Thursday 25 October 2012

Refugio 115 (2011)

Director: Ivan Villamel
Stars: Georgina Latre, Dani Ledesma and Alba Arenals
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon V in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my festival reviews.
Set entirely underground, to the hiss and boom soundtrack of bombs hitting the surface above, this Spanish period piece is a neat little exercise in tension and suspense. There's little story, as it runs only eight minutes and obviously aims to use the supernatural as a political metaphor not a literal plot device. We find ourselves amongst an inoffensive group of people in the tunnels of Refuge 115 hiding from the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. All they want is to survive, but they discover that even down here, their worst fears may be hiding in the darkness. There's no effort made to provide any explanation of what mysterious force might be picking them off, beyond a little girl's song about the bogeyman, so it's obviously a metaphor for all fear, which in a civil war is rampant because it's so tough to figure out who is friend or foe. As the darkness extinguishes light after light, we wonder if anyone will make it out and how much meaning we should seek.

Some of it is clear enough. Jordi appears to be the ostensible leader, doing what he can to keep these folk together under pressure by keeping calm and helping who and where he can. None of the others have similar strength, only Aina proving stronger than her obvious fears, so they find their own moments to cave and disappear. I wonder whether these points mean more than just further steps in a progression, but I don't know enough about the Spanish Civil War to guess. So I'm left appreciating the acting, which is solid but overshadowed, pun not intended, by the style of the piece; and the various devices used to build the tension. The effects don't aim far, relying on basics like lights going out, but they do what they need to. I'd have thought there would have been more telling moments, like the one where one woman screams, 'The darkness has taken my daughter,' but it's left vague and creepy. That means it's effective but not too abiding.

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