Mario and his pregnant girlfriend Clara are trying to find in a short period a new apartment to live since they have sold their apartment and they need to move in fifteen days. When Mario fi... Read allMario and his pregnant girlfriend Clara are trying to find in a short period a new apartment to live since they have sold their apartment and they need to move in fifteen days. When Mario finds an attractive advertisement in his mailbox, he convinces Clara to visit the place with... Read allMario and his pregnant girlfriend Clara are trying to find in a short period a new apartment to live since they have sold their apartment and they need to move in fifteen days. When Mario finds an attractive advertisement in his mailbox, he convinces Clara to visit the place with him. He drives to a far area in the periphery and meets the real estate agent in front of... Read all
'To Let' is a creepy and unnerving Spanish horror that, to my bemusement upon looking it up after seeing it, was made for television. This works with and against the film: the fact it was made for TV means it will have been produced with the conformities associated with television, namely time limit which is a shame because if the film had been starched out a little further, I feel it would have been a lot better. The film clocks in at just over an hour but what an hour you get there will be suspense, an atmosphere, dread and plenty of nasty little scenes to keep you occupied.
But then again I'm going to go back to the constraints that keep the film from being great. Because of the limitations faced with this made for TV production, the film must treat its subject matter like a sprint more-so than a marathon and that means instead of establishing the couple at the beginning, we begin with them in a car going to the apartment it would also eliminate the flashbacks included half way through which, to me, felt a little out of place. Again, the constraints work against the brilliant idea. There are scenes in the film in which the little old lady who runs the apartment acts in a caring and, to her, natural manner. The scene in which she helps the female of the dreaded couple cook a meal for the injured other half feels all over the place because this landlady is supposed to be the antagonist of the story and to have her flash between good and natural and evil and nasty is a little frustrating due to the character's inconsistency.
But rather than go on about what I would have liked to have seen had the film been longer, I will say that the film works overall as the piece that it is. The idea is excellent and the film captures its own premise brilliantly by utilising its location of an apartment building. I've been to Spain twice in the last two and a half years and on both occasions I stayed in an apartment building run by a landlady eerie as it sounds. But the large, marble walls that greet you when you enter and surround you unless you are in your respective room work really well here. So do the open, echoing corridors and staircases that just add menace to the situation and location. So the apartment location works wonderfully well here and credit to the director for capturing a location that resembles a real life locale so much, because I've been there and stayed in two respective apartment buildings in the Mediterranean region and I can tell you; just the 'look' and 'feeling' of being there is captured 100%.
So along with these ideas of getting right the setting and most of the other aspects of mise-en-scene, To Let is not just let down by its shortish runtime. But then again, perhaps it is because the logistical flaws that begin to creep in toward the end can only really be put down to its short run time: the film is a sprint, not a marathon and thus must round things off quickly by speeding up its plot points and revelations. There are times in the film when you think the characters will either be smarter or more bloodthirsty. I'm going to reference another 2006 horror film similar to this one; Eli Roth's first Hostel attempt. When Paxton finds himself in the situation he's in when the film enters its final third, he knows its kill or be killed and as a result shoots and chops his way out of trouble - he has gone from 'innocent', fun-loving young adult to killer and that's exactly what I would have expected in this film.
The truth is the characters of Mario (Collado) and his twin-protagonist girlfriend are still just too nice to strike out. Mario cannot attack the old woman with a mêlée weapon in the kitchen soon enough and when Mario's other half and another captive are in an elevator trying to escape, the land lady's face comes right up to a grill: the hostages have a sharp knife at their disposal and will win the battle if they had just used it right there. By this point, and especially when another character whom we thought was a captive but is actually on the landlady's side is released, the couple at the start are not smart enough or fit enough to survive and it's a shame that their idiocy sees them come so close to loosing out in the end.
Twinned with this, the music playing throughout sounds like it's from some 1950s, American sci-fi B-movie and it is difficult to get your head around the fact that the antagonist is, after all, a little old lady who I doubt would put up much of a fight if properly challenged. This made me wonder during the film: what if the landlady was actually a male? The film would've been much more savage since it is the girlfriend who is chased and humiliated for most of the early exchanges and there could've been some great scenes where the landlord is fought, beaten but then is strong enough to get back up again and continue the chase. Still, with a longer time allowance; more money and bigger exposure I guess anything is possible.
- May 14, 2008