Mohamed (2001): Short / Drama

Mohamed

In an attempt to save his life, a man enters an apartment building only to realise that his problems will only get worse.

First critical success for the – back then – young student, and writer/director Sergi Rubió who, despite the film’s little flaws, manages to clearly convey his message. It could be an excellent third act about a young man who has struggled his whole life because… he just looks different than the majority of the people around him. About a man who has so much love to give and no one to give it to. Unfortunately, there is so much hatred to get and everyone to get it from. You can watch it here: https://www.reelhouse.org/tropicanofilms/mohamed/4743014

Because some look like you or sound like you or have the same religion as you, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will or has to. No one can claim this world. We might be part of it, but it’s not ours. All of us can equally be a scourge on this planet or a blessing. Choose the latter. Mohamed did.

Stay safe!

Sleep Tight (2011): Drama / Horror / Thriller

Sleep Tight

A janitor of a luxurious apartment building is hell-bent on ruining a young, happy, female resident’s life.

Jaume Balagueró! The director who brought us horrors such as Darkness (2002), Fragile (2005), and [REC] (2007), this time, brings to life something neither paranormal nor gory. Pure. Psychological. Horror. Man’s most disturbing and dark side comes to the surface and that is more terrifying than any zombie or paranormal evil. The amazing Luis Tosar (César) becomes one of the most hated men you have ever seen on your screen and the brilliant Marta Etura (Clara) one of the most beloved girls next door. This extreme divergence will make your heart skip a lot more than a beat as you will be getting this constant urge to warn Clara, stop César, wake her up, get him caught… an urge to intervene somehow anyway!

Sleep Tight is not a film where you are scrolling down on your social media and it just plays in the background. Turn off the lights, put your phone on silent or away, enjoy some good company (including your own), and question your own safety at home.

Now… Do you like odds? I have a good one for you. As per IMDb, 10 days after Sleep Tight was released, Paramount released The Resident (2011) a film with IDENTICAL plot and Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the leading roles. Both are exceptional actors but The Resident is a watered-down, non-daring, Hollywood version of Sleep Tight. Go for the one that does not hold any punches.

The Hidden Face (2011): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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Strange occurrences start happening when an orchestra conductor decides to move on with his life after his girlfriend ostensibly split up with him and suddenly disappeared.

Before I start saying anything, I want you to know that I was skeptical for the first half an hour. A skepticism that faded away past the first act.

It’s been years since I wanted to watch it and I’m glad I finally got the time. I’ll start with the acting which is shockingly convincing. Excellent job by all actors and actresses who convey the drama, the thrill and the horror portrayed, especially Clara Lago. Director Andrés Baiz handles the story cautiously through very restricted narrative so he doesn’t reveal the inciting incident until the time is right. And when he does, he makes sure that, through the editing, all information is very tightly revealed for what is about to happen. Of course, the round of applause starts with Hatem Khraiche’s suspenseful story.

If you are wondering why I was skeptical in the beginning of the film, I will only say that if past events are integral to the story and will be revealed to us anyway, we are accustomed to flashbacks opposed to getting the whole story at once and distract us from the main plot. Only later on it made sense from the editing’s point of view. It might sound incoherent as a sentence now but please watch it – without knowing anything – and think about it.

Stay safe!

Dagon (2001): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

Dagon

After their boat sinks, a young couple finds refuge in a decadent Spanish fishing town, with half-human dwellers, and an ancient deity waiting to rise once more.

It’s been months that I wanted to write about Dagon. I first watched it in VHS in 2001 and I was left in awe. Throughout the years I forgot a lot about it though and moved on. Part of the reason is that I wasn’t the avid admirer of H.P. Lovecraft that I am now. Another part of the reason is that I didn’t “read” films the way I do now. In March, the beloved writer, producer, and director Stuart Gordon sadly passed away. Gordon was a loyal Lovecraft fan who honoured him with films such as this one, Reanimator (1985), and Castle Freak (1995) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/04/19/castle-freak-1995-drama-horror-mystery/.

