Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In short: Anabel (2015)

Warning: I wouldn’t know how to talk about this one without a certain degree of spoilers!

Students Cris (Ana de Armas) and Sandra (Rocío León) are looking for a roommate to share their rent with after something has happened to their former roommate Anabel. Somehow, they end up sharing with an elderly gentleman named Lucio (Enrique Villén) who comes complete with a sob story about losing his job and his home and having no real place to go anymore.

Despite being as different as two young women can be, Cris and Sandra have grown close living together. But something changes with Lucio’s arrival. At first, he’s rather like a new, polite roommate and their own private washing, cooking and cleaning service rolled into one, but something about him and the way he treats the friends slowly drives a wedge between them. More curious still: things tiny and big seem to start going wrong for them. Why, it’s as if there was witchcraft involved.

Antonio Trashorras’s Anabel is a nice example of contemporary arthouse horror (which I’m never going to call by the bizarre moniker of “post-horror” some critics have grown to insist on). It’s shot in black and white, slow, ambiguous and generally lacking in the kind of obvious thrills we know and love/hate from horror movies. In other words, it’s going to piss some viewers off with its insistence on not going into more overtly violent directions; others might be bored with it. That’s neither a failing of these viewers nor of the film, really – this is not an approach to horror that’ll fit everyone, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, the film’s slow and thoughtful style, with its non-linear storytelling and ambiguous dream sequences, did rather click with me. At least, I found the film’s portrayal of subtle emotional violence, and its emphasis on the fragility of human relationships fascinating and sometimes creepy. The witchcraft elements – particularly the way they might be exclusively metaphorical or not – I could take or leave, but as a study of guilt, alienation and a particular kind of loneliness, as well as a very low-key revenge flick, Anabel works rather well, thanks to a fine trio of performances and Trashorras’s sharp and cold direction.

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