In August of 2008, Lionsgate released a box set of horror movies entitled "6 Films to Keep You Awake." It looked like one of the public-domain horror movie collections you can pick up for $10 or so.
Actually, it was six incredible, 70-minute new Spanish horror films directed by some of the masters of Spanish horror. Sort of a "Masters of Horror" for that country, produced by Brian Yuzna's Filmfax company, which is now based there. In fact, these screened on TV in Spain apparently.
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador is best known for helming "The House That Screamed" and "Island of the Damned" (aka "Who Can Kill a Child"), two of the best European horror films of the 1960s and '70s respectively. In fact, he hadn't directed anything but TV after "Island of the Damned." Technically, this film is TV -- since it was produced for Spanish television. But it enjoyed a direct-to-DVD horror release in the U.S.
In Serrador's horror comeback, gorgeous Montse Mostaza plays a single mother and nurse who gets a job as a live-in assistant at the home of a doctor who runs a women's family planning clinic out of her house. Of course, as is a typical theme in this series of Spanish horror films, abortion plays a role in the plot: The clinic really operates as an underground abortion clinic.
The story meanders a little, with the first half of the 70-minute film focused on a character study of Mostaza and her new boss, who also happens to be a lesbian. There's a mystery surrounding the home, and when the new hire's young daughter wanders the hallways she runs across an occult-like room somewhere on the other side of the house -- possibly where some neighbors live.
Once we think the story is a mystery about the nature of the house, the story takes another turn, with the single mom getting pregnant again from an absent boyfriend and at the urging of her new boss succumbs to an abortion herself. Then, the film seems to follow a new storyline, with the deceased fetus disappearing, and the audience wondering whether it had been "baby snatched" by the young daughter or had somehow survived the abortion and now wandered the halls of the house. Things get even more interesting when an abortion patient with no family in the area shows up and is murdered on the table by an apparently small, fetus-sized creature.
Serrador's comeback horror movie is a bit muddled and doesn't match the quality of "Spectre," another entry in the "6 Films to Keep You Awake" series that it was released with. It also isn't nearly as good as Serrador's classic work -- "Island of the Damned" and "The House That Screamed" are about 100 times better.
Still, the performances are pretty good and fans of Spanish horror will find much to enjoy in the slow-paced mystery that unfolds. Also, horror films that deal with the subject of abortion are pretty unique -- at least to American audiences.
Despite its flaws, it delivers plenty of atmosphere, a compelling mystery and great performances. Recommended. Also known as "La Culpa."
I haven't seen these films yet, but I am hot off a viewing of [REC] which is my contendor for most frightening film of the year. I'm glad to see these films make it to the States so we can get a taste of where the real innovations in horror are happening!
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