Shrew’s Nest – LFF Review

Shrew’s Nest

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.

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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.

BFI LFF 2014

I’m So Excited – Film Review

I'm So Excited

For the past ten years film-makers that have made films about planes crashing have had to walk a fine line between respectful, yet exciting; dramatic, yet thrilling; tense, yet nostalgic etc. The latest film from Almodóvar has decided instead to make a film about a plane crash that revolves around song and dance numbers, excess drug taking, and aeronautical orgies.

The plot of the film is set almost entirely in the business class section of Peninsula flight 2549; a plane that is having to make an emergency landing due to technical difficulties. The all-male, all-gay flight attendants have drugged the female/transsexual stewardesses and all of the economy class fliers in order to keep them calm – meanwhile the business class guests consist of a Mexican businessman with a secret, a fashion designer with a secret, a virginal psychic with a secret, a pair of newlyweds with a secret, a failed actor with a secret, and a conservative banker with a secret. As these characters begin to learn the fate of the plane they all begin to form different factions and temporary relationships until the secrets all come out over a bucket of champagne, tequila and mescaline (leading to some fantastically surreal Almodóvarian naughtiness…)

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It will be said by some audiences that the film has a sense of irony around its subject matter relating to current Spanish politics. A country that is in political and financial turmoil with insane youth unemployment and a dangerous swelling of neo-fascists produces a comedy film about a selection of upper-middle class elites with secrets flying aimlessly above the country in search of a place to land. This may well be the case, but the film is mostly focused on larger-than-life characters and melodrama. A more important political reading of the film could be that it is a timely accompaniment to the wave of same-sex marriage legislation being discussed across the western world. The film is unashamedly gay with not a suggestion of homophobia or embarrassment from any of the characters as they all discuss (and act upon) the finer points of a fluid sexuality. Even the plane itself becomes a character in some of the saucier scenes as the camera lingers over spinning turbines and the long erect body of the plane fills the screen after the camera pans away from an ecstatic face mid-pleasure.

The film has got to be one of the most colourful and camp films of 2013 – especially seeing as it is named after the 1982 classic song from The Pointer Sisters (which is used brilliantly) – and it should become an instant camp classic with the right crowd.