Shrew’s Nest uses all of the conventions of the horror genre to create a film that is more than just a scary ride. It is post-war Spain. Religious iconography fills every inch of the Madrid apartment, sheltering an agoraphobic seamstress within a world of Our Fathers and Holy Marys. Montse (Macarena Gómez) hides away from life inside these four walls after being forced to parent her younger sister, who we know only by the title “the girl” (Nadia de Santiago). When the upstairs neighbour Carlos (Hugo Silva) falls down the stairs, in a scene that nods at Don Siegel’s The Beguiled (1971), he looks for help at the only door he could drag himself to. Montse reluctantly takes him in, nursing his broken leg in the spare bedroom. But, when faced with this imposition of reality, she is unwilling to let it go.
Juanfer Andrés’s and Esteban Roel’s debut feature plays homage to the B movies of Jesùs Franco and Juanma Bajo Ulloa with its repressed claustrophobic framing of the first half that increasingly becomes more frantic and frenzied in the second – dramatizing the protagonist’s neurosis. Gómez has both a strength and a vulnerability that allows Montse to be the villain and the victim. At times, we hate her and at times we feel sorry for her. Others, we laugh at her as she juggles exuberant gore with dark humour.
The design of Shrew’s Nest is like a Russian nesting doll. We have the basis for a story that conforms to the genre expectations of horror but inside there lies suspense, romance and comedy. Each element is placed one inside the other until we reach the innermost piece. What do you do when you find out the person you love is a monster? Catholicism, ghostly delusions, a Misery-esque scenario of captive/captor, and a good measure of violence make this a solid film for horror aficionados. Yet, ultimately, Andrés’s and Roel’s Shrew’s Nest is a tragedy that unravels to be an unsettling and thoughtful comment on family relationships.
A dysfunctional family dynamic between two sisters makes this Spanish contribution to the horror genre an interesting exploration of trauma and repressed desire. With an atmosphere that is reminiscent of ’60s B movies and a complex character development, Shrew’s Nest is an impressive first feature for the duo directors.
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Shrew’s Nest has no release date yet.