Supposedly T.S. Eliot and Pablo Picasso and Oscar Wilde said something more or less to the effect of “Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” None of them said a damn word about bitter, broken down hacks such as myself, but still, I so totally stole the idea for this post. Apropos actually that Picasso’s name shows up, as shall become clear.
See, I read a post just this morning over at The Glorious House Of Film Miasma about an HBO España series called 30 Coins. It sounds supercool, and he included a shot of this great 70s giallo-looking promo pic for it. And it was on that very image where I saw the name Álex De La Iglesia. Like Quasimodo, that rang a bell. So I looked, and I was right.
See, back in 2005 there was a Spanish series called Peliculas Para No Dormir or 6 Films To Keep You Awake. A kinda Masters Of Horror type thing. My point is, Álex De La Iglesia did one of those films, The Baby’s Room, and I thought to myself, “Self, you should review that whole series.” And here we are.
The Baby’s Room (Álex De La Iglesia)
This one’s pretty damn creepy in a Paranormal Activity sense. Juan and Sonia and their baby move into an old house for which they got a phenomenal (i.e. highly questionable) price. Obviously it has a past, and its sinister nature is of course tapped into by an old baby monitor from Juan’s sister. Soon Juan sees a man next to the baby’s crib. Naturally nobody else ever sees anything, and Juan starts going to pieces. It’s an effective if not kinda familiar tale, but well worth a look.
Blame (Narciso Ibáñez Serrador)
This is another one of those movies where it could be something supernatural, or it could just as convincingly be all in the main character’s head. Ana is an obstetrician, and Gloria, one of the nurses she works with at the hospital, has some financial difficulties. Ana invites Gloria and her daughter to live with her and become her assistant in her private practice. Turns out Ana provides abortions which is problematic in the story’s post-Franco but still repressed setting.
A Christmas Tale (Paco Plaza)
Yep, Veronica director (and one of the helmsmen for the REC franchise) put together this love letter to all things 80s. I mean, this coulda fit right in as a subplot in the the first couple seasons of Stranger Things, especially if the kids on Stranger Things went all Lord Of The Flies. Specifically, a group of yutes finds a woman in a Santa suit unconscious at the bottom of a pit in the woods. They find out she’s wanted for a bank job and decide to keep her in the pit unless she splits the take. They then proceed to basically abuse and degrade her. On the other hand…Red suit? In a pit? Is it really Santa?
A Real Friend (Enrique Urbizu)
In the course of lashing together a few raw facts for today’s post, I read up on what other folks had to say about this Sinister Six. Obviously everyone has their faves. Meagan Navarro over at Bloody Disgusting, for instance, really digs A Christmas Tale (Pit! Digs! I crack myself up). For me though, this one clicks neatly into place like a block in the bizarro Lego-scape of my childhood. For some of us, not all of us, but some of us who were bullied, vengeance became our Holy Grail. Even better if that vengeance could carry a certain amount of abject terror. I mean, I just wanted to be left alone and live in a Lovecraftian world all my own. My point is, watch out for the weird kids.
Spectre (Mateo Gil)
For me, this one was the least effective of the lot. Again, there’s an undefined post-Franco setting, but one that hasn’t yet caught up to the rest of the Western world. Like Blame, everything could be linked to whatever is going on in Tomás’s head concerning the guilt over his erstwhile love affair with Moira. So it’s the eternal question of what’s haunting you–the person or the shame? Plus Tomás is a writer, and we already know that rarely ends well.
To Let (Jaume Balagueró)
Tough call between To Let and A Real Friend for my pick as the series high water mark. That’s complicated even further by the fact that this one was helmed by the other mastermind of the REC movies. My overdeveloped sense of vengeance tips the scale ever so slightly to A Real Friend, but it ain’t by much. Balagueró dispenses with the supernatural and flies nonstop to Crazytown. So we’ve got a young, apartment-hunting couple. Well y’know what they say, whoever the hell they are, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” But our youngsters don’t wake up to this fact until the traps have been sprung–and what vicious little traps they are.
And that’s the series. I tried my damnedest not to let slip any spoilers because these have flown under a bunch of radars and deserve to be seen.