Wednesday, May 13, 2015

In short: El Callejón (2011)

Blind Alley (2011)

During an insomniac night before the audition that might mean her big break as a dancer and finish her career as a cleaning lady, Rosa (Ana de Armas) ends up in her corner washing salon. There, she meet-cutes a charming if slightly strange young man called Gabriel (Diego Cadavid), and things would be all set for a bit of romance, if this were a romantic comedy that is, and not a horror film with a bit of a sense of humour. So, inevitably and rather unfortunately, all may not be as it seems with Gabriel – most men I know at least don’t spend their night washing bloody women’s clothing – and Rosa’s night just might get exciting in a rather different way than the set-up suggests.

Antonio Trashorras’s Spanish/Colombian co-production is a simple, clever, sometimes ironic and pretty stylish piece of suspense horror that – as many a good low budget film does for obvious reasons – concentrates on a handful of actors (mostly Ana de Armas and Diego Cadavid, really) and locations and a straightforward plot. There are no distractions, and no attempts at doing things it’s not actually possible for the film to achieve, yet I never had the impression the film is any poorer for it. In fact, if El Callejón is anything, even in its little moments of humorous asides, it’s a film made by someone in control of his material, and very much willing and able to turn the simple set-up into an old-fashioned (as in 80s and early 90s horror, not as in Karloff) fun little horror film without pretensions that knows “unpretentious” doesn’t have to mean dumb.

Trashorras’s direction is dynamic (there’s even some fun use of that weirdest of traditional techniques, split screen), his use of colour moody and oh-so-un-2011 (which is to say, colours exist and might even mean something!), and the film never stops for breath once it’s got going. Add to this a charming performance by Ana de Armas, and there’s nothing to stop me from calling El Callejón a fun not-so-little romp.

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