From the psychedelic pulp publications of the 70s to Devil’s Backbone, Spanish horror is an inimitable combination of passion, style and restraint. Even a lapse into self-parody such as Accion Mutante is worth watching, but this self referential irony is precisely what Nacho Cerdà strives to avoid with his feature film debut THE ABANDONED.
Peripatetic heroine Marie is going through a mid-life crisis when she inherits a Russian farmhouse from her birth mother, whom she has never known. Her search for the meaning of life, falling appropriately on the eve of her 42nd birthday, brings her to this derelict structure which draws parallels with Twin Peaks’ “Black Lodge”. Its deliberately obscure setting lies somewhere between Hostel’s Slovakia and Dracula’s Transylvania. As a physical manifestation of Marie’s psyche, when the floorboards of the house split, there comes to pass not only a ghostly family reunion, but a forced reconciliation of ego and shadow.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s influence lends a new vitality to the ubiquitous viridian hues of the 21st century horror film. From brown study and rusted tableau to bursts of verdigris, this is a place where gaming classic Resident Evil 4 meets Breughel. Composer David Kristian’s profoundly effective and original sense of Dies Irae sustains an overindulgent intensity, and the climactic un-destruction of the house is breathtaking. Does the past haunt us, or do we haunt the past? Heraclitus said, “The soul is its own source of unfolding”, and unfold it does, rashly but beautifully. Let’s see what Cerdà does next.