Films to Keep You Awake: Spectre

Juan José Ballesta in Spectre
Juan José Ballesta in Spectre

Spanish title: Películas para no dormir: Regreso a Moira
Country: 2006
Genre: [[genres:horror|Horror]]
Director: Mateo Gil
Produced by Álvaro Augustin, Carlos Fernández, Julio Fernández, Santiago Gimeno and Félix Rodríguez for Estudios Picasso, Filmax, Telecinco, Castelao Producciones
Story and screenplay: Mateo Gil, Igor Legarreta
Music: Zacarías M. de la Riva
Cinematographer: Josu Inchaustegui
Editor: Carlos Agulló, Mateo Gil
Art director: Félix Murcia
Cast: Juan José Ballesta (Tomás (joven)), Natalia Millán (Moira), Jordi Dauder (Tomás), Victoria Mora (Carmen), David Arnaiz (Carlos (joven)), Adrián Marín (Vicente (joven)), José Ángel Egido (Carlos), Miguel Rellán (Vicente), Mayte Cedeño (Fantasma), Joserra Cadiñanos (Don Anselmo), Walter Prieto (Ramón), Elisa Medina (Mujer 1), Helena Castañeda (Mujer 2), Elsa Bodem (Greta), Juan Aballe (Marc (voice)), Joe Lewis (Tomas (voice)), Alejandro Amenábar (Man Looking at Statue), Eduardo Noriega (Man looking at statue)


Following the suicide of his wife, wealthy businessman Tomás (Jordi Dauder) returns to his hometown after an absence of some forty odd years. Over that whole period, though, he’s been haunted by the events of his youth. As a young teenager, he had fallen in love with a glamorous older woman, Moira (Natalia Millán), who lived in an isolated villa just out of town and was treated with suspicion by all the locals, who suspected her to be a prostitute and witch.

In time, the two of them had become lovers, but Tomás – jealous of her supposed clients – ended up accusing her of bewitching him (and of having sex with the devil for good measure). Outraged, the townspeople decided to administer their own rough justice, and burn her to death.

In the present, however, it looks like Moira is trying to speak to Tomás from beyond the grave: he suffers increasingly disturbing dreams, has visions of a shrouded figure and hears reports that her ghost has continued to haunt the local area.


Films to Keep You Awake: Spectre
Films to Keep You Awake: Spectre

The Spectre was Matteo Gil’s contribution to the ‘Films to Keep You Awake’ series made for Spanish TV in 2006 (see also To Let). Gil was one of the less known contributors, more familiar as the writer of Thesis and Open Your Eyes than as a filmmaker in his own right, but his work here shows him to be a more than capable director as well. It will be interesting to see how his next project, Pedro Paramo, turns out.

This is a really good little film, more elegiac and less frenetic than To Let but possibly more effective. The meat of the film is composed of the flashbacks to Tomás’ youth, and these are excellently done, having a similar kind of feel to other rural Gothic films such as I’m Not Scared, The Devil’s Backbone and even Don’t Torture a Duckling, all of which also revolve around adolescent boys on the cusp of adulthood. The performances of the young actors is also much better than could reasonably have been expected (Juan José Ballesta has won several awards for his work on Ladrones (2007), 7 Virgins (2005) and Planta 4a (2003)).

The present day sequences are the more specifically spooky, and there are some effective ‘hallucinations’ (this film wins an award for the most sinister use of a living statue). There’s a tiny bit of social comment thrown in for good measure – Moira’s long-abandoned villa is now surrounded by cranes and half built villas, an unsightly development that seems to match the poisonous events of the past.

Rating: 5/10

Review by Matt Blake, 2007



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