Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A DVD Review by Brian Holcomb

Spain isn't exactly the first country to come to mind when discussing the classics of European horror. England probably comes first with Hammer Films and directors like Terence Fisher and Michael Reeves, followed very quickly by Italy with genre auteurs like Mario Bava, Ricardo Freda, and Dario Argento. Joining the English gothic and the Italian giallo, we could even add the "Krimi" to the list and toss Germany into the mix before Spain. After all, Germany was where the genre really began, in the 1920s with masterpieces like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari both providing inspiration for decades of American horror films. But this categorization doesn't account for Spain's own contributions to the genre, no less fascinating for not being more influential. Most of this is due to the fact that the Spanish horror genre is largely eclectic, resulting in no clearly defined waves like the giallo in Italy. From the dreamy loopiness and sometimes simply loopy films of cult favorite Jesus Franco to Paul Naschy's more classical tales of tragic werewolf Waldermar Daninsky, Spanish horror is defined by being ill defined and sometimes generically spliced.

From Amando De Ossorio's Blind Dead series and Jorge Grau'sThe Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue which were designed to cash in on the wave of Romero's Night of the Living Dead to Alejandro Amenabar's Tesis with it's slick American thriller style, Spanish horror filmmakers have often had an eye on the international market. Which brings us to the series of films under review here, six films by six distinctive filmmakers from Spain's past, present, and future of genre filmmaking. As Spain's answer to the American Masters of Horror series, Six Films to Keep You Awake is yet another attempt to sell a series of modestly budgeted genre films to the international market . Produced for Spanish TV, the series is an update of a classic '60s program also called "Films to Keep You Awake".

Taken as a whole, the series of films are a fascinating look at the state of contemporary Spanish horror. Individually, however, the films fall victim to much of the same problems as their Masters of Horror brethren in that the near feature length is both too long and too short to be effective dramatically. The best of the bunch is director Alex de la Iglesia's ( El Crimen Perfecto) The Baby's Room. If you rent or buy this DVD set-start with this one.

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