Who doesn’t love a good horror movie? The screams! The horrifying imagery! The visceral thrill of being absolutely terrified coupled with the reassuring knowledge that you’re actually sitting comfortably in a movie theater, far from anything that might actually inflict any damage! Horror movies thrill and delight us in the same way that roller coasters do, releasing generous hits of sweet endorphins as we gather our wits after the initial shock.
The Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre festival has been delivering these thrills to porteño audiences for nearly two decades now, screening films that are decidedly “off the beaten path” and would have a tough time finding a more conventional commercial distribution in this side of the world. And though it’s focused mainly on horror, the festival actually offers a pretty diverse slate of films, featuring everything from comedic, tongue-in-cheek midnight movies to films that incorporate elements of fantasy along with the more relentlessly bleak horror fare. There’s something for everybody.
The festival returns for its 19th edition on November 29th, running all the way through December 9th. We spoke with Pablo Sapere, one of the festival’s artistic directors in charge of selecting the films that comprise its lineup. “This year, between short films and features, we must have trawled through around 900 submissions,” Sapere said. “It is important for us to offer a selection that is diverse and interesting, representing various viewpoints and styles. We always think about what the festival audience would like to see, what mainstream audiences would like to see, and what we personally enjoy – and then we try to find a good balance between all of those things.”
Throughout its 19 years of history, the festival has built a reputation for itself as a genuine celebration of genre film, driven by a strong enthusiasm and passion for this type of cinema. And that much is clear as soon as you step foot in the venue. “Everybody involved is doing this out of love,” asserts Sapere. “A love for film and for the genre. We’re all fans, first and foremost. And that is why everybody in the organization – from the directors to the people selling merch – is working pro-bono, and chipping in with every small task they can cover. This has allowed us to remain in operation independently, as a fan-driven event, for all these years.”
Indeed, through this passion and enthusiasm, BARS has managed to carve out a name for itself in the cultural landscape of the city. It even expanded to television through #RojoSangreTV, a knowingly silly and genuinely fun extension of the festival that airs on Comarca SI and features sketches and short films that are keeping with the festival’s spirit.
Another thing that BARS has become famous for is how some of its screenings – those of a specific variety of film – have become a chaotic, frenzied experience themselves. When I brought this up, Sapere was quick to point out that this isn’t the case for every screening: “Over the years, there has been a specific type of film that plays at this festival and has basically become its own sub-genre. You can watch it and say ‘ah yes, this is clearly a BARS film’. They often share some of the same cast members, and they have a similar bizarre, deliberately transgressive tone. Because of this, the audience is attuned to that aesthetic and tone, and the screenings almost become parties, with laughter and very engaged audience members,” he said. “It’s just something that happened naturally over the course of several years, but it doesn’t happen at every movie.”
This year, the festival takes place at Multiplex Belgrano and Multiplex Lavalle. Tickets go for AR $70 a screening, which is less than a third of what it costs to go to a regular movie screening nowadays. You can find the entire film roster here, and it includes a wide variety of films from everywhere in the world as well as other activities such as talks and contests. Below, we’ve selected a few films that look good to us and that you might want to check out.
A decidedly comedic horror movie from the UK, telling the story of a group of friends who celebrate a bachelor party by participating in a game of “zombie paintball,” which quickly escalates into a literal battle for their lives.
Here’s a truly bizarre, blood-red film starring the great Nicolas Cage and owing a lot to the work of David Lynch and Michelangelo Antonioni. When a couple have their peaceful, idyllic life interrupted by a savage cult, the man goes on a psychedelic quest for revenge.
This pitch-black horror-comedy from the US features a troubled war veteran dipping his toes into a world of sex, crime and death. A kind of cautionary tale that you won’t soon forget.
27: El Club de los Malditos
A satirical police story from Argentina, starring the great comedian Diego Capusotto (famous for his TV show Peter Capusotto y Sus Videos). The film explores a conspiracy theory about all the notable figures who have died at 27, a kidnapping plot, and a strange sect behind it all.
Dans la brume
A wonderfully tense film from France. A scientist couple have a daughter who suffers from a strange affliction and must remain within the confines of a medical apparatus. Suddenly, their city is torn apart by an intense earthquake, which also leaves them without power. They find themselves doing all they can to survive.
Another selection from Argentina. This stylish, disturbing film tells the story of Lorenzo, a magician who is suddenly implicated in various murders throughout the city, resulting in a scramble to clear his name and figure out who is behind them.
I’ll Take Your Dead
It wouldn’t be a horror film festival if it didn’t feature at least one spooky little girl. This one comes to us at the tail end of the trailer for I’ll Take Your Dead, a Canadian film that tells the story of a man whose job it is to get rid of bodies (sounds like a bad job, dude) becoming involved in a deeper, darker plot (which is bound to happen when you make such terrible career choices).
The Night Sitter
Who doesn’t like a good burglary turned on its head? It’s a perfect example of instant karma. The Night Sitter is an American film about a girl who starts working as a babysitter for a rich family while planning to rob them blind. And, look, it would honestly be a very boring movie if that was exactly what happened. Right?
Pablo Pares is a BARS mainstay. With his production company Farsa Producciones, he has participated in some of the most legendary films to ever screen at the festival. This time around, he brings us the story of a man who wakes up among a pile of corpses to realize the world isn’t quite as he remembered it. And you thought you were having a bad day.
Amazon Hot Box
We couldn’t end this list of recommendations without including at least one of those balls-to-the-wall, completely bizarre movies you likely wouldn’t find outside of the confines of a genre film festival. That is exactly what Amazon Hot Box is: a gory, gleefully strange, often disturbing film featuring gators, voodoo curses, religious fanatics, and a healthy amount of group sex. Look, we warned you: it’s a strange ride, so strap in.
Again, these are just a few quick recommendations from a wide, diverse catalog of films, which can be found at the official BARS website. There, you can also find ticketing information and details on all the extracurriculars.