Much as we’d like to, we can’t always get to EVERY festival that happens. That’s why we have friends like Ari Lehman, who travels extensively and who can bring us a blow-by-blow of the events as they happened. Here, then, is Ari’s exclusive journal from his recent trip to Spain, where his band, “>First Jason, played the Festival de Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei, which is a really long name for one hell of a festival dedicated to horror movies and music. So without further ado…
FIRSTJASON Festival de Cine de Terror de Molins de Rei Journal
DAY 1 –
As we looked out of the airplane window, Barcelona lay sprawled out before us like an overflowing Pirate’s chest that had been tipped into the shiny blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. I looked up to the north where I saw a dark, craggy mountaintop looming in the distance. “Whoa, look at that big mountain.” said Nefarious. He was pointing at some rocky peaks just North of Barcelona. “That must be near the town of Molins de Rei, where the Festival de Cine de Terror will be held.”, I said. He nodded grimly.
The promoter of the event, Albert Galera, and one of the Festival Staff met us at Barcelona Airport. They greeted us warmly and explained to us that the Festival de Cine de Terror has been held in Molins de Rei for 28 years! The centerpiece of the Festival is a 12-hour Horror Marathon of Feature Films. A Short Films Competition was added in recent years. Both Director Quentin Tarantino and Author Stephen King have been Featured Guests at the Festival. I was impressed, and humbled to be invited as a Guest myself, due to the theme of this year’s event: Children in Horror.
FIRSTJASON and I were on tour for weeks in the Mighty MidWest and Great Lake States preparing for this: the machete was sharpened and ready! “Do you see that mountain?” asked Senor Galera, “it is the Montserrat, the sacred mountain. It is full of ancient caves where Druids held strange rituals!” The jagged peaks stood out starkly in the Spanish sunlight.
All over the suburb of Molins de Rei we could see the posters for the Festival with the distinctive creepy kid logo all over the place, literally hundreds of posters covering the walls of the entire town. After a delicious meal at The Hotel Calasanz and some superb wine from Catalan, I was asked if I wanted to rest, or do a radio interview. “I didn’t come here to sleep,” I said, and so we ventured forth into the afternoon sun.
Barely had we walked a block, when we passed a bus stop. A man who was waiting for the bus said, “Are you Ari Lehman?…Jason?…”, “Si,”, I said, “Yo soy El Primero Jason Voorhees del Viernes Trece!” and so, he joined us on our walk. More people recognized me and the bandmembers, and by the time we reached the Radio station, in a beautiful old town square, there was a small crowd of Horror fans walking alongside, welcoming us.
After the Radio interview, we all went back to the excellent Hotel Calasanz for a evening nap or “Siesta” as they call it. Spaniards traditionally enjoy a late afternoon nap, and we needed it! Then, it was time to go to the Teatro De La Peni (Theatre of the Pen) for the night’s event: a screening of Friday the 13th with Spanish subtitles, and a Meet and Greet with the audience with the help of a translator. To our delight, they screened the Promo Video that we created for the event, starring Scream Queen Sofiya Smirnova on the BIG screen. The audience was thrilled and cheered wildly when I took the stage to introduce Friday the 13th.
The Teatro De La Peni is an antique movie theatre built in the 1800’s and originally used as a Parish School. It is rumored to have spirits who linger on within it’s walls. The “Children In Horror” theme was very appropriate for a place so filled with the ghosts of students and their teachers, the Friars and Nuns who ran the schol for years! (Oddly when I translated the name Teatro De La Peni on my computer, it translated to “Theatre Of the Penis” – funny! Actually the name means Theatre of the Pen and refers to the literature of famous dramatists. I was relieved to hear what the real name was, though my hosts got a good laugh out of it.)
It was a unique experience to watch F13 with Spanish subtitles. The audience went wild at the climactic final scene at Crystal Lake – it never fails! I always feel that the best way to watch films like this is in a big old-fashioned Cinema like the Teatro De La Peni, and it is no wonder to me why this Fest has lasted 28 years, and still going strong. Their choice of venue is key to the success of the event. Take note Horror fans and filmmakers: don’t let those local movie houses die without a fight!
After the film, we all had a few drinks outside by the stage where we would perform the following evening at midnight after the Shorts Competition. The promoters hastened to tell me about the special effects, lights and fog machine that would be there for the show – but I was still in for a surprise! They made a GIANT JASON MASK for the backdrop!!!
DAY 2 –
I slept late to make up for the jetlag, ate breakfast, and proceeded to put the KeySword together for soundcheck at 4pm, and the performance at Midnight. Then I reviewed my notes for the Fest’s Shorts Competition.
