Friday, 22 August 2014

Anguish (1987)

Anguish is an interesting, quirky horror movie that fails, but fails in a way that keeps things entertaining and interesting throughout.

First of all, there's a film within the film. A strange, nasty slasher movie starring Michael Lerner and Zelda Rubinstein, with the latter playing the mother of the former. Eventually, viewers are allowed to see that other people are viewing this film in a cinema. We start to watch the watchers, as it were. One pair of girls, Patty (Talia Paul) and Linda (Clara Pastor), seem more affected than anyone else in the audience. To be fair, Patty is more twitchy and nervous than a first-time drug mule having his crotch sniffed by a German Shepherd, while poor Linda is just doing what she can to console her irrationally terrified friend. And then a killer appears. Another killer. Not the one in the film within the film, but one simply in the film. Just watch the thing and you'll soon understand what I'm trying to say.

Written and directed by Bigas Luna, better known for the likes of Golden Balls and Jamon Jamon, this is such a curio that I heartily recommend it to all horror fans, despite the fact that the poor script and overacting combine to drag it down when considering a standard score/rating.

Lerner is the best thing onscreen, giving a wonderful performance that mixes real creepiness with occasional hints of a child-like innocence (especially in the way he is controlled by his mother). Rubinstein, on the other hand, is allowed to go over the top, and she does so with great gusto. Yet it's not too painful to watch. What is painful to watch is the hand-wringing, squirming performance from Paul, saddled with the role of "worst person to watch a horror movie in the cinema ever". Pastor fares a lot better, although that's not so hard when she's alongside Paul, and other people in the cinema who seem to have wandered in from the cinema featured in Demons (loud reactions to whatever is happening onscreen, uncharacteristic concern for fellow movie-goers, complete ignorance of major violence occurring nearby - Demons fans will know what I mean).

I know, I know, I've not done a very good job of encouraging others to see this movie. I've also yet to mention how boring it can be for many scenes. This is not a film for someone seeking out a hidden gem. Some will find it dull and horrible, I have no doubt about that, while others will find some fun, as I did, buried under the offputting surface elements. The layering of the movie alone, and the ambiguity of those layers, allows it to have more intelligence than it could otherwise be credited with.

Give it a whirl one evening when you're after something a bit different.



  1. Whoa, Wait, What? 5/10? Okay, hang on.

    I agree with just about everything in the review except the rating. Although, just to clarify, yes, the movie crowd is very DEMONS-like, but that's hardly a bad thing. . .is it?

    I love this movie, and I'm a little surprised you found it logy at times. There's enough weird going on throughout that I was always entertained, be it gore, over-the-top performances, or the duality of the onscreen/offscreen action.

    1. I just found it surprisingly dull, despite the potential for real lunacy at every turn.

      And, yeah, a Demons-like crowd ain't no bad thing ;-)