For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you'll know that I've been on again, off again with Spanish horror films. Primarily those of Jaume Balagueró. 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' is a shorter than average length film from Jaume and is a part of the '6 Films To Keep You Awaker' series. Just because it isn't a full feature length film, doesn't make it any less worthwhile than any of his other films. I came into this with an open mind and was very pleasantly surprised when it was over. Granted, it's not going to be on anyone's top 10 list of all time great horror films, but it has a whole hell of a lot going for it. The story itself is not 100% original, the direction is good, but not fantastic.... what really sells this film is the cinematography of Pablo Rosso. He films his scenes like he was painting on a canvas. It was a beautiful thing to watch each individual frame. I can honestly say that I've never had any film capture the feeling I get watching a rainstorm, but he did it. The sequences that are filmed outside are amazingly well done. You feel like you could get wet if you got too close to the screen. I could've just watched the scenes involving the rain and been perfectly happy, but when you throw in all of the insanity of the storyline behind the rain.... you've got a film worth watching. It's fairly simple, it ends without question of what happened and you become attached to the characters. All good earmarks.
Our story begins with a young couple who are expecting their first child, but want to find a new place to live before the baby is born. They receive an ad in the paper for an apartment that sounds too good to be true. Despite some hesitations, they drive out in the middle of a rainstorm to check it out. As they get closer and closer to the apartment complex, the cityscape begins to become more and more rough. They are obviously headed into the wrong side of town. Even with all of the factors pointing them away from the apartment, they ignore the signs and enter the building. The landlady seems kind enough and the apartment is not too shabby, but they eventually make up their mind to walk away.... the landlady has other ideas. She beats the man in the head and the woman begins to try and make her escape. It's revealed to us at this time that she's got two other apartments filled with other people that were not allowed to leave. From this point on, it's a fight for their lives to try and escape this potential prison. Can they survive?
After several earlier failed attempts at earlier films, Jaume Balagueró seemed to finally hit his stride. After making this, he went on to make '[REC]' and [REC]2', both of which are amazing horror films. Perhaps 'To Let' was a small enough production that it gave him the freedom he needed to find his voice. For example, he comtinues his use of the 'shaky cam' technique that other people have used since.... like Rob Zombie. What the 'shaky cam' technique involves is the camera to be shaken during scenes of extremely intense situations. For example, if our heroes are trying to break into a room to save someone, you'll find that the camera begins to shake furiously. It sounds jarring, and it is, but it is a spot on way to get a physical reaction out of somthing that may not have otherwise caused any reaction at all. Jaume Balagueró uses it quite well here and really well in both '[REC]' films. Rob Zombie used it primarily in his re-imaging of 'Halloween' during the final stand off between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, this film is not groundbreaking. The story comes off feeling like something we've all seen before at one point or another in our lives. That's my only complaint. I think that's why I ended up only giving it a 3 out of 5 star rating. However, I don't know what else they could have done to make it anymore original. I've heard some people complain that this film was too short.... I tend to disagree. If it would have been too much longer, it would have lost its simplistic charms. Not too mantion that I'm not entirely sure that they could have carried out an entire feature with just this premise. If you're still interested in seeing it after all of that, pop it in your Netfilx OnDemand queue and get back to me when you're done. I'll wait.
Other great Spanish horror: '[REC], '[REC]2' and this.
(This is the trailer for the '6 Films To Keep You Awake' series, of which.... 'To Let aka Para entrar a vivir' is a part of.)