Pantafa: female horror film on Italian folklore with Kasia Smutniak in cinemas from 30 March

The horror Pantafa, the new film by Emanuele Scaringi with Kasia Smutniak in the lead role, arrives at the cinema on March 30, after the preview at the Turin film festival. The performers, the director and the producer Domenico Procacci introduced him to us.

Among the films that arrive at the cinema on March 30th there is also a very particular Italian horror. Is titled Pantafais directed by Emanuele Scaringi and has as main interpreters Kasia Smutniak and the surprising little debutante Greta Santisurrounded by a great supporting cast that includes Mario Sgueglia, Betti Pedrazzi, Francis Colella e Joseph Cederna. After adaptation de The Prophecy of the Armadillo of Zerocalcare, Scaringi, assisted in the screenplay by Tiziana Triana e Vanessa Picciarelli, brings to the screen a legend, that of the Pantafica, typical of Abruzzo and Marche, which however has many counterparts in other regions and in the world. The authors presented it to us together with Kasia Smutniak and Greta Santi, with Dominic Procacciwho produced the film with his Fandangowhich distributes it at the cinema in 90 copiestogether with Rai Cinema.

Pantafa: the plot of the film

In Pantafa, a restless woman, Marta, with her daughter Nina, moves to the mountain village of Malanotte, where she takes up residence in a large, somewhat dilapidated house. The little girl suffers from sleep apnea crises and she feels a mysterious presence of her that takes her breath away and locks her in bed. In the village the Feast of the Pantafa is being prepared, the witch left without children who takes the lives of others. The elderly Orsa and the local children will help Nina defend herself from Evil with the ancient rituals handed down for generations, while Marta begins to be persecuted in turn.

Pantafa: the legend in Italy and in the world

The title and the character of the film make direct reference to Pantafica, a character from the folklore of Abruzzo and the Marches, to whom popular belief attributes the crises of sleep apnea, the hypnagogic paralysis that can also cause hallucinations to those who suffer from it. In folklore she is represented as a witch or a large black cat and is a legend that has numerous correspondents throughout the country. For example, in Lucchesia, in Tuscany, there is the Linchetto, which like her also has the habit of twisting the horses’ manes and making the milk sour, as well as suffocating the sleepers. And equivalents of her are the pesantola in Istria, the phantasima in Tuscany and Umbria, the pundacciu and the ammuntadore in Sardinia and so on. Each region has its own sleep demon, in some cases male. Abroad, variations can be found in Canada, Egypt, Japan, China and other oriental countries. Often to stop this nocturnal entity it is enough to offer it some wine, scatter peas or grains of wheat on the ground or put a broom made of sorghum threads in front of the bedroom door, to force it to count them, since it cannot do without them. The famous painting by Johann Heinrich Fussli, The nightmarefrom 1781, seems to refer to these legends.

Pantafa: horror and fear according to authors and protagonists

As is the custom with many horror films, Pantafa it’s a pretext to talk about something else too, in this case the relationship between a mother who feels inadequate towards her daughter. Among those who took part in the film, there are those who have privileged this aspect because they don’t love horror as a genre or are afraid of it, like the protagonist and the screenwriter Vanessa Picciarelli, and those who instead, like Emanuele Scaringi or the screenwriter Tiziana Triana, he is passionate about it and therefore has tried to reproduce the atmospheres of those he prefers, without indulging in jump scares or easy effects. Kasia Smutniak confesses that it was a very complex process, where the hardest thing for her was “confronting my own fear and having to do it again the next day and the day after that.” About the monster she has to face in the film, the actress says:

Similar legends are present in all cultures and refer to children’s stories such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, terrifying stories through which they were taught to exorcise their fears. There is a lot of truth in this film, starting with the hypnagogic crises, which very little is said about. It’s not a fear per se, what we talk about, but it’s a basis that exists in our memories and becomes something deeper and different. Here fear has a face, a name, it is a female figure linked to the feeling of oppression, heaviness, suffocation, it approaches the mother-daughter relationship and the whole female universe. There is a little girl, a mother and a woman who passes on knowledge and tries to protect the little girl by passing on Abruzzo knowledge. The purest thing is to feel inadequate and not up to par when you become a parent, there are so many expectations towards the figure of the mother in society. This is a nice foundation to tell these fears and gender is just a tool.

Director Emanuele Scaringi comments: “We started from a study on hypnagogic paralysis, these sleep disorders that give a feeling of suffocation and a third of those who suffer from it think it depends on this figure, of whom very little is known. We wanted to create our own monster, collect folklore stories and try to gather our traditions. It represents an Evil, we could have treated it even with a dramatic film but it seemed the right way to do it with horror”. But why Domenico Procacci decided to produce a horror film? The producer confesses: “I’m not a horror fan, in 33 years of activity it’s the first one we produce. Emanuele, with whom we have already worked, kept proposing it to me and I said to him “but don’t you have another project?”, trying to divert it. Then they wrote it and I liked it. I don’t have a preconceived hostility but I like it when you work on the genre to tell something else, like the link to the legends the film is about”. With Procacci, Smutniak he says he tried to see some horror movies but “we stopped at the first one, Babadook, because I was leaving the room. Now I won’t even try. Making this film didn’t help me exorcise these fears.”

The main fear recounted in Pantafa, she reiterates, has to do with something else for her: “Marta is a complex character, her relationship with being a mother is very complicated because she doesn’t feel up to it, she feels the responsibility of this relationship. Perhaps she has already run away many other times, her daughter suffers from these crises and she submits her to the umpteenth transfer to a new place, she is afraid of being a mother ”. Scaringi points out that the film “it is also a small criticism of a model of society that always demands perfection, so we tend to hide our frailties and weaknesses towards ourselves, mistakes are not allowed” The small and very good co-star, Greta Santi, comments with great maturity on the character of Kasia Smutniak: “Marta isn’t very ready for what’s happening to her daughter, it’s not a normal thing, she has to learn to manage situations, it’s normal that she doesn’t know how to react in the face of these crises that happen to Nina. Being this my first experience, I immediately established a beautiful relationship with Katia and I carry it inside me every day, as a beautiful thing.”

“We met” – adds Smutniak – “during the auditions. It was essential to find a young but adult and mature child to be able to support the character. We did many auditions with the girls having to scream and the parents waiting outside. With Greta it was love at first sight, when she did the first attack scene which was also the audition scene, but it’s a different thing to do it in a room and on a set, it was so real and terrifying to see her act that a long silence fell on the set and we thought that we almost didn’t need the monster. She was great, she helped me, she was the strongest, I was scared”. But does Greta like horror? What is she afraid of? The answer is surprising: “I like them and I watch them. I’m scared of the consequences of our actions.”

For those who are not afraid, or would like to be afraid and are curious to know more about this story, Pantafa has been in cinemas since March 30, distributed by Fandango.

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