Top 10 Films’ world tour of horror cinema continues in Europe as Laura Shearer takes a look at some of the finest films to come out of Spain inc. del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone & Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In…
10. Darkness (Balagueró, 2002)
As it would seem to be mostly films from the last two decades I’ve chosen to feature, this film is no exception to the continuous stream of haunted house features on offer. A family move into a country mansion and their teenaged daughter discovers a horrifying past within the walls that threatens to destroy the family forever. Spanish director Jaume Balagueró is famous for his later film series [REC] which I’ve included further up the listings, but this is still a fairly unqiue version of the haunted house and I’ve chosen it for this reason. An early role for Anna Panquin and the feature comes as an unrated version in the USA which is probably one of its more interesting points.
9. Agnosia (Mira, 2010)
Joana’s condition means that her perceptions are affected neurologically and her brain cannot interpret stimuli. Unfortunately for her, she’s the only one who knows her departed father’s industrial secrets and she becomes the victim of a horrible series of games that aim to extract the information from her. Those who are close to her are attached to the secrets in more ways than expected and Joana’s sensory development and processing of what’s happening leads to awful personal penalties.
8. The Others (Amenábar, 2001)
Alejandro Amenábar’s ghost story features the wide eyed Nicole Kidman who proves herself emotionally perfect for expressing fear. Set post Second World War in Jersey, she moves to live in an old mansion with her two children and soon becomes convinced that her family home is haunted. Servants arrive to assist with the children’s very specific needs due to their extreme photosensitivity and the mother’s very strict rules come undone to unexpected consequences.
7. Tesis (Amenábar, 1996)
A student writing a thesis on violence stumbles upon a snuff video where she sees a girl tortured until death. More horrifying than the video, is the story behind it, which becomes apparent to the thesis writer as she investigates its creation. The subject of the video is linked to the same academic faculty in a terrifying way and the plot only thickens as the investigations continue. Institutionalised ideals that lie under the surface become a threatening and shocking theme for this morally questioning narrative. What is it in human nature that engrosses that morbid interest? Watch on to find out if you dare.
6. [REC] (Plaza/Balagueró, 2007)
TV reporting has never been so dramatic or horrific. A TV reporter and cameraman following a fire department attend a call from an old woman in an apartment building and answering to blood curdling screams, they somehow become trapped. Desperate to find the source of the call they soon unveil that something quite sinister lurks and is keeping them as prey. Handheld camera techniques are put to excellent use in these tiny spaces with little light to create nervous footage that give you the thrill of involuntary jumps throughout.
Discover More: Top 10 Found Footage Horror Films
5. The Orphanage (Bayona, 2007)
Set in an orphanage, which appears to be quite a theme in Spanish horror, this became a mainstream UK release and did incredibly well at the box office. Dark and dreary, the former home for disabled children is where Laura decides to return with her young son and it’s not long before Simón makes friends. Laura reopens the home to care for children with special needs and after seeing a mysterious masked child her son goes missing. Inviting a group of parapsychologists to uncover the mystery is only the beginning of the terror the home will unfold.
4. The Devil’s Backbone (del Toro, 2001)
Another Guillermo del Toro directed feature, which I feel only shows how his body of work has contributed to the emergence of Spanish horror in the mainstream. Yet again a fantasy heavy narrative, this time the subject is a young boy who has come into the care of a orphanage after loosing his father to the Spanish Civil War. The school and home offers dark secrets that Carlos endeavours to discover the cause of, including a mysterious boy that he can see but others don’t want to acknowledge the existence of. Self-hood and trauma is at the heart of the fears toyed with, in a tale of disaster and exploration that combines perfectly with historical backdrop.
3. Pan’s Labyrinth (del Toro, 2006)
This has become a real modern classic in terms of Spanish films. In 1944 Spain a young girl is subject to a fascist military stepfather. The countryside surroundings offer her a quick and welcome retreat away from her dreary new way of life. Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical beasts and magical realms that our terrified protagonist Ofelia escapes into are eerie and contain tempting and morally challenging tasks. Certain fantasy characters have become iconic in their simple representations and horrific natures. Substantially gruesome in the imaginative trails, it’s hailed in my eyes as one of the best representations of the world through a child’s eyes for its mix of coping mechanisms and pure fantasy.
Discover More: Top 10 Films editor Daniel Stephens reviews Pan’s Labyrinth
2. The Skin I Live In (Almodovar, 2011)
Pedro Almoldovar’s recent offering takes on issues of revenge, social ethics and body shock. Amalgamating these aspects into a fantastic narrative twist, that will leave you reeling long after the horror inducing reveal. A mastery of characterisation is what holds the twist together. I remember seeing this during its cinema release and I’ll never forget the audiences gasps when the penny dropped and the conversations in the bar afterwards.
Discover More: Top 10 Films editor Daniel Stephens reviews The Skin I Live In
1. Julia’s Eyes (2010)
One of the greatest fears of human nature is having no control over your own body. When Julia begins losing her sight she’s thrown into a world of shadows and mystery, whilst trying to investigate the death of her twin sister. Impacting for its use of some genuinely nail biting moments that play on the visual aspects of what the audience can see but the character can’t. There are a few images in there that will haunt you in the dark and for me that’s one of the best features of a good horror film.
Discover More: Top 10 Films editor Daniel Stephens reviews Julia’s Eyes
Written and compiled by Laura Shearer
Over to you: what are your favourite horror movies from Spain?