50th year and I wanted to check out this festival and see some genre films (I can't afford to fly over to Austin for Fantastic Fest anymore, so this is the next best bet). My friends told me this fest is one of cinema's the best kept secrets, and it's true. It's one of the best European film festivals and it's a blast to be here. Sitges is opening/closing with two major films: Luca Guadagnino's remake of Suspiria, which already premiered at the Venice Film Festival; and the restored re-release of Stanley Kubrick's seminal sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. I went to see Suspiria for a second time, to give it another take after my jaw-dropping experience at the world premiere in Venice. I think it's even more rewarding on a second viewing. It has so much mystery and horror baked right into the atmosphere and the walls and the glances…
The horror genre, as most cinephiles already know, offers up more than just blood and gore. Along with many different subgenres and stories being told, horror and action and thriller and sci-fi films always have some additional social / political / philosophical commentary worked into them. And usually in very clever, very original, very engaging ways that are sometimes the most unforgettable. It's quite easy to dismiss any and everything "horror" and to cut out all these kind of scary, gory films, but occasionally they're some of the most intelligent films around. Or at least the most interesting, worthy of extra analysis and appreciation. And I love discovering and exploring the different styles and stories and ideas that these filmmakers have worked into their films. I try to keep an open mind and see a wide variety of different genre films every year.
— Alex Billington @ Sitges (@firstshowing) October 5, 2018
My first day at Sitges began with a screening of Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories, which I am just catching up with now even though it was released in theaters earlier this year (I didn't really care for it much here). Followed by an evening screening of Guadagnino's Suspiria, which was just as exhilarating as my first time around. My second day at Sitges began with a morning screening of The Raid director Gareth Evans' new film Apostle, a cult horror thriller, produced by Netflix and available later this month. This was followed back-to-back showings of two of my most anticipated films: Timo Tjahjanto's The Night Comes For Us, a brutal, insanely intense action movie from Indonesia; and the European premiere of Shin'ichirô Ueda's One Cut of the Dead, a clever Japanese zombie comedy that received a huge (and well deserved) standing ovation from the enthusiastic Sitges audience. So far so good, and we're just barely getting going.
More features on my Sitges schedule I'm looking forward to seeing: the world premiere of Antonio Tublen's zombie comedy Zoo; the Korean action movie The Outlaws directed by Yoon-Seong Kang; Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein's indie superpowers film Freaks; Kristoffer Nyholm's lighthouse thriller Keepers; Robert D. Krzykowski's film The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot starring Sam Elliott & Ron Livingston; the Sitges premiere of Bad Robot's WWII zombie action movie Overlord; plus the documentary Wolfman's Got Nards about the fans of 80s cult classic The Monster Squad. And if I can stay awake for it, a super late night screening of Peter Strickland's film In Fabric, about a haunted dress, which played to great reviews at TIFF and Fantastic Fest already. You can view the full Sitges 2018 line-up on their website.
As usual, you can follow all my updates from Sitges on Twitter @firstshowing. I'll be posting reviews and other recaps on the site as the fest continues over the next 10 days. You can view my photos on Instagram @abillington. I also now list every last film I've seen on my Letterboxd page @firstshowing, if you want more thoughts on what I'm watching. And now - to get some sleep and keep watching more films tomorrow.