The one thing that seems to generally be taboo in most films, even horror films, is violence against and towards children. Whether that violence is a kid getting slapped, spanked, punched, or hit—movies generally tend to shy away towards it or if it is shown in films it is depicted as horrific or watered down somewhat in the editing room. If a child is going to be killed maliciously, it is always a shock to viewers and more times than not the actual death of the child is only alluded to, or not shown entirely. Not to say that I am one for violence against children by adults, but the sad facts are that kids get beat up, murdered, sodomized, tortured, and every other horrific thing one can imagine that have also happened to adults—so why not be (more…)
PREMIERES on BLU RAY & 2 DISC DVD: OCTOBER 18TH, 2011
Los Angeles, CA (October 18th, 2011) –After a theatrical (limited) run in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia, Cult Epics will release a new HD transfer of In a Glass Cage for the first time ever on Blu Ray and a new 2DVD Set. The film was directed by award-winning Spanish filmmaker Agusti Villaronga (Black Bread, The Sea, Aro Tolbukhin: In the Mind of a Killer) who also wrote the screenplay. In a Glass Cage was considered highly controversial upon its 1987 release. John Waters ‘top 10 film’, said about the film “They don’t make art-shockers like this anymore. In a Glass Cage is a great film but I’m scared to show it to my friends.” Cult Epics has secured a new HD Transfer of the film, and has produced many new bonus features for its new release.
In a Glass Cage, a psychological horror thriller is considered Agusti Villaronga’s Masterpiece, who’s new film Black Bread was chosen over Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, and Benito Zambrano’s The Sleeping Voices to represent Spain for the 2012 Oscars. In a Glass Cage was recently named one of the most disturbing films ever made by Film Threat Magazine. Listed no. 5 of The Most Disturbing Movies Ever by Totalfilm.com
In a Glass Cage tells the story of an ex-Nazi sadistic child abuser named Klaus (Gunter Meisner) who is paralyzed and depending on an iron lung to live. A young man named Angelo (David Sust) who comes to nurse him was one of his victims years before. In a Glass Cage was inspired by the true story of 15th Century French knight Gilles de Rais.
IN A GLASS CAGE Bonus Features:
-Featurette: Agusti Villaronga (2011)
-Q&A w/Agusti Villaronga (2010)
-Short films: Anta Mujer (1976), Laberint (1980), Al Mayurca (1980)
The Haunting (a.k.a. No-Do: The Beckoning) (2009), is a film that was released as part of Fangoria’s FrightFest series, distributed by Lightening Media, and we over at SHU-IZMZ just got around to reviewing this title, the final one of the eight new films that came out over a year ago (July, 2010). As I have said before, time and time again, I have always been apprehensive when watching a film that has Fangoria’s name attached to it. Fango has put out some really large pieces of shit that they have attached their names to through Fango Films, distributor or otherwise. One in particular that I felt was atrocious was The Last Horror Movie (2003).
Generally, many of the films distributed were very low-budget and were less than adequate in the genre of horror. If the films were not putting Fangoria on the banner head I might cut the movies some slack but I felt that a horror film from a generally reputable horror publication such as Fangoria whom has been in the horror business for so many years should not attach their name to films that are really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of plot, gore, special effects, and acting. I have come to grow extremely leery of any film that Fangoria gives its thumbs-up to. As of recent years, I have also come to regard the magazine itself as one of the lesser in strength in terms of writing, coverage, and knowledge of horror and genre films. I grew up reading Fangoria, as well as GoreZone and Toxic Horror (with its short run), and, sadly, I no longer subscribe to Fangoria. I have, instead, started reading Rue Morgue and HorrorHound. I think the only good thing about Fangoria is the fact that it is priced lower than the aforementioned publications, particularly if one subscribes to it. I wish Rue Morgue would offer a discount to subscribers that was as substantial as Fangoria’s discount was. Rue Morgue is my favorite of the three magazines but who the hell can afford to be spending $10 on one single issue of a magazine. Most of the relevant and current newsworthy articles one can obtain via the Internet for free of charge (as long as one has an internet connection) anyways. But let’s get back to a line-up Fangoria has come out with that, as readers of the past seven reviews up at SHU-IZMZ can attest to, did not all suck. In fact, some of the films were pretty decent, if not totally kick-ass horror films.
