Shrew’s Nest: home, sweet home
by Alfonso Rivera
- The feature debut by duo Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, premiered at Sitges, is a dark, terrifying and riotous tale that unfolds indoors and with just a handful of characters
Spain, in the 1950s: chauvinism, Catholicism and repression reign. Fear is the most widespread state of mind among the population. A musty scent permeates everything, not least the home of two grief-stricken sisters (played by Macarena Gómez and Nadia de Santiago). As soon as they became orphans, the former, Montse, started to take on the role of the mother of the younger girl, who has now turned 18 and is starting to go out on dates with boys. To make matters worse, Montse suffers from agoraphobia and cannot even put one foot out of the front door: and so her addictions, the ghosts that haunt her and all the things lacking in her combine to turn her into a ticking time bomb.
This is something the viewer senses as soon as Shrew’s Nest [+see also:
interview: Esteban Roel and Juanfer An…
film profile], by Esteban Roel and Juanfer Andrés (read the interview) and premiered at Sitges Fantastic Film Festival, begins: Macarena Gómez has one of those looks – following in the footsteps of Lola Gaos – that can unsettle the audience just by her being there. She goes on to be the epicentre of a cataclysm that intensifies whenever she suffers fits that only a particular drug has the power to alleviate. Gómez, who constantly verges on the ridiculous but never loses any of her credibility, was considered to be the best actress at the recent Toronto Film Festival by Comics Gaming Magazine. She is definitely worthy of this distinction for her devilishly caricature-like portrayal that brings to mind the great Punch and Judy show that was What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the sanctimonious mother from the two versions of Carrie, and the sadistic, man-restraining Kathy Bates from Misery.
Because it is indeed an alpha male (Hugo Silva) who enters this rodent’s nest, thus causing a tsunami – which also happened, in a more low-key way (here there is too much effort put into spelling things out and the forced elements of the script go over the top), in Don Siegel’s The Beguiled, a 1971 title starring Geraldine Page and Clint Eastwood. Shrew’s Nest is therefore not the most original movie on the line-up, but nor does it claim to be: it attempts to entertain, to frighten, or to do both at the same time. In fact, it will be released in Spain on 25 December – just the right date to spoil a few people’s nice, cosy Christmas.
Combining a tense psychological thriller with both tragedy and laughs, the film paints a broad-brush picture of Bernarda Alba’s Spain from the point of view of a pair of jokers (Roel and Andrés) who are targeting the audiences at Sitges and at the Horror and Fantasy Film Festival in San Sebastián (one of its next stops, in addition to the London, Tokyo and Mórbido Festivals, the latter in Mexico). Thus, the duo did not hold back when it came to cramming their feature debut with blows, fights, amputations, bloodletting and other staples of the gore genre, with Esteban taking care of the actors and Juanfer looking after the technical side of things.
With the funding provided by Nadie es perfecto and Pokeepsie Films, the production outfit with which Álex de la Iglesia is taking his first steps into the field of talent scouting (just like the Almodóvar brothers did with him several decades ago), the movie has already been sold – through Film Factory Entertainment – for exhibition in Latin America and Asia. These sales have perhaps been helped along by that striking iconography in which religion is intertwined with the sinister, displaying concepts that usually go hand in hand in traditional Spain: we only need to imagine the myriad floats and sculptures in the Easter Week processions in order to feel something akin to what happens as we peek into this savage Shrew’s Nest.
(Translated from Spanish)