The Sitges–International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia has revealed the opening film for its 56th edition at Cannes’ Fantastic Pavilion: “Hermana Muerte” by Paco Plaza.
Produced by El Estudio for Netflix, it was written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría.
Shot almost entirely in the Valencian monastery of San Jerónimo de Cotalba, Plaza’s seventh feature is “a horror tale with a feminine touch,” it was stated, which will take its viewers all the way back to post-Civil War Spain, when a convent is shaken up by the arrival of Narcisa, a young novice with supernatural powers.
“I have been attending this festival for over 30 years now. Most of my films have been screened there, so it’s like coming home, and sharing it all with my family and my friends,” Plaza told Variety following the announcement.
“Hermana Muerte,” starring Aria Bedmar, Almudena Amor and Maru Valdivielso, is a prequel to his 2017 film “Verónica.”
“There was this secondary character and I thought there is still more to say about her. I wanted to explore it a bit more. When we released a DVD for ‘Verónica,’ we included a comic book based on that character. It felt natural to expand that universe and go to this character’s roots,” he notes.
“We wanted to explore the light within the darkness. The way Narciso Ibáñez Serrador did in  ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’ or Ari Aster in ‘Midsommar.’ I love horror films that take place in bright light. We always think of them as something gloomy. I wanted to go the other way. After all, Spain is a very sunny place!”
“It’s an unapologetic approach to fantastic and horror cinema,” adds Sitges’ Ángel Sala, mentioning the film’s use of “certain iconic elements” of Spain’s fantastic lore.
“We are living in a moment of consolidation of a series of directors that emerged a few years ago – such as Paco. Still, new talents are also making an appearance, and feminine outlook will be an important part of this ‘new wave.’ Spanish genre has gone from being an exception to something very common.”
As was stated, this will mark Plaza’s fifth outing in Sitges, confirming “the romance between the festival and one of the most fundamental directors when it comes to understanding Spanish genre cinema.”
The genre fest has also unveiled its new poster.
Acclaimed photographer Nacho Alegre will now “break with the dynamics of the posters of recent years, separating himself from leitmotifs and offering a chilling, elegant and suggestive image,” it was said.
The poster us “capable of invoking many of the moments and sensations that have helped build the prestige and mystique of the festival as the main world reference for genre cinema.”
“We played with the idea of an anniversary of [Alfred Hitchcock’s] ‘The Birds,’ at the same time combining it with a celebration of the fantastic language, especially blood. It recalls films like ‘Suspiria,’ that kind of style,” added Mònica Garcia, the Sitges Festival general manager.
The Sitges–International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia will be held over Oct. 5-15.