26 April 2011

Fin's Review: To Let

Anyone who has been following horror over the last few years will know that Spain is where it's at. From [REC] to The Orphanage, Spanish directors are making films of heart and intelligence, not to mention balls-out scares that Hollywood directors can't touch. I was therefore very excited when '6 films To Keep You Awake' came through the letter box. This is a collection of six short films highlighting some of the best horror film makers that Spain has to offer. My first choice from this box set was To Let a film by the director of [REC] - one of my favourite films in years - Jaume Balaguero.

Despite the fact that that To Let had a small budget and was made for TV, the skill of Balaguero and the actors involved ensure that it never seems cheap. By maintaining a small cast and a limited location Balaguero avoids some of the pitfalls associated with small budget films. Balaguero established in [REC] how scary dark, brooding Spanish apartment blocks can be and To Let is no different.

The film opens with a young couple looking for a flat. After numerous disappointments they have responded to an ad for a large and reasonably-priced flat. After getting lost, they finally arrive in a weird run-down area of the city to view the flat. From very early on in the film the one major downside of the film surfaces and that is the stupid and at times bizarre behaviour exhibited by the two main characters. This starts when on the walk up the stairs to the flat they see decapitated mannequin body parts lying around the stairs and hear the dries of a distressed baby, yet still go on with the viewing. You soon realize that these characters are pretty stupid - as much as this is hardly a surprise in a horror film, these characters take it to a new level and at times come close to making the whole premise of the film silly. For example, there a number of occasions when the characters have opportunities to try and escape but don't, which is particularly bizarre as the main 'baddy' is a 50+ year old woman yet the male protagonist can't find it in him to simply attack her. However, good horror films can often make you forget how ludicrous some aspects of the story are while drawing you into the action and this is true of To Let.

Despite the one major flaw I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this film. Balaguero creates a creepy, compelling drama that is built upon a really scary premise and keeps you gripped until the credits roll. Along the way he introduces some really unsetteling images and situations. The main villian of the piece is one of the strangest and scariest characters I have seen in a while and the way she interacts with her 'tenants' is really unnerving. All in all a very decent and enjoyable horror flick and at just over an hour long well worth a watch.

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