The Festival had sent me these films:
Empty Space (10′) – Jesús Perez Miranda
The Brown House (11 ‘) – Isaac Berrocal
The Host (19 ‘) – Alberto pascual
Mama (3′) – Andy Muschetti Mama
Koop (14′) – Ismael C. Viondi
Hearttrack (3’30”) – Rafa Dengrá
Hender (14′) – Carlos Alberto Pascual
Zombies and Cigarettes (17 ‘) – Rafael Martinez
The Buoy (12 ‘) – Mariano Salvador
To view and judge, and they were all of excellent quality. There was to be a panel held and an Awards Ceremony for the filmmakers prior to the FIRSTJASON concert. The phone rang and they told me that the car had arrived to bring us to the Theatre Of the Pen. I grabbed the KeySword.
When we got to the soundcheck, we were amazed by the transformation from the night before. The Giant Jason Mask was AWESOME, excellent work in both form and accuracy. They had also set up colorful stage lights, and several fog machines which they tested frequently as we checked the sound, and proceeded to jam a few songs as the Festival staff assembled and cheered.
The band then was escorted to “Pinxos” a superb restauant in Molins de Rei, where they serve the local Catalan version of Tapas, called “pinxos”. When the Panel members arrived, the heated discussions really began. Not only that, but it is still OK to smoke cigarettes everywhere Spain, so everyone in the place proceeded to light up and smoke cigarettes! Then, each panel member was introduced, some of them were famous actor, writers and filmmakers themselves. We were all asked to select from the films three favorites. I selected Empty Space, Mama, and The Buoy. Pretty soon we realized there was a tie: each film had been selected by two judges. I argued for Empty Space since it was a truly complete short film, and very scary too.
However after 30 minutes of vociferous campaigns on all sides, with everyone chain-smoking furiously, I gave in, and agreed to go with Mama, and excellent project, who had clearly submitted a trailer instead of a short film. It was all that smoke that got me! Plus, each of these judges were very passionate about their selections. Senor Galera seemed pleased that I had broken the tie – it was almost time to leave for the Awards Ceremony. Photographer Dave Fleischauer took photos of the Panel members.
Here are the names of the other Short Film Panel judges:
Cristina Campos, Casting Director.
Haritz Zubillaga, Film Director.
Lucina Gil, Actress and Director.
Jimmy Barnatán, Actor, Musician and Director.
Xavier Ruby, Director of Strategic Marketing, Apex Cinema.
When we arrived at the Theatre of The Pen, I was ecstatic to see that the crowd was overflowing the seats and in fine spirits. The Panel judges were all announced individually and the crowd applauded me onstage where I announced the Award for best Special Effects, and gave the awards statue to The Brown House, a film that also has an excellent Rock-themed soundtrack. The trailer for Mama won first place, and an intriguing film named The Bouy won second place. I recommend looking up all of these films to see what is going on with the Independent Horror scene in Spain.
FIRSTJASON then led the audience outside to the courtyard where we took the stage. The happy crowd immediately responded with cheers and horns, headbanging and dancing under the moonlight. As the music swelled and got nice and LOUD, the Festival audience filled the courtyard that was once the playground for students long ago. Were we joined by a few ghosts dancing with the crowd? It was a mystical moment overlooking to lights of Molins de Rei. I looked up at the moon and howled – the crowd went WILD!
One tall gentleman was taking pictures of the whole thing, looking amused as he rocked to the music. It turned out to be Jaume Balaguero, the famous Catalan Director of REC and REC2, both absolutely excellent works of modern Horror. FIRSTJASON and I were greatly honored that he was there.
After the show, I signed CD’s and Photos, and we went to the after-parties in the town. In Spain, they really like to party until the morning light! They took us to several different bars, and at one of them they proceeded to screen the trailers for all of the Feature Films that were to view the next evening at the Horror Film Marathon. GREAT STUFF! Here is the list:
FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM MARATHON –
Drag Me to Hell – Sam Raimi USA 2009.
Grace – Paul Solet USA/Canada 2009.
The Children Tom Shankland UK 2008.
FILM SURPRISE !!!!!
The Orphan – Jaume Collet-Serra USA 2009.
Eden Lake – James Watkins UK 2008.
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer – Jon Knautz USA 2007.
All to be showed back-to-back in a non-stop Marathon of Horror! Everyone was excited to see these great films, so we finished our tour of local bars and headed home for a much needed rest. When I put on the TV in my hotel room, the Promo Video I made starring Sofi Smirnova was on AGAIN!
