The influence that Spanish speaking nations have had on the horror genre in the past twenty years cannot be exaggerated. From the early films of a young now world-beating Guillermo Del Toro, to Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s break-out found-footage hit [Rec] and its many sequels, the language has clearly taken over original horror across the world. A new pair of hopefuls have risen through the ranks in their home nation to deliver another slice of deliciously European terror to a world of eager fans: introducing Andrés and Esteban Roel, and their debut chiller Shrew’s Nest.
Trapped in a decaying apartment hidden deep within the bustling confines of Madrid during the 1950s, agoraphobic Montse spends her days dressmaking and caring for her younger sister. That is until one day, she encounters a wounded man on her doorstep and decides rather recklessly to help him. Whilst nursing the stranger back to health, Montse begins to discover elements to her personality that she didn’t know existed, and when her sister starts to make plans for the man’s return home, things take a ludicrously dark turn; once one enters the nest, leaving is never an option.
Resting firmly on the shoulders of Spanish established talents, Andrés and Roel waste no time in setting a fiercely dark tone for their debut feature. By beginning their story more slowly, the pair creates a great deal of tension throughout the film, meaning they are never forced to rely on jump-scares. All of the menace and fear generated is completely non-superficial, displaying the obvious benefits to laying careful foundations for a horror film, no matter its intended scare ratio.
The apparent downsides to this approach however, are slightly more noticeable and the film’s incredibly slow pacing. Andrés and Roel spend such a great deal of time building towards their epic conclusion that for the most part, the entire second act of their film is lost amongst rather dull exchanges between characters. Ultimately, when the climax does arrive in all its bloody glory, there is a great deal of fanfare, and the two newbie directors land their near-farcical toning brilliantly. It’s a shame that all of these crowd-pleasing moments land only in the film’s dying minutes, and that for the most part, Shrew’s Nest comes across as a little too gentle in its approach. Andrés and Roel’s finale is packed with such joyous wit and genuine adoration for the genre that it makes one feel almost ripped off by the rest of the picture. If such a manner had been maintained throughout the entire film, we could well be looking at one of the finest horror movies of the year, instead of simply praising part of it.
Shrew’s Nest is by no means a bad stab at European horror: it stands strong, packed with a whole host of defining moments, but Andrés and Roel sadly only really reach their stride at the very end. This is a promising start for the young Spaniards, and proof that they have a good enough command of the genre to make them certainly names to watch out for in the future.
Shrew’s Nest, directed by Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, is showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival on 8 & 10 October. Tickets are available from whatson.bfi.org.uk. Watch the trailer below.