Vampires Overrun Morbido-Sanfic Lab, from Ventana Sur Triple Winner ‘Upiro’ to Documentary ‘The Window Vampire’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Now on its fourth year, the Santiago Film Festival’s Morbido-Sanfic Lab features an ever more diverse selection from Ibero-America. 

As Morbido founder-CEO Pablo Guisa said of this year’s edition: “It has projects from multiple countries, several produced or directed by women as well as one LGBTQ-themed project and, for the first time, a documentary.” Vampire creatures abound in this crop. 

Humberto Mazari, the helmer-scribe-producer behind one of the six projects, psychological thriller “The Alaska Summit” (“La Cumbre de Alaska),” is developing three comic book spinoffs which will further delve into the underworld of the summit and the creatures that guard it. “In the coming weeks we expect to consolidate the visual aesthetics with three Latin American illustrators in charge of bringing these comic books to life,” he told Variety.

“As Pablo comments, this space continues to grow year by year, and I dare say it houses some of the finest talent in the realm of horror/fantasy genre cinema,” said Gabriela Sandoval, head of Sanfic Industria.

“Our Lab is maturing, and the projects we have supported have done so along with it. These projects have traveled the world and now they are starting to become a reality,” noted Guisa, adding: “‘Mothers Embrace’ by 2022 Lab alumnus Cristian Ponce leads the way as the first project to reach completion and is an example of what’s coming out of Latin America. This year’s selection is unique and strong like the other films we expect to be coming down the pipeline.” 

“A Mother’s Embrace”(“Abrazo de Madre”) is set in Rio de Janeiro where a team of firefighters are rushing to evacuate a nursing home about to collapse but its residents have other ideas. Like his earlier works, “The Kirlian Frequency” and “History of the Occult,” it explores notions of paranoia, religion, existentialism and the construction of identity through people’s relationships with others, said Ponce last year. “History of the Occult” was the highest rated horror film for Letterboxd’s  2021 Year in Review. 

2023 Sanfic-Mórbido Lab lineup:

“The Alaska Summit” (“La Cumbre de Alaska,” Humberto Mazari, Melissa Hernandez, Guatemala)

Described by Mazari as “a psychological thriller that approaches the subject of death in a contemplative and poetic way from the point of view of an eternal creature,” story follows Bruno, who’s killed in a road accident and whose soul descends into the realm of The Scavenger. “As he sails between life and death in the back of that old pick up truck, Bruno will confront The Scavengerto try to get through the portal of life during the lunar eclipse,” goes the synopsis.

Produced by Melissa Hernandez, The Madook Project, “The Alaska Summit” has participated in the Taller de Producción Creativa, the Central American and Caribbean Audiovisual Market in Costa Rica (MAUCC) and Nuevas Miradas 15 of EICTV, Cuba. 

“Downpour” (“Aguacero,” Cristina Arias, Diana Terán, Ecuador)

Elena, a 19-year-old swimmer, begins to lose her sense of reality when her extremely ill mother asks her to kill her.“When we love a person who is sick and accompany them in their agony, it becomes a true horror movie. ‘Downpour’ explores the moment when the love we feel for someone makes us reach our limit,” said Arias who produces the film with Diana Terán.  Arias, also an art director, has field produced “El día que me callé” de Víctor Arregui. Her producing credits include short films “Lo de adentro” by Camila Paredes, “Hermanos” by Juan Manuel Arregui, “Bosque Rojo” by André Acuña and a videoclip of “Nuah azul” by Brazil’s Thais Gomez. 

“LGBTERROR: Adoption from Hell,” (“LGBTERROR: Adopción infernal,” Francesc Morales, Chile)

A gay couple find out that adopting a child can be a nightmare. “If there is anything more dangerous than the strange bloodthirsty creature that chases them, it will be society’s homophobia,” goes the synopsis. Producer-director Morales has helmed such films as “Humanimal,” nominated for the Altazor Award, and “Apio Verde” deemed by E! Entertainment as one of the most controversial films in Latin America. He made his acting debut with the comedy webseries #Mamones, which nabbed more than 2 million views and spawned a TV series spin-off. 

“Lone Survivors,” (Patricio Valladares, Chile, Ireland)

The lone female survivors of slasher killings are admitted to a special psychiatric hospital where try to cope with the trauma of losing friends and family – as well as their survivor’s guilt. But they are forced to fight for survival again when a mysterious killer starts picking them off one by one. “As well as a slasher film, ‘Lone Survivors’ is also an ‘institution movie’ and a whodunnit,” said Valladares, a filmmaker and comic book artist. Produced by Vallastudio films, its screenwriters are Valladares, Barry Keating, Andy Edwards and Emma Morgan. Shoot dates are targeted for Winter 2024 in the U.K.

The Window Vampire: Legend or Conspiracy?” (“El Vampiro de la Ventana: ¿Leyenda o Conspiración?”Alejandro Acosta, Georgina Alvaro, Argentina)

Produced by Georgina Alvaro and Alex Acosta of Lunatica Prods., the documentary chronicles the urban legend of an alleged vampire who terrorized the people of Monteros, Argentina during the 1950s. Florencio Roque Fernández was said to have killed and drank the blood of 15 women. 

Acosta hails from San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina and has made well-received short films “Una Renta Asesina” and “Dr Heller,” which screened at several festivals. He is currently developing feature film projects “Saqra,” aside from “The Window Vampire” “This project is not your typical documentary about killers. It documents the mystery of how the fame of this supposed “vampire” was created and how the media, since the ‘60s, managed to build up a story for which apparently there is no evidence to prove it was real,” said Alvaro.

“Upiro” (Oscar Martin, Elena Muñoz, Spain)

Set in 1755 Spain, a young woman is sent to a cloistered monastery where several novices have been afflicted by a mysterious blood disease. It all points to an ancient tale that the new Enlightenment society would prefer to keep under wraps: a bloodthirsty Upiro (a Slavic word meaning leech, i.e. vampire) has penetrated the monastery. 

Madrid-based producer El Ojo Mecanico (“Amigo”), Catalan company Fasten Films (“Inside ‘The Yellow Cocoon Shell,” a Caméra d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes) and Belgian shingle Okayss (“Megalomaniac,” winner of the Fantasia Film Festival 2022) have joined forces to produce the film, a triple winner at Ventana Sur’s 2021 Blood Window. 

Special effects make-up is by Academy Award winners Montse Ribé and David Martí who worked on Ojo Mecanico’s “Amigo.” The 18th century monastery thriller from “Amigo” director Oscar Martín is inspired by actual events that occurred in the south of Spain. “This film freely combines real and fictional characters, representing the conflict between reason and faith which is still alive today. Through current matters, such as the struggle for progress in a regressive country or the traditional role of women in our society, it manages to make an 18th century story appealing for 21st century audiences,” said producer Elena Muñoz.

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