Showing posts with label spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spain. Show all posts

8 May 2015

Dead by Dawn 2015 - Musaranas (2015)

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Horror, Thriller
Dead By Dawn 2015
Rating: 15
Juanfer Andrés, Esteban Roel
Macarena Gómez, Hugo Silva, Luis Tosar ,Tomás del Estal

Winning the audience award for best feature at Dead by Dawn is no small feat. The Edinburgh horror festival has a tight group of in-depth genre fanatics who know their stuff and get exposed to the newest and best once a year. Juanfer Andres and Esteban Roel’s Musaranas (AKA Shrew’s Nest) is a beautiful powerhouse of dysfunctional family gothic not to be missed.

Montse (Macarena Gomez) is an agoraphobic dressmaker, confined to the cosy but isolated dwellings of her childhood home many years after her parents’ deaths. Hermana (Nadia de Santiago), Montse’s beautiful younger sister, has just turned 18 and is beginning to take her first steps into adult life. After finding a man unconscious with a broken leg in her stairwell, Montse makes a decision that sees her delicate world begin to unravel.

Sure Musaranas shares its lonely spinster story with Misery, but that’s about the only parallel. Andres and Roel have, impressively, left all vestiges of similar thematic endeavours out in the cold by making sure Musaranas is 100% its own beast. Everything about the story, characters, events, and even locations is distinctly infused with clean-cut insanity and dilute garishness. Misery is winter gothic, bound to the isolation of the Colorado Mountains, where Musaranas is equally reliant on the vibrant social atmosphere of its small town.

Musaranas is wise not to operate beyond its brief. It doesn’t push itself so far that the weight of its finely tuned black humour crushes the horror aspect, or vice versa. Andres and Roel know exactly when they want us to laugh, cover our eyes, and sit right on the precipice of our seats just waiting to see where this domestic nightmare will turn next.

Macarena Gomez steals the show, there’s no way around it. Her particular brand of matriarchal madness is an absolutely arresting delight. Thankfully Gomez understands that insanity is a difficult sell: often silly when handled incorrectly. But in Musaranas her portrayal of the delicate Montse is somewhere between prim and perverted, a pitch-perfect horror character with as much depth and heart as any of the genre’s best villains. Luis Tosar (Sleep Tight) appears as the girls’ fierce father, every bit the bad guy but touchingly subject to his own foul demons. It’s a hard thing to pull off a guy like this whilst enabling the audience some window into his mind, but its executed wonderfully.

An incredible piece of work for a debut feature; tightly edited and written, expertly cast, and sporting a slew of finely tuned comic, horror, and family themes in such a concise way it’s impossible not to enjoy. Musaranas is a perfect vignette, a peek into the bubbling hive of anxiety that is family.

Scott Clark

26 March 2015

DVD review - [Rec] 4 Apocalypse(2014)

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Horror, Thriller
Entertainment One
2015 Glasgow Film Festival
DVD Release Date:
2nd March 2015 (UK)
Jaume Balagueró
Manuela Velasco, Ismael Fritschi, Paco Manzanedo, Héctor Colomé,
Buy:Rec: Apocalypse [DVD]

Considering how impressive the [Rec] franchise has been so far, [Rec] 4: Apocalypse comes as an unfortunate disappointment. Ditching the found footage origins of the franchise (for the second time), Apocalypse finds it difficult to create an experience as terrifying as the first two, or as peculiar as the third.
Picking up exactly where [Rec] 2 left off, Angela Vidal (the superb Manuela Velascoe) is rescued from the doomed apartment where it all began. Waking on board a tanker ship in the middle of the ocean, Vidal comes to terms with just how dangerous the unknown virus is.
The ship is a great set, but proves less iconic than the infamous stairwell of the apartment. The tight claustrophobic corridors of the tanker’s insides should be ample ground for a few good scares but they all seem to be relegated to the tiny monitor of a surveillance cam or, worse, off-screen. Velascoe kicks into gear as action horror heroin, but it comes too little too late. A shame because her performance has been a key component in the success of the franchise. Special mention goes to the late great Hector Colome for a charismatic turn as Dr. Ricarte, easily one of the most enjoyable parts of the “final” [Rec] film.
Choosing to ditch Angela’s turn to the dark side at the climax of [Rec 2], Apocalypse seems unsure of where to go next. Paco Plaza’s Army of Darkness style adventure Genesis was the perfect solution to the heavy horror of the first two, but proves a hard act to follow for Jaume’s return. But maybe that’s the essence of the horror franchise: fourth instalments are rarely great, and usually mark the point where money and fan desire over-ride solid storytelling.