For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, Lightening Media decided to send me a screener of The Haunting (not to be confused with Robert Wise’s 1963 film of the same title or its horrible remake) that was dubbed HORRIBLY in English. The film is originally in Spanish and the overdub was so bad that a good portion of the soundtrack was considerably lower in volume, in regards to the sound effects, whenever a piece of dialogue was spoken. That really sucked and as hard as it is to do so, I am trying to not be biased in review because I really enjoyed most of the film as a whole. I was infuriated to find that the official release of the film has the original soundtrack option of Spanish with English subtitles or the craptastic English dubbing that I was privy to. Now that my rants on the current state of Fangoria Magazine and sending Shu screeners that are not in the original language with English subtitles is over, lets get on to Mr. Quiroga’s film, The Haunting.
The Haunting (a.k.a. No-Do: The Beckoning) is a Spanish ghost story that takes its plot line from a bit of historical fact, as well as some possible speculation, inspired by the Catholic Church’s documentation of actual, unexplained supernatural phenomena in the ‘40s, as well as drawing from the No-Do: Noticiarios y Documentales (News & Documentaries), the state-controlled series of cinema newsreels produced in Spain from 1943-1981 and closely associated with the 1939-1975 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. These “newsreels” contained a good deal of propaganda, as well.
In a Fangoria interview, director Elio Quiroga (Fotos, La Hora Fria) was quoted as saying that the film “is a ghost story about people who can see invisible things”, as well as going on to say that, “also the story of the people that secretly filmed supernatural phenomena about a century ago in Spain: The cameramen of the Secret No-Dos, old newsreels about unexplainable phenomena commissioned by the Catholic Church in the ‘40s that have been kept buried in secret for decades.”
The first time watching The Haunting, I was extremely intrigued and riveted by the thought that the Catholic Church had actually did their own sort of paranormal investigation. I did know they had done exorcisms and battled the Devil. Whether they really were battling and exorcising some dark force, be it Satan or any other evil entity, I was not sure. I do not know if the priests performing the exorcism were even sure, but the possibility that there are (or is) really demons and evil entities was thoroughly fascinating and entertaining to me. For this sole reason, I was ultimately hooked on Quiroga’s film, hoping that by its end I would not be angry at having spent 90 minutes watching it. I was more than pleased, as The Haunting is a pretty solid ghost story. Viewers of the film are bound to be comparing it to other Spanish horror films regarding ghosts and the paranormal, such as Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage (El orfanato) (2007), or Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (2001) which both films, in my opinion, are excellent, but Quiroga’s film is both on a much smaller budget and a somewhat different subject matter in its exploration of ghosts.
Our story starts out with two married physicians, Francesca (Anna Torrent) and Pedro (Francisco Boira), whom Francesca has just given birth to her new baby and is now suffering from postpartum depression. On the advice of their friend and psychologist Jean (Roscio Munoz), the family moves to a new home that is outside of the city and in a more rural setting. They decide to move into a house that was once occupied and is still owned by the Catholic Church, of which the cellar and attic are locked and the family is barred from entering.
As Francesca’s depression deepens, her husband really begins to start worrying about her, especially when she becomes obsessed with her new baby and the fact that she begins to hear and see strange things, most of which she believes their origins to be coming from the basement and attic which is locked up. As her nightmares continue, more and more apparitions and ghostly happenings begin to occur and she starts to fear for her newborn child’s life. After seeking the help of a local Catholic priest and psychiatrist, Father Miguel (Hector Colome) (who knows very well the history of the house), he unveils the true matters at hand and together they figure out a way to uncover what exactly they are dealing with and how to combat it. The film has decent acting, not the best and not the worst, but what really stands out aside from a slightly common theme and storyline are the filters used for filming and the all-around atmosphere and special effects. A ghost story just does not pack any thrills or chills if the visual effects are lacking. Terrible visual effects turn a possibly engaging and quasi-terrifying experience into another run-of-the-mill viewing experience. Fortunately, the filmmakers threw in some very cool special effects and made the film an overall enjoyable view and surprisingly creepy experience.
I thought that adding the No-Do component to the film was a brilliant idea. It offers some Spanish history to add validity to the background information concerning the Catholic Priests, as well as the time-period in which the Spanish production company No-Do was present. During the 1940’s, many Catholic priests were investigating supernatural and paranormal activities and Quiroga shows good judgment in slipping this aspect into the film to keep things interesting for viewers.