DAY 3 –
Since we had extra time to sightsee, Cleaver and I decided to take a trip up to the fabled city of Girona, so that we could visit the ancient Jewish Ghetto where the famous Kabbalist Nachmanides was from. We were told to walk up to the Old City, and look for the Cathedral spire. Crossing the Onyar River we looked up to see Girona Cathedral looming over the town.
Then we saw the sign that led us to the old Ghetto. The narrow lane became narower and narrower, until we were walking between two walls so high that the bright light of the afternoon sun was completely hidden from view. There were eerily cave-like entranceways that led to some small homes constructed completely WITHIN the stone walls of the fortress that surrounded the Cathedral. Each entrance still had massive antique metal gates that could be bolted from the outside to keep the Jewish community isolated at night and during Festivals. We looked at a small sign that indicated who had lived in these darkened apartments, and to our surprise we had found the home of Nachmanides himself! Difficult it was to actually believe that such an important Mystic, Scientist and Musician, renowned all over the Medieval, world had lived in this tiny, dark cave-like dwelling.
There were even bars on some of the entrances, and you could see the huge ancient locks that had been used to confine these peaceful people like livestock. The feeling of these high, hard stone walls bearing down on us was sufficating and oppressive. It was completely unbearable at times, especially to imagine that our ancestors had to live in darkness, when the beautiful Spanish countryside could be viewed shining the tranqil sunlight from the steps of Girona Cathedral only a few blocks away! Ghosts and ancestor spirits reached out to us from the walls and cobblestone streets.
Suddenly we stumbled into the Museo de Judeo, where we were greeted warmly by a descendant of those who had lived in this Ghetto. “You have come all the way from America the visit us,” she said, “welcome to the past.” I was deeply moved by the collection, full of amazing artwork and religious items from all over the world, that had reached Girona. Especially interesting was an impressive display of Kabbalistic Diagrams and Antique Musical Instruments. As twilight fell on Girona, we felt a profound sense of awe for all that our distant ancestors had experienced. Their spirits whispered in our ears from within the ancient stones, inspiring us with the reassurance that they managed somehow to fill their lives with wonder.
Walking with ghosts is thirsty work! We found an amazing wine shop, run by an old man with a bushy grey beard surrounded by barrels full of wonderful Spanish wine. I asked for a recommendation, and he filled our glasses with one of the most delicious wines I have EVER had, primarily made from a perfectly-grown Garanacha grape, one of my all-time favorites. He was sharing his wine and conversation with two lovely matrons of the village who immediately treated us like welcome family members, playing with their baby boy who was running around the shop to everyone’s delight, restoring our faith in humanity, and sending us to a great place to eat Tapas.
Returning to Molins de Rei via Barcelona on the train, we immediately walked up the hill to the Teatro De la Peni, where the marathon was just getting started. The Theatre was once again filled to capacity, and the crowd was thrilled by the selection of fine Horror films that had a common theme investigating the world of children. The Orphan was very well received, especially since the Director, Jaume Collet-Serra, is from the Catalan region of Spain. Barcelona is in Catalan, a region that boasts it’s own language, cuisine and culture, the birthplace of Salvador Dali.
There was also an excellent troupe of live actors who ran through the aisles after the films, and acted out vingettes from the movies, complete with Grand Guinol-style blood-and-gore effects, magnificently portraying scenes of destruction right before the eyes of the audience, who were SCREAMING! I have not seen this done at US Film Fests. I would like to see this live Horror Theatre tradition make it’s way over the pond to the US.
The surprise film was David Cronenberg’s Chromosome 3 (aka The Brood), an impressive work from this famous Director. The Children, from the UK, has some very haunting imagery and a climactic ending, which I will not reveal here. Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer was perhaps the most notable feature. Starring Robert Englund, this film has a compelling story-line and fast-paced action, seamlessly fusing real Horror with a sardonically comic edge. The Marathon lasted all night, and finally ended at 7 AM! This was the most successful Festival Marathon there ever – completely
DAY 4 –
The town of Molins De Rei slept through the sunrise as we all headed to the Barcelona airport. We all were quiet as we drove along, wanting to stay longer in Spain. Looking back we saw the Monsterrat Peaks, beckoning us to return one day. Somehow that mountain no longer looked forbidding, but exuded a benevolent presence, seemingly watching over the town, and protecting the Teatro for another year – until the Festival de Cine de Terror will rise up and live again, like Jason, re-born from Crystal Lake.
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