[Rec]’s bizarre mythology has been drip-fed to us thus far, each film playing around with the tone and scope of the infection, yet Apocalypse feels like a step backwards. The scares are bafflingly lacking, when a return to more intimate surrounds should have been a sure-fire way to ramp up the terror. Jaume’s return marks the apparent end of the franchise, though its silly final scenes hint at the kind of ludicrous behaviour I would have sooner lauded than this relatively safe affair.

[Rec] 4: Apocalypse is pretty dull, all things considered. An action element proves poor substitute for the genuine chills and thrills presented thus far in the franchise.

Scott Clark

13 January 2015

Berlinale 2015 - Watch The Trailer For Opening Gala Nobody Wants The Night Starring Juliet Binoche

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2015 Cinehouse And The People's Movies are hoping to spread our wings internationally and next week we will at Sundance Film Festival.In February we also hope to attend Berlin for the first time and today we get our first look at the trailer for the opening film Nobody Wants The Night.

Starring Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne and Rinko Kukuchi, Nobody Wants The Night is set in 1908 a true story that accounts of an upper class womanJosephine (Binoche) who braves the dangerous Artic conditions. She is however the wife of celebrated adventurer Robert Peary however she's not only woman braving the elements Allaka (Kikuchi)  pregnant  to meet her lover and father of her child who happens to be same man Josephine is heading to. After an event  both women as they attempt to survive the most hospitable conditions on Earth.

It's refreshing to see Survival tales from a woman as epic adventures usually one taken by a man, it's also a slight unusual twist on romance too. Fantastic cast and certain to get a good festival run  then a UK distribution, which you could see someone like Artificial Eye, Soda Pictures, Studiocanal picking this film up.

Nobody Wants The Night is directed by Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet filmed in Norway and Tnerife, Spain.,Berlin Film Festival opens 5th February.


4 October 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Cannibal (Caníbal)

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Release Date:
6,7,14th September 2013 (TIFF)
Manuel Martín Cuenca
Antonio de la Torre, María Alfonsa Rosso, Olimpia Melinte

Considering its title, it may be hard to accept that Manuel Martin Cuenca’s Cannibal was one of the most subtle and endearing features at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The first twenty minutes are a stunning Noir-esque example of raw grotesque violence in coordination with stunning visuals, subtle but powerful. These scenes, like all scenes of macabre nature in the film, are done in such tasteful ways they remove the surface layer of cheap shock and cut straight to the heart of an often sickening but sad affair. After this opening the film constantly battles with its own particular style, wanting to maintain its tame direction whilst maximising the brutality of its core themes. Basically sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t it can start to get dull.

Cuenca’s latest feature is, like the rest of his films, seeped in Spanish culture, though here in a very different way. The powerful colour palette and mad energy found so abundantly in other Spanish features are here transmuted to a much more sedate affair in the story of how a respected Granada tailor’s murderous intent draws him into the life of a young woman whose sister he murdered. The pace is slower, the narrative a little barer, characters are rarely above-board; instead the feature operates like a Hitchcock thriller wrapped beautifully in the charming monotony of a Granada tailor’s life. The focus here is rarely the grotesque devices of actual cannibalism, and more the realistic portrayal of the lonely perpetrator.

Like Norman Bates and Mark Lewis, Carlos is a man leading a perfectly “normal” life bar the one bizarre feature that has made him film-worthy. Antonio De La Torre gives a masterful account of Cannibal’s deranged bachelor; his performance oozes unstrained charisma and confidence whilst maintaining the shadowy nature of a hunter. though undeniably a formidable force, Carlos is lacking in the conventional behaviours we tie to all screen killers, what I mean by that is that we never once see the rage and terror of a murderer boil to the surface in a Patrick Bateman rush of violence. Cuenca keeps all the cards flush against his chest, allowing slight flurries of movement that peak our interest, but overall there’s nothing flashy about Carlos’ behaviour.   This is another important point in Cannibal, the tragic portrayal of Carlos as a man, victim to his own murderous intent. This intent sees him kill not for thrill, but habit.

