Thursday 18 September 2014

Muñecas (2009)

Director: Rosa Márquez
Stars: Arantxa Peña, Javier de la Torre and Polina Kiryanova
This film was an official selection at Phoenix FearCon IV in Tempe in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
Spanish shorts accounted for four of the eleven screened at FearCon in 2011 and they were an agreeably diverse lot. This one played well, but it suffers from being a little obvious, especially if you can speak the language. The title translates to Dolls, and that's what we see as it begins, at least in an old slang sense. Ana is the tall girl hanging by her tied wrists from the roof of a stable; her legs are tied as well. She's in a striking outfit, all red and black and skin. Her bra, her high heeled shoes, her skimpy top that covers her shoulders and her lips are all hooker red, while her short skirt and her hair (at least in this dim light) are black. She's likely to be a lady of the evening, but she could just have been out for a really good time. It doesn't matter which, of course, as she certainly wasn't expecting to be kidnapped. Chained to the floor and cowering in a skimpy white nightgown is Irina, if her gold necklace is anything to go by. She's scared out of her wits so not much help, but she might be even prettier behind all the tears.

I wouldn't offer a prize for figuring out where this goes for a while. When the man who took them arrives, Irina babbles while Ana shouts. She drinks the water he pours down her throat though, which knocks her out for the night. In the morning, she finds a way to free herself and climb out of the stable, impressively never losing her high heels. To her credit, her first thought isn't escape, it's Irina, so she goes in search of her fellow prisoner. What she finds in the main house isn't at all what she expects as she and we discover the other meaning of the title. From that point on, the surprises are over, but it plays out capably with a neatly freaky final scene, courtesy of actors Geli Albaladejo and especially Javier Botet, who isn't willing to let the wheelchair to which he's confined restrict his perversions. Writer Javier Gonzáles and director Rosa Márquez deserve credit for wrapping up the picture when they do, as it could easily have continued on for a lot longer and spoiled the ending. It finishes exactly when it should.
The cast are capable, though hardly spectacular except for that freaky scene. Arantxa Peña does a good job as the lead victim, not quite the damsel in distress she could have been. She tries valiantly but fails to ensure that her acting ends up more prominent than her outfit. Polina Kiryanova doesn't get to speak, at least not in a language that we can understand, but she sells her part superbly nonetheless. Javier de la Torre is fair in the role that ties everyone and everything together; he does achieve that but not much more. True, he's cast because he's a believable monster without ever looking like one, utterly everyday. The camera is jerkier than it needed to be at points, surely aiming to visualise some of Ana's panic but overdoing it. Other than that, the film looks good, with decent locations, a good score and a characterful song to accompany the end credits, Cat Power's Werewolf. This is a good film if not a great one, but it's enough for me to be interested in seeing Burocracia, which Márquez made with Albaladejo a year later.

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