15 Essential: Spanish Horror Films

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As anxiety, terror and repulsion are universal, every territory and country around the globe has some history with fictional horror, from legend to literature to film.  A rich and consistent legacy of the latter however, has proven harder to maintain. Though nations have come alive (and continue to) in their own genre golden ages, few can truly sustain. Of course, cultural, political, audience and financial support for such films are major factors (see: the rapid decline of the 2000s French horror boom)—often outweighing filmmakers’ desires—but that only makes the ability to produce exhilarating fright fare regularly more impressive One of the richest legacies of filmic terror lies in Spain, where midst the decline of and post-Franco (a regime which suppressed depictions of sex, sacrilege, violence and politics) the country has exploded with the unsettling, the bloodcurdling, the salacious and the perverse, internationally introducing tremendous, artful filmmakers in the process.

In a Time Out London* review of 1993’s La Madre Muerta (a film you’ll find below), directed by Juanma Bajo Ulloa, the author writes, “Without such formal discipline, this psychological thriller might have spilled over into dubious exploitation, but like his haunted protagonist, the director/co-writer always pulls back from the brink.” It’s possible this canny summation can be applied to much of Spanish horror. The most prominent filmmakers in the country’s genre history work similar wonders, exploring and depicting truly warped, graphic content with spellbinding technical formalism. Spanish horror is awash in powerful images and whirling cameras which barely contain themes and allusion to damaged psyche, captivity (in apartments, manors, iron lungs, our pasts, our minds), political turmoil and dangerous obsession. Often times, the films would be repugnant if they weren’t so beautiful. Often times, that’s what makes them great.

As [REC]: Apocalypse, the latest solo outing from one of Spain’s current genre principals, Jaume Balaguero, hits DVD and Blu in the UK (this article brought to you by its distributor eONe, click here to purchase), Shock presents a brief glance at essential works in the canon of Spanish Horror.