Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Did El tren de la bruja Inpsire Hostel?

Last year I saw Koldo Serra's short (18 minutes) Spanish horror film, El tren de la bruja (aka The Spook House). It was released in 2003, had some success on the festival circuit, and years later will appear in another festival -- the 2010 Tabloid Witch Awards.

The film's resemblance to Hostel (2005) is remarkable.

In El tren de la bruja, a man (played by Manolo Solo) participates in a "scientific experiment about fear" -- but soon suspects that the "spook house" he's locked inside is no safe "scientific experiment," but deadly entertainment for rich sadists.

A "scientist" taunts over a microphone: "Did you really think people would pay $1,500 Euros to sit in a chair for 15 minutes? Didn't you wonder why this 'experiment' takes place in an abandoned warehouse, far off in the country? No. Imagine if you are a rich person, bored with life. What new thing might entertain you? Perhaps to see some poor, frightened fool tortured and killed."

I paraphrase, but that's the gist.

I have this film on an English-subtitled DVD, but I can only find a non-subtitled clip on You Tube:

Solo insists that the scientist's taunts are only meant to frighten him, as part of the experiment. He says he refuses to be frightened. The scientist taunts some more, then ups the ante...

So, is the experiment legit? Or are we in for some actual torture and death to entertain the rich? The outcome is neither. El tren de la bruja packs more surprises in its 18 minutes than Hostel manages at feature length.

Apart from its originality, El tren de la bruja is superior to Hostel in that it doesn't rely on graphic torture. Rather, it relies primarily on sounds and suggestions to inspire fear.

Actor Manolo Solo does a great job. His character goes through cocky arrogance, feigned courage, doubt, fear, hysteria, and cynicism over the course of 18 minutes.

As in The Blair Witch Project, El tren de la bruja's sound is an active participant in the story. The noises emanating from the dark, moving about, and changing pitch and timbre, insinuate all manner of threats. Heard but not seen, these alternating noises inspire fear by conjuring images in the audience's imagination.

Copies of El tren de la bruja may be obtained through Kimuak.com.


Also see my Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear. This blog represents a continuing discussion of my views on horror, picking up from where the book left off.

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