Rosa (Ana De Armas) is a young Cuban woman who works as a hotel maid in Spain, but is really an aspiring dancer for some TV show. When she finally gets what could be her big break, she needs to go to an all-night laundrette to wash her clothes for the big gig. Late at night, in a city where sheís an immigrant and save for her sister and jerk boyfriend, all alone. Unfortunately she runs into a seedy looking bum (who I swear is a dead-ringer for WWE legend The Undertaker), who scares the crap out of her. But never mind, a charming young man (Diego Cadavid) is there to save her. However, Rosaís troubles are only just beginning. And that is all I have to say about that, dare I spoil this filmís secrets.
I didnít really have any expectations going into this Spanish horror/thriller, written and directed by Antonio Trashorras. I hadnít heard anything much about its plot nor its worth. It turns out that this is a seriously weird, but seriously fun film that mixes Argento-esque giallo flick (with a touch of Mario Bava) with something of a trippy Jess Franco vibe, minus the sadism and lesbianism. Surprisingly, I wasnít all that upset by the lack of lesbianism. Perhaps at the age of 33, Iím finally growing up? Nope, the film simply worked well enough without it, and I was far too bewitched by the absolutely stunning Ana De Armas anyway.
At any rate, hereís a filmmaker who wears his love of 70s and 80s horror films on his sleeve, and if you are similarly inclined, you should definitely give this one a go. The film begins with a bizarro, super-hot 60s-ish go-go dancing title design that was pretty damn brilliant. The colour scheme, Kubrickian shot composition and soundtrack are all spot-on too, as is the terrifically creepy sound design. Itís rare these days to find a cinematographer who knows how to use light, shadow, darkness, and colour equally effectively, but this one gets it right. The use of colour in particular, for the most part, only impacts the parts of the frame that would realistically be impacted/lit in real-life, and there are only minor occasions when the entire screen is bathed monochromatically with light. Itís my biggest pet peeve in cinema, so I was glad to find a film that mostly got it right. The use of split-screen is fun in a retro way without being overly indulgent ( Brian De Palma ).
The filmís central conceit might make it seem similar to the American film ďATMĒ, but this is vastly superior and takes a sharp turn into bizarro land towards the end that you almost certainly wonít see coming. Well, actually I guessed some of it about half an hour in, but not all of it, thatís for sure. De Armas, as I said earlier, is entirely bewitching. I fell for her almost instantaneously (co-star Leonor Valera ainít too hard on the eyes, either), and boy did I fall hard! A lead actress/character that you want to spend 90 minutes or so with is very important and rare in a horror film. True, itís a bit silly that Rosa doesnít try her luck outside after an early attempt, but itís a far more believable scenario than the one in ďATMĒ, because the space between her and almost certain death is nowhere near as large as it was in ďATMĒ (Not to mention, that film had three protagonists who couldíve all run off in different directions if they were smart enough).
Despite the oddball twist towards the climax, this is pretty straightforward, one-set stuff, and will probably be a bit slow for some, but I found it effective and enjoyable. It was a really pleasant surprise for me.