Monday 29 October 2012

World Cinema; Is Spanish Horror The Best?

From mathematical chillers like 'Fermat's Room' and the sci-fi terror of 'Timecrimes', to even the fantastical world of 'Pan's Labyrinth', Spain has produced some of the most exciting and unusual horror films of the past decade. These films take ideas from a range of other genres, all in an attempt to scare the hell out of us and boy do they succeed! In this post, I have chosen my three favourite Spanish horror films to try and determine whether Spanish horror really is the best. Let's see if you agree... 

Rec (2007)

In the past, all the best zombie films came out of Hollywood and Britain, but with the release of 'Rec', everything changed. The story of a late-night reporter becoming trapped in an apartment building full of zombies became a huge smash, spawning a popular series which is currently on its third installment, as well as the inevitable Hollywood remake, titled 'Quarantine'. It can be hard to keep zombies interesting without becoming repetitive but 'Rec' completely rewrites the rule book, making the 'found footage' style exciting once more while also imbuing the contagion with an unusual supernatural slant. While of course the quality of the series declines with each sequel, the original 'Rec' is arguably one of the best zombie films of all time and if you haven't seen it yet then your Halloween will remain forever incomplete.   

Scariest Moment: There are so many jumpy moments to choose from but the scariest moment for me was a more prolonged freak out, when Angela heads up to the dark attic, with only the night vision of her camera to help her see. Without spoiling anything, what she sees up there is one of the most horrendous things I have ever seen in a horror film. The DVD should come with a health warning.  

The Orphanage (2007)

The classic ghost story can be terrifying when done properly and 'The Orphanage' is a perfect example of this. With a gripping narrative and genuine scares, 'The Orphanage is more old-school than films like 'Rec' but is no less unsettling for it. The story follows Laura as she returns to the orphanage where she was raised, bringing her husband and their adopted son Simon with her. Problems arise however when Simon begins talking about a new friend he has made, who begins to cause trouble. Soon after this creepy sack-faced boy appears (see above), Simon goes missing... The film was a huge success upon its release, although the Oscars did fail to acknowledge its brilliance when selecting nominations for 'Best Foreign Film'. When watching 'The Orphanage', I remember being particularly impressed with the lead actress, Belen Rueda, who is also amazing in another horror/thriller, 'Julia's Eyes', which I would also recommend to fans of Spanish cinema. 

Scariest Moment: I know I always say this but there are literally so many disturbing little scenes that I could mention here. It is tempting to share a certain car accident that occurs about halfway through for sheer shock value but the scariest moment in 'The Orphanage' just has to be the infamous 'one, two, three, knock on the wall game' which had me squirming in my cinema seat. 

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Finally, I couldn't write a post like this without acknowledging the work of Guillermo Del Toro, who has become the poster boy for Spanish cinema in the last decade. In his career, Del Toro has tackled a number of varied subjects within horror, including vampires (Cronos) and fairytale monsters (Pan's Labyrinth) but my favourite has to be 'The Devil's Backbone', another ghost story which shares some similarities with the 'The Orphanage' but is still its own unique entity. I know, I know; 'Pan's Labyrinth' is the one that got all the acclaim but I love the atmosphere of 'The Devil's Backbone' and it's more traditional in its scares, which is not always a bad thing. The story is set in the final year of the Spanish Civil War (1939), and centres around a boy named Carlos who lives at an orphanage which is haunted. Sounds familiar right? Wrong. In this film, Carlos is definitely not chummy with the ghost, who terrorises him and the other boys as they try to survive their time at the orphanage. It's a great film and the plot takes you to places that you would not expect, particularly in the latter half so I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you have seen 'Pan's Labyrinth' and are a fan of Del Toro's work.

Scariest Moment: The ghost provides a number of creepy and tense moments but my scariest bit would have to be when Carlos encounters it in the corridor and hides in a closet to get away, praying he won't be discovered.

So what do you think? Does Spain produce the best horror films? And do my picks represent the best of what Spanish horror has to offer? Let me know your thoughts and remember to like and share. Thanks!

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