Fernando Cayo, his wife Ana Wagener and daughter Manuela Velies have just moved into a new home. Unfortunately, there will be no house-warming, as three dudes in hoods barge in and hold the family captive, terrorising them. One of the men takes Cayo to an ATM to get all the money out of their bank accounts, whilst the women are left vulnerable at home. And these guys ain’t fuckin’ around, either.
This 2010 Spanish thriller from director and co-writer Miguel Angel Vivas isn’t for me. I don’t much like the home invasion/rape subgenre of thrillers, not even some of the better ones like “Straw Dogs”. The combination of simplistic plot (almost “Don’t Say A Word”, minus the disturbed girl) and unpleasant goings on rarely manages to keep me interested, let alone entertained. It’s not as slow or painfully uneventful as “The Strangers”, and is certainly more professional than any version of “Last House on the Left”. I just didn’t care.
The opening scene ends up not so much a red herring as completely irrelevant, whilst the ending is cruelly devastating, but ultimately pointless beyond having a bleak ending for the sake of it. The film isn’t nearly as revolting or extreme as I was expecting. On the one hand, I appreciated that cutting away from the home situation to the father means that some of the unpleasantness is kept off-screen, but on the other hand, it breaks any tension whatsoever. The scenes with the dad try for their own tension, but it’s clichéd. It reminded me of “Firewall” and the remake of “Mother’s Day”, for instance (not sure if the latter came out after this, though). The use of sound FX is effective, but there’s still a difference between leaving it up to our imaginations and simply cutting away to something different for far too long stretches. So even on its own level, it’s not as effective as it probably wants to be.
The camerawork by Pedro J. Marquez is pretty good, I must say. It starts with some annoyingly pretentious close-ups and shaky-cam, but eventually it settles down with some good, roving camerawork as we move through the house, ala “Panic Room”. Good stuff there. Split-screen, however, is occasionally employed and breaks any illusion of reality whatsoever.
I liked the performance by Manuela Velies, even though her 18 year-old character is treated by her parents like she’s 15. I’m not sure how they do things in Spain, but an 18 year-old is an adult in Australia, so it seemed weird to me. Maybe things in Spain are different or maybe the director and his co-writer Javier Garcia don’t know what they’re talking about.
Although I think that some will find this quite effective, I didn’t appreciate it, and don’t understand what I was meant to enjoy about it. I’m not a fan of the genre, however.