In post-Civil War Spain two sisters live alone together in the same apartment they have lived all their lives following the death of their mother and departure of their father. Older sister Montse (Macarena Gómez) is agoraphobic and never leaves the apartment. Her conduit to the outside world is her younger sister Elisa (Nadia de Santiago) who she rules over with religious fervor. Montse is haunted by the spectre of their father and trapped inside an apartment that holds dark memories and a closet-load of secrets. Montse’s carefully controlled universe is disrupted when upstairs neighbour Carlos (Hugo Silva) literally lands at her front door after falling down the stairs. Montse takes him in and tries to care for his horribly broken leg herself before both Carlos and the audience start to wonder if he will ever be allowed to leave.
Despite initial scenes of solemnity and overt religiosity Shrew’s Nest does not take itself too seriously. While able to ratchet up tension when necessary this is not another Spanish horror looking to having you jumping out of your seat in fright. The currency of value here is that of entertainment and storytelling. The overall plot resembles that of a fairytale, an incredibly grim fairytale perhaps, one in which a woman on the edge will do anything she can to keep the only man to have entered into her life since the disappearance of her father. When Montse finally gives in to madness, or perhaps just allows her latent madness to come to the surface, blood is spilled and Shrew’s Nest does not hold back on the gore.
As the film gets more and more ridiculous and the body count rises the audience began to visibly and audibly react as one. The laughs were deep and hearty but when pain and injury were inflicted on-screen an audible gasp ran down the room and two particular moments invoked arms shooting into the air in shock as everyone instinctively moved to bite their fist or cover their face. After a traditional stoic beginning Shrew’s Nest evolves into a madcap slasher horror which is a hell of a lot of fun and crazy in all the right ways.
Despite the fun Shrew’s Nest does jar occasionally when unveiling a particularly unpleasant plot point set in Montse’s past. Amid all the fun is a dark story that is altogether more unsettling that the comic murder and kidnap. While perhaps this provides motivation for the actions of the characters it came across as unnecessary in what is otherwise an enjoyable horror with a cheeky approach to the genre.
With solid support from Nadia de Santiago and Hugo Silver the real standout performance comes from Macarena Gómez as a woman with a dark past who finally gives in to her madness. With impressive direction from Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel in their first feature film Shrew’s Nest comes highly recommended for an fans of horror that wants to make you laugh and wince more than it wants to make you jump.
Shrew’s Nest has no UK release date yet but screens at the London Film Festival on the 10th of October 2014.