If at times the film seems choppy and scenes do not flow together quite as nicely, that is due to the film being originally around two hours in duration and being chopped down to 95 minutes. That is almost 25 minutes of footage cut from the film. I really have to wonder if that footage really needed to be removed from the film and why it was removed. Maybe one-day a Director’s Cut will come out with the original footage restored.
The film, The Haunting, is dedicated to the memory of Joaquim Jorda (1935-2006), a Spanish director who traveled to Paris, France and met Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol, and Rivette which led his films to gain a political edge and awareness to them. He directed and wrote a number of influential films, as well as winning and being nominated for a handful of awards. Posthumously, Jorda was awarded the National Film Award. He had died at age 70.
The Haunting also ends with very interesting quote from Sci-Fi author Philip K. Dick: “If you find this world bad, you should see some of the others.” This just gives viewers something to ponder once the film is finished-to believers of ghosts, the paranormal, and other alien worlds, as well as to those more grounded in things that are far easier in justifying their existence.
For those in need of a decent ghost story that delivers solid visual effects and also adds a bit of Spanish history in the mix, The Haunting is your bag of tricks. It may not be on par with some of the other Spanish and Japanese ghost stories with far greater budgets, but the film does well with what it has to work with. I just wish the version I had seen was in Spanish and subtitled in English instead of being atrociously dubbed over in English. I think I would have had a far more enjoyable viewing experience had it been the other way around.
Check out this video about a fairly new website devoted to the genre of Latin horror, entitled aptly LATIN HORROR. The site was founded by Edwin Pagan (photo above), a photographer, filmmaker, and cinematographer from the New York area. Everyone who knows me or reads my site knows that I love all things Latina and Hispanic, so this website that focuses on the Latin elements of the horror genre is right up my alley. I thank Edwin for personally contacting me via email so inform me about his site, as well as sending me this link in which LATINHORROR.COM is showcased. Watch the video below to find out a little bit more about LATIN HORROR, a website that has only been around for the past 3 years or so. I am looking forward to finding out more about Latin filmmakers, especially in the horror genre. Having been introduced to Spanish culture more and more since having dated a Mexican woman for almost half a year, I have been frequenting the Chicago Hispanic neighborhoods of Little Village and Pilsen, including visits to the National Museum of Mexican Art for the Day of the Dead Exhibit (which was incredible, I might add!), there is a need for a site that devotes its energy to all things Latin in the horror genre. It really is about time. I hope this outlet for news encourages and inspires more filmmakers from Mexico and all the other Spanish speaking nations to make some awesome horror films. Horror is a universal language in films and there should be no boundaries or barriers, whether it be cultural, language-based, or otherwise. Horror fans need to unite around the world and explore other nations’ films.
Jaume Balaguero, the director and writer of Fragile, is most widely known for [REC] and its sequel, [REC]2. Having not seen the sequel to [REC], I can only say that the original was one of the more difficult movies to watch due to the frenetic camera angles and shaky camera views. I had to watch the movie in multiple installments of about fifteen to twenty minutes apiece waiting about the same amount of time for my nausea to pass so that I could continue on with the film. The fact that I finished watching the horror film, fighting through my nausea along the way shows how much I was intrigued by Balaguero’s film and how interesting the movie was, keeping me to come back for more visual grenades blowing up in my brain and causing my head to be filled with dizziness, physically sweating like one had pounded a few fifths of Jack Daniels in a span of an hour. The film was that intriguing and I had to find out the movie’s ending.
Balaguero comes back to formula with Fragile, a compelling and atmospheric tale surrounding strange incidents that are occurring at a childrens hospital that is on its way to being closed down and abandoned. The children are located on one floor, with the floor above closed off and off-limits. The floor is not even listed in the elevator and there is no button to press to get to it. Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart of Ally McBeal fame) is the brand new night nurse at the hospital and is charge of the night shift, readying the children to leave and be moved to a new facility. The orphans of the hospital are pretty anxious about leaving but that may be due to other things going on that none of them are to anxious to talk about with any of the staff at the hospital. One child in particular, Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), is a little bit more outspoken than the rest and lets Nicholls (Flockhart) in on her little secret- she knows there is something else at the hospital and its a lady with leg metal on her legs and she comes around sometimes, usually not in a good mood. The rest of the staff have heard this tale before and think its just a child letting her imagination run away from her, but as Nicholls begins to see some pretty far-fetched things occur herself, she comes to believe and trust in the young girl’s stories and begins to get to the bottom of things and find out what is really going on with this hospital, the children’s fears, and this mysterious lady with mechanical legs that sounds like some sort of ghost or entity living at the hospital.
