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Susan Sarandon wins Grand Honorary Award at Sitges Film Fest

The renowned fantasy and horror film festival continues with various films and activities

09 October 2017 07:34 PM

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ACN | Rachel Bathgate

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Set in a month dedicated to all things creepy, the Sitges Film Festival continued in full force this weekend, bringing an element of the fantastical, the frightening, and the bizarre to the southern Catalan seaside town. This included an award to Rocky Horror Picture Show star Susan Sarandon, a zombie walk led by Freddie Kruger’s Robert Englund, and showings of various yet-to-be-released movies.

Don’t dream it, be it

Susan Sarandon, known from cult films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Thelma and Louise, was presented with the Grand Honorary Award at the film festival. After being given the award by director of the event Àngel Sala, Sarandon thanked the festival for inviting her and the audience for coming.

She had only one thing to say, she added: “Don’t dream it, be it,” the name of a song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sarandon then regaled the crowd with a sung rendition of the song ‘Over at the Frankenstein Place’ from the same musical film, indeed, a showing of the cult classic soon followed. While it may not have been the fully immersive experience that Rocky Horror Picture Show often involves, it did become “a party,” as festival director Àngel Sala said.

Ordinary women doing extraordinary things

Speaking to the press, she also shared anecdotes from the filming of the movie, during which the actress caught pneumonia due to the extremely cold temperatures and low budget production. Thanks to her career as a character actor, she said, she has done “many different kinds of films” and has a “very diverse” audience. Sarandon also lauded the roles that are currently being written for “powerful women who are not 22” in television, accrediting it being “more risky and more edgy” to the medium enjoying more freedom than film, which she qualifies as “a little bit behind.”

“The bottom line is, I love love stories,” explained Susan Sarandon. The actress said that she sees every movie she’s made “as the bravery of one person opening themselves up to be vulnerable to another,” be it with a child, a woman, or a man. “This idea that you can be a protagonist in your own life is very important,” Sarandon continued, “so ordinary women doing extraordinary things and opening their hearts are basically what I’m drawn to.” 

  • “This idea that you can be a protagonist in your own life is the ”

A long line of greatness

Marrowbone may be Sergio G. Sànchez’s feature-length directing debut, yet, the film’s lineage stretches back to Guillermo Del Toro, the very same master of ceremonies for the Sitges 2017 Film festival itself. Indeed, Marrowbone was produced by J. A. Bayona, director of the horror film The Orphanage, which in turn was produced by Del Toro.

The film, to be shown in theaters on October 27, promises to be a thrilling genre-bending tale unique to the young director. Shot in the Catalan town of Terrassa and the Northern Spanish region of Asturias but set in 1969 rural America, the story follows a family of four children and a mother who flee England and an abusive father figure, taking shelter in an abandoned house in the sleepy town of Marrowbone. Once the mother dies, the children are forced to hide the death in order to not be sent back to England – but meanwhile, a threatening, malicious presence makes itself known in the house. The film stars such names as Anya Taylor-Joy and Charlie Heaton (both in X Men: New Mutants, with Heaton in both Stranger Things seasons).

Past and present, life and death, childhood and maturity

The twist-filled plot changes constantly, said the director, going from a “tale,” to a “family drama,” including “an appearance that could be paranormal,” with “elements of mystery, and there is also a love story,” he explained, ending with a “crazy” finale.  Ultimately, though, he stated that Marrowbone is an “ode to innocence,” explained Sànchez, albeit one that goes to some “very dark places.” The theme of family, of home, and of innocence is often revisited in Sànchez’s work. In his other films, he said, “we talk about characters that try to return to a home that no longer exists. I am very interested in the borders,” he continued, “a world in which there are borders between the past and the present, life and the death, childhood and maturity.”

A ghost story

Well-received was also A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and directed by David Lowery. Despite the name, this feature-length film fits in the realm of fantasy, a haunting story of love, of loss, of identity, and of the passing of time.

The plot follows Affleck and Mara as a love-struck couple. When Affleck’s character suddenly dies, he becomes a ghost – white sheet and all. Through him, the audience silently and passively observes the character’s previous house, beloved, and life, as time moves on.

Director David Lowery explained that indeed the film addresses “the passing of time,” which goes on whether one likes it or not.” Lowery further elucidated that when it comes to time and death itself, “the hardest thing to accept is that we have no options,” which “much of the film is about.”  

Muse

Acclaimed horror director Jaume Balagueró is back with a new hair-raising production: Muse. Known for the zombie horror series REC, Balagueró brings a new film that moves away from a theme of infection and zombies and towards the “hell” of artistic creation, as the director put it, with a cast ranging from Elliot Cowan to Christopher Lloyd.

The plot follows Samuel, a professor of literature. After the death of his partner he begins having nightmares in which he witnesses the brutal, ritualistic murder of a woman. Then, the very same woman he dreamed of is found dead. He sets out to discover the truth with Rachel, a woman he meets at the scene of the crime who claims to be plagued by the same dreams as him, a path that leads them both into a dark world ruled by muses.

Muse is based on novel Lady Number 13 by José Carlos Somoza. Balagueró chose the book not only because of an element of terror, but for its element of surprise. “The intrigue of the book is tremendous,” he said, adding that "the twists are so lavish and unexpected” that he “wanted to tell this story to everyone.”

Zombies on the beach

While Balagueró may have moved on from zombies, Sitges Film Festival fans have not. The festival also hosted activities like the zombie walk, in which participants in gruesome undead makeup wandered down the streets and on the beaches of the seaside town. The activity was dedicated to George. A. Romero, creator of the zombie universe behind the 1968 film “The Night of the Living Dead” that passed away this year. This dedication was made by Robert Englund, actor behind the Freddie Kruger mask in Nightmare on Elm Street, who kicked off the zombie walk.

Horror in 360

Robert Eglund was also at the film festival for his new movie, a revelatory experience for horror fans. The feature is called Campfire Creepers: The Skull of Sam, directed by Alexandre Aja. It’s unique in that not only is it virtual reality – it’s also in 360 degrees. Allowing fans to experience terror from all perspectives, it tells story of Sam and his son, who, after stealing candy from an abandoned campsite in the woods, wake up buried up to their necks and face to face with a skull collector.

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  • Susan Sarandon accepting the Grand Honorary Award from director of the Sitges Film Festival Àngel Sala, Sunday 8 October