Ezra Godden and Raquel Meroño make a brilliant on-screen couple and I for one, I can’t hide my admiration for Raquel. Also, the last film of Francisco Rabal. The location is eerie, the story is thrilling, and the plot is horrifying. Good, old-fashioned storytelling that makes Dagon a smashing adaptation of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. There is only one downside: The visual effects. Unfortunately, there are sequences that VFX will put you off, especially if you watch it for the first time now. My advice is to just turn the blind eye. It’s been almost 20 years and it is a low budget film. Let this one slide and get a small taste of Lovecraft’s petrifying mixture of “dream and reality”. I believe I have watched every H.P. Lovecraft adaptation to date. Beside Dagon, my top 3 are:

  1. In the Mouth of Madness (1994): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/
  2. Color out of Space (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/
  3. The Lighthouse (2019): https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2020/03/03/the-lighthouse-2019-drama-fantasy-horror (veeeeery loosely / inspired by)

The Platform (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

The Platform.jpg

An unconventional prison with unknown underground levels called The Hole, starting from top to bottom, provides food for inmates through a platform that is always consumed disproportionally… as no rules apply.

Do you remember Cube (1997)? Welcome to the 21st-century, Spanish Netflix version of it. Brilliantly produced, directed, edited and acted, The Platform will “brutally” entertain you and keep you on the edge of your seat. The photography offers the claustrophobic environment that, on occasion, it will suffocate you as much as the inmates.

The weak link here is the writing though. There are at least two obvious plotholes that, unfortunately, no department spotted – or cared to fix.

1. The levels’ inexplicable temperature rise/drop: It wouldn’t be a plot hole if there was a visible source causing it.

2. The inmates’ transfer from level to level. It wouldn’t be a plot hole if, once again, we saw some kind of gas coming out of… somewhere that knocks them out. Also, swapping everyone, from every level, at the same time, having only the platform as a way of accessing each level increases the implausibility.

I’m a huge fan of the “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”. How can you ignore the facts though when no one bothers to disguise them? Please, do watch it! I highly recommend it. The above-mentioned plotholes are spoilers-free. It is tempting to analyse the film’s message as well but I can’t do it without giving away the plot so, I’ll just leave it with you. I hope you enjoy this Spanish achievement as much as I did.

 

P.S. My warm-hearted wishes to the Spanish people – but also the rest of the world – who suffer great losses.

Contratiempo (2016): Crime / Mystery / Thriller

Contratiempo.jpg

A young, successful businessman teams up with a lawyer who comes to his rescue only three hours before charges are pressed for murdering his mistress.

This is what you are getting into:

  • Twist after twist after twist in a story where truths and lies are deceitful and interchangeable!
  • Numerous vantage points that raise “what happened” and “whodunnit” questions, from the beginning till the end.
  • Missing parts of an intricate puzzle that its pieces are scattered over an uneven canvas.

“Contratiempo” (The Invisible Guest), is a labyrinthine and meticulously crafted journey seeking the truth. Writer/Director Oriol Paulo, following the mind-bending success “El Cuerpo” (2012), sets the foundation, slowly and carefully builds up and unfolds tension, and finishes up with a hair-raising, jaw-dropping third act to remember. Take your hats off to acting, photography, and music. Absolutely blazing!!!

I’m not giving anything away. Get comfy, grab a cuppa/coffee/booze/whatever floats your boat, turn the lights off, your phone on silent and… Shhh! It started…

Marrowbone (2017): Drama / Horror / Thriller

Marrowbone.jpg

A Spanish-made, English, period, horror film…

You may be wondering how a haunted house can be scary at all nowadays or what could possibly be new with this genre that has been beaten to death. Well, I for one, ask myself most of the times whose the story is and why it matters. If then the premise is promising, the protagonist is interesting and his story matters indeed, I really pray for a good ending. In cases like this one, a good twist.

At first, it got my attention because it’s an English film, entirely produced and shot in Spain by Spanish. But then, watching what Jack and his siblings have been through, and what they keep going through, made the production fact merely a fun fact. “Marrowbone” is about family sacrifice and unity, and high-price cost. So, it is not about a haunted house but a haunting past that just doesn’t let go no matter what. It is not just a ghost story but a heart wrenching one that can haunt a ghost. It is about life, becoming a relentless, constantly growing, black hole of despair.

And as the story unfolds, and having established that the premise is promising, the protagonist is interesting, and his story matters indeed… comes the soul-crushing ending to fill you with tears.

A round of applause for this Gothic, underrated horror/drama, its cast and crew, and its wonderful actors and actresses.