The film builds up its suspense with a very unique story with plenty of twists and turns, many coming at unexpected points in the film. The film is rated PG-13, but there are so many scenes that titillate one’s fear twitch in the gut of the stomach, that I had a hard time believing the rating. A few moments in the film had this viewer reminiscing about key scenes in The Exorcist and other films of possession and spectral occurrences that relied on one’s brain to fill in the blanks and create self-induced fright. By no means is Fragile on the same level of terror that The Exorcist had most at, but it has many elements akin to it. Also, the acting in the film, kids and adults alike, was extremely solid and did not detract one’s attention from the well-crafted story within the film nor diminish the scares delicately placed throughout.
For this horror freak, I can always appreciate a well-done chiller whose story compels my attention and interest rather than over the top visual effects that generally end up looking awful and absurdly “cheesy”. The whole experience is thus ruined for me because I fail to excuse the fact that the effects suck and everything that the actors and actresses are responding to is phony. I just fail to accept that their performances are for more than anything other than a generic special effect, but when a movie creates a solid visual effect, I forget that I am watching a movie and instead fall into the framework of the film itself, completely losing myself and experiencing that nightmare with them too! It is a wonderful experience to have the shit scared out of you, nervously laughing at how totally freaked out one is from a well-done film.
Fragile created within itself characters that had depth, heart, and soul-so much that when the time came for tragedy to specific characters, the viewer is affected and affected even more so once serious harm is thrown into the equation. The visual effects in the film added to the enjoyment of the story and I felt that there were just the right amount to see the film through instead of a massive onslaught that resembles an artist trying to max out his or her creativity in crammed in to one feature. At times, I think Guillermo del Toro falls in to that category (Hellboy II: The Golden Army), but his films are so damn enjoyable, I forgive him.
The cast, in addition to Calista Flockhart as the new nurse, consists of Richard Roxburgh, playing Robert Marcus, a doctor who believes Nicholls is suffering from some sort of stress once she begins voicing concerns over the strange occurrences that are rising in frequency as the days go on. Roxburgh gives a fine performance and was a familiar face. One may recognize him from his portrayal as Count Vladislaus Dracula in Van Helsing, Hugh Stamp in MI:2, or M in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Of special to interest to this reviewer was Elena Anaya, the ultra-gorgeous Spanish beauty from Sex & Lucia, Talk to Her, In the Land of Women, and also Van Helsing. Let me tell you, Anaya’s portrayal as one of Dracula’s uber-sexy brides had fire alarms going off in my pants-she is so damn sexy and failed to disappoint in Fragile, even though her role was fairly minor as a supporting cast member portraying Nurse Perez in the film. It was fun to see her all dressed-up in a nurse’s outfit though and got my nurse fetish gears pumped in to overdrive, at the very least.
A few other familiar faces rounded out the cast of Fragile, including Gemma Jones of Sense & Sensibility and Bridget Jones Diary, Colin McFarlane of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Michael Pennington of Return of the Jedi, and Daniel Ortiz of Bride of Re-Animator. Many of these faces and films were very familiar to me and it was fun in a film geek sort of way to point out who was what character in what film…at least for me it was. Given that the film was only rated PG-13 (even though I felt it could have been R-Rated for some fairly graphic and intense scenes involving some bones breaking and deaths) we do not get to see Elena Anaya in anything sexier than a nurse’s outfit and unfortunately no Benny Hill-esque old man pervert scenes involving an elderly patient lifting up a skirt here or peeking down at a caregiver’s cleavage as she brings an extra pillow and changes the bedsheets.
The story of Fragile was written by Balaguero and Jordi Galcean, superbly executed and carried the film through all the way to its finish. I was surprisingly satisfied with this movie, having no scenes of blood and gore, nudity, and almost zero foul language-yet I really loved this film. I guess when a movie delivers with a solid story, fine acting, and loads of atmosphere-the rest of the titillation can take a backseat for another movie on another day. Again, carrying the Fangoria FrightFest banner over it and out on Lightening Video, Fragile ranks among one of the finer Spanish films to deal with things of a spectral nature to have come out, even though it is also a British production. Either way, a solid film that I really enjoyed. Check Fragile out if one is in the mood for a solid spooky suspense-filled horror film that is super light on sex, nudity, gore, and vulgarity but heavy on atmosphere, acting, plot, and twists.