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Latarnia presents CASTILIAN CRIMSON
The Spanish Horror Film

LA CENTRAL

 

THE POWER STATION

2006

           

Director: Francisc Giro
Screenplay: Jair Dominguez
Photography: Frederic Comi
Music: Carlos Yelamos
Cast: Yasmina Corcoles, Eduardo Lupo, Manuel Medina, Marc Velasco
Running time: 91 minutes

Article by Mike Hodges


Defined by its director, first timer Francesc Giró, as a "very simple, commercial horror film aimed at the 16-24 year old popcorn crowd," a new Spanish shot slasher movie LA CENTRAL (The Power Station) went on release to cinemas in Spain on Friday 28th July 2006.

At the age of fifty one, Giró laughs at the notion of being considered "a novice." "I think ‘debutant’ might be a better label," he says. "After all, it’s never too late to start…" For the last two decades he has worked as a film distributor, exhibitor and producer as well as directing the odd cultural documentary. "I never went to any film school. Working in various capacities in different aspects of the business is the best training you can get," he states simply . Directing LA CENTRAL was the obvious next step in his movie career. Giró’s distribution company, Eurocine Films, put up the total budget for the film (in the region of one million Euros) without any of the usual subsidies or co-production deals which most low budget productions rely on. In common with a good number of Spanish first time directors  (including Hispanic horror heavyweights Alejandro Amenábar and Jaume Balagueró), Giró made a conscious decision to go with a fright film as his opera prima. However unlike the cited names, Giró’s election had nothing to do with his enthusiasm for the genre, as he readily admits he’s not a genre fan by any means and doesn’t particularly like horror films. After looking at several scripts for different kinds of movies he decided that LA CENTRAL was the most commercially viable project. "It was as simple as that."

The chosen screenplay was written by Jair Domínguez, well known in Spanish showbiz circles as one of the writing team behind the success of TV’s current top rating prime time showman, Andreu Buenafuente, and incidentally a native of Giró’s home town of Figueras. The story, as Giró himself is the first to point out, is simplicity itself;

"Twelve young people are spending a few days in a big old house by the lake…. their host falls off a cliff….some of the kids believe it’s a tragic accident, some think it’s a practical joke and some don’t give a damn either way …the party continues until someone starts murdering the guests." If you think that sounds familiar, then the film makers have hit their mark: "I was aiming to make a movie that would sell well not only in Spain but in the whole world. Several international distributors have already expressed an interest in the movie precisely because it’s such a ‘simple’ film." So simple in fact that there’s not even any attempt to enter ‘whodunnit’ territory nor the slightest suggestion of otherworldly presences. "The only supernatural manifestation in this film was me," jokes the Spaniard.

Shooting took place between September and October 2005 on location in the mountainous region of Gerona, on the shore of a huge reservoir and inside a hundred year old electricity generating station, recently renovated and transformed into a plush modern spa and health farm. In the past, a lot of mountainside villages had such small scale hydroelectric stations to harness the water power of the rivers and generate enough electricity to supply the energy demands of two or three neighboring villages. Such a location is tailor made as the traditional horror genre "isolated environment," and the scriptwriter was able to use the proximity of the surrounding peaks as a convenient pretext for the now indispensable "can’t get a cell phone signal" scenario. What’s more, the house, although located in the back of beyond, doesn’t happen to possess a land line either. The movie’s poster is able to justifiably claim "No one will hear your screams."

The producers insist that the psychopath fodder doing the screaming in this picture are not specifically Spanish characters, but rather universally recognizable stereotypes, and, sure enough, these well off, self-centered, air headed, sex obsessed, pleasure seeking, whooping, pot smoking, boozy, foul mouthed, layabout kids certainly represent a negative side of "youth culture" that is readily identifiable throughout most of the western world. The film’s advertising states clearly that the target audience is likely to be made up of somewhat similar youngsters : "LA CENTRAL is aimed at kids with no hang ups, who have money to spend and who go to the movies just to have a good time. We’re giving them a straightforward, modern, fun horror movie, a consumer product that won’t strain their brain, but will keep them entertained for ninety minutes."

The dozen young actors who make up the cast of LA CENTRAL, headed by Eduardo Lupo and Yasmina Corcoles, are all newcomers to film work (the oldest of them is only 24 years old) and almost total unknowns. Their acting careers to date have comprised parts in theatre productions, commercials or small roles in TV shows. Giró laments the lack of opportunities afforded to inexperienced actors in Spain and tells  how he was delighted to be able to give work to twelve promising newcomers. Notwithstanding the praise, he recognizes that his young players did get carried away by high spirits on occasion and he had his work cut out to keep them all in line. "It’s the first film for all of them and yet at times they seemed to think they were in Hollywood!" he grins. Unlike most recent Spanish lensed shockers with an eye on foreign markets, LA CENTRAL wasn’t shot in English. The cast delivered all their lines in their native tongue, Catalonian. However, there was no direct sound recording – the dialogues were subsequently dubbed into Castilian Spanish for nationwide distribution, with a Catalonian dub prepared for the movie’s release in Barcelona. An English language version is currently being recorded. Practically all of the action takes place after sundown, which meant long night shifts for the kids on location. "We don’t do ‘noche americana’ (as day for night shots are known in Spanish film jargon) anymore," explains Giró, so around 75% of filming took place between ten thirty pm and six in the morning.

The Spaniard’s self confessed lack of interest in horror films in general becomes evident when he attempts to quantify the gore content of his picture. "LA CENTRAL is certainly a horror movie, but it doesn’t contain a lot of gore. I mean, is FRIDAY THE 13TH  gore? If it ever was, nowadays I imagine it’d be considered pretty tame. My movie is nowhere near as gory as something like THE SHINNING." He points out that his movie is definitely scary, but plays more on  psychological fear deriving from suspense as the story builds and the claustrophobic nature of the location rather than throwing buckets of blood around. However, apart from the moderate bloodshed resulting from stabbings, axe attacks and gunshot wounds, there is one particularly nasty scene in which the red stuff flows in abundance as a consequence of one the killer’s most viciously sick surprises. The special makeup SFX were applied by Bibiana Balagué and Rocío García, described by Giró as "two very talented ladies."

With ongoing, first hand experience of film distribution in his native country, Giró is aware that his film is unlikely to be seen in movie theatres abroad. As an example he quotes the case of Lee Daniels’ film SHADOWBOXER, starring Cuba Gooding Jr, currently being distributed in Spain by Eurocine Films. "It didn’t have too many bookings in the States. If it’s tough for American independent pictures to secure a release in their own country, what chance do we have?" he reflects. The box office expectations for LA CENTRAL are quite modest. The film went out in Spain with just twenty five prints (not many compared to major products like CARS or PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 which average around four hundred and fifty copies). A first weekend take of twenty five thousand Euros would be considered pretty good going. The script for a sequel has already been written just in case the movie turns out to be a surprise hit. "In that case we’ll be doing LA CENTRAL 2,3,4, as many as we can," says Giró.

Mike Hodges, copyright 2007


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