After the stunning introductory murder, Cannibal strolls even deeper into the realm of – dare I say – the mundane, focusing far too much of its run time on surplus scenery which, though pretty, falls in its ability to successfully hook.  Still, a magnetic lead performance, great supporting cast, and some incredibly tasteful macabre leave the film in a fairly laudable stead.


Scott Clark

4 August 2013

Blancanieves Blu-Ray Review

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Rating: 12
DVD/BD Release Date:
5th August 2013 (UK)
Pablo Berger
Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ángela Molina
Buy Blancanieves:
Blancanieves - Collector's Edition [DVD]

Somewhat unfairly lumbered alongside The Artist as a Spanish retort to Michel Hazanavicius’ neo-silent award-guzzler, Blancanieves is proof that merely appearing in black and white does not a mimic make. This year alone sees a host of new features, from Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, through Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England to the upcoming Alexander Payne feature Nebraska that revel in the majesty of monochrome to tell a host of tales, ranging wildly in both style and story. Director Pablo Berger’s feature utilises the format to bring us an inventive and incredibly stylish take on the Brothers Grimm classic Snow White – the title being the literal Spanish translation and the name given to our heroine by her accompanying dwarves.

Turning the familiar fairytale on its head Berger relocates the tale of fair-skinned beauty to the home of a more sun-kissed disposition, setting the film in Spain at the heart of its cultural tapestry– the bullfighting ring. Born the daughter of the renowned matador Antonio Villalta, Carmencita is forced to live with her grandmother after her mother dies during childbirth and the subsequent heartache forces her paralyzed father (gorged in the ring at the hands of a ferocious bull) to reject the newborn. Before long her famed father remarries the conniving money-grabbing nurse who manipulatively aided his recovery. Their lavish lifestyle is light-years away from the humble yet happy existence she carves out in the rural countryside until her doting grandmother suffers a sudden and fatal heart attack, forcing the young Carmencita to become the unwanted house guest at her father’s vast new marital home.

Ably pulling off a tonal shift, Berger transports our young lead from warm, jovial, sun-drenched villas and plunges her into a Dickensian, chore-laden life under long shadows and dark surroundings. It’s one of the many impressive visual touches pulled off by Berger and his cinematographer who manage to seamlessly sit handheld close-ups comfortably alongside long range, held shots of sweeping vista’s, rolling Iberian countryside and quaint villas. Taking their lead from the greats of cinematic history the pair create a nuanced and knowing visual display, even recollecting the matchstick men communities of Lowry in the communal procession to the dominating bullfighting coliseums.

Eventually Carmencita inadvertedly finds herself on the strictly out-of-bounds second floor of the palatial pad where she chances upon her father for the very first time – his wheelchair bound slumped figure contrasting greatly to the powerful image in the grand foyer painting. The two bond instantly and secretly, away from the prying eyes of Encarna and before long Carmencita learns the ways of the matador under the expert tutelage of her esteemed father.

Years pass and Encarna’s disdain for her adoptive child grows, hatching a plan to rid her of this burden for good, a plan that, once thwarted, leads Carmencita to her six (not seven) minutely proportioned saviours, travelling Toledo’s who entertain the crowds at ramshackle bullfighting outposts battling against the less fearsome, but equally sized, calves.

Berger directs with a trained eye on the classic tale and another firmly on the stylistic touches of film-makers down the years. The dreaded apple is presented with knowing significance, brandished like a gun while elsewhere shadows and score create suspense akin to Hitchcock. Not that everything on show trawls through the past. The returning theme of fame trickles through the film with each of the leads having their own, ultimately doomed, brush with the limelight suggesting Berger has as much to say on this modern obsession as he does it’s genesis. One particular public mourning resembles a disturbing scene at Madame Tussards and there’s a nod too to the prized cover-shoot of Hello-like magazines thrown in for good measure while the freak show ending signals a bleak parallel with what we view as entertainment and those who peddle it.

So no, not merely a reactionary piece jumping aboard the Artist bandwagon (although there are similarities - for Uggie the dog, see Pepe the chicken) but Blancanieves has more up its sleeve to be written off so easily. A silent triumph in its own right.


Matthew Walsh