Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fragile (2005)

Jaume Balaguero is a considerable talent in the horror genre. Just check out his filmography if you don't believe me. And here he is, working once again with writer Jordi Galceran, to provide more thrills and chills for fright fans, with a tale that takes place in a hospital for children that's due to be closed down.

Calista Flockhart stars as a nurse, Amy Nicholls, who comes to work in the hospital for its last few days of operation. The children left in the hospital seem to share a collective fear of some presence in the hospital, something that may be connected to the abandoned second floor, and Amy starts to share their apprehension, to say the least, as she finds out more about her new workplace from a young girl named Maggie (Yasmin Murphy).

From the very first scenes to the final shot of the movie, Fragile is a film concerned with keeping viewers creeped out. There are moments to make you wince, and there are one or two gore gags, but the focus is always on genuine scares that mount up to create an atmosphere of real dread.

With a title relating to a number of different elements within the movie, it's hard not to jokingly refer to the lead role as the one that Flockhart was born to play (considering how often her fragile physical appearance has been the subject of celebrity gossip mags in previous years) but I'll try to restrain myself. Yet, it's equally hard not to want to scatter extra praise on her performance in an attempt to compensate for those who will write her off as "Ally McBeal". She's excellent here, and really IS perfect for the role. Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Colin McFarlane and Gemma Jones are all also very good, while young Murphy holds her own alongside her adult co-stars.

The script, co-written by Balaguero and Galceran, stumbles here and there (especially during one particularly awkward scene between Flockhart and Roxburgh), but those mis-steps are easily forgotten as the tension ratchets up and up, and everything slots into place for a finale that could go in any direction.

Reminiscent of great modern ghost stories such as The Devil's Backbone, The Orphanage, and A Tale Of Two Sisters, this is an impressively straightforward horror that should be a high priority for any fan after something genuinely creepy. Balaguero may have disappointed me slightly with Darkness, but he's made up for it many times over in the intervening years. This is another reason to look forward to everything he does.



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