10/19/2020

32 Malasana Street (Review)

Director: Albert Pintó
Writers: Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, David Orea, Salvador S. Molina
Cast:  Begoña Vargas, Iván Marcos, Bea Segura, Sergio Castellanos, José Luis de Madariaga
Year: 2020
Min: 104

This film opens with a 1972 prologue, involving two kids getting the shit scared out of them by a creepy old lady. The story then jumps to the time period the rest of it takes place in: 1976. The Olmedo family have left their simple village life to move into a bargain priced but spacious, and fully furnished (!), apartment in Madrid. They have plucked down the last bit of cash that they have into this place, so there is no going back for them. The problem is that this is the same place we saw at the beginning of the flick. Of course, you know what that means! Yup, weird and creepy shit begins to happen. This includes marbles that roll on their own, their older son seeing a mysterious a lady across the window, a TV that talks to their youngest son Rafeal (Iván Renedo), and more. The female ghost that is haunting soon ups her terror tactics on the family, as she determined to get what she wants from them.

32 Malasana Street is a Spanish ghost/ haunted house movie that is reportedly based on a true story. While, I don't know how close this film is to the actual events depicted, it is an enjoyable ride either way. This movie is the second feature length movie from Albert Pintó having directed and co-written the 2017 film Killing God.  

Director and co-writer Pintó really know how to handle and pile on the creepy atmosphere, as he ratchets up the fear factor and pile on the scares with his pretty intense and suspenseful directing. The film even manages to have jump scares that actually work! As a matter of fact, there is at least one or two jump scares that are among the best that I have seen in a very long time. His style makes for a very good looking movie, with a couple of cool and, even, beautiful shots that really stick out in mind. And, speaking of things that are cool, I love the creepy, old lady puppet on the TV, She fucking rules!

To me, ghost stories, most of the time, work best when the spirits remain unseen. And, for the most part, this movie adheres to this. Thankfully whenever we can actually see the ghost, she remains extremely creepy. This is thanks to the lighting and editing which manage to chill the viewer. Said editing feels nice and tight and works excellently with the solid camera-work to help enhance the scares and tension. Long time horror fans will probably not find this movie to be terrifying, but they will appreciate the highly entertaining creep factor. Those more easily frightened will probably be scared shitless, though. 

The acting from the whole cast is excellent, and their characters come off as believable and likable. It makes the viewer care about what is happening and adds to the terror. You don't want anything bad to happen to this family. This all results in giving you that white knuckle feel that will keep your fist clenched whenever any of them are menaced. 

On the negative side, the movie heavily borrows from Poltergeist and the Insidious franchise. This makes the story beats not feel wholly original. But, thankfully the movie is such a fun and well made affair, that I didn't ultimately really mind this. Whereas, had I been watching a lesser film, it would've bugged me to no end. That being said when the plot and the ghost's true nature/ origin are revealed, it's really quite good. I won't give out any spoilers, but I will say that the movie feels very timely and has an important message. This, in turn, makes the ghost a sympathetic monster, something, that when done right (like here), I love.

 I find that ghost/ haunted house films are among the hardest to pull off successfully in horror. However, 32 Malasana Street hits most of the right notes. Sure, it doesn't add much, if anything new, to the genre, but it is still a frighteningly fun, rollercoaster flick. The directing, editing, and camera-work enhance the creepiness and tension. Most of the jump scares work, with one or two ranking among the best I've seen, in a long time. The acting and likable characters helps to add to the tension and fright. And, while the film borrows from others in the sub-genre, it also manages to add a ghostly origin that is timely, respectful, and makes us sympathizing with the spirit. That it accomplishes this while still keeping her menacing and scary, is quite the achievement. The movie is overall a tense and fun time, that some might find legit scary. The flick starts streaming on Shudder this Thursday, October 22, 2020. 

3 out of 4

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