Spanish title: Películas para no dormir: Para entrar a vivir
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Produced by Álvaro Augustin, Carlos Fernández, Julio Fernández, Santiago Gimeno, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Aitor Montánchez and Goretti Pagès for Estudios Picasso, Filmax, Telecinco, Generalitat de Catalunya – Institut Català de les Indústries Culturals (ICIC), Castelao Producciones
Story and screenplay: Jaume Balagueró, Alberto Marini
Music: Roque Baños, Mariano Marín
Cinematographer: Pablo Rosso
Editor: Frank Gutiérrez
Art director: Alain Bainée
Coming in at just under 70 minutes, To Let follows Clara (Macarena Gómez) and Mario (Adrià Collado), a young couple expecting their first child and looking for a more suitable – but cheap – flat to move into. After receiving a flyer through the post, they head to the outskirts to look at a promising sounding apartment. Despite their reservations – the area is a dump, the apartment block squalid and in need of serious renovation – they agree to be shown around by the persistent letting agent (Nuria González). Unfortunately, it turns out that she isn’t really the letting agent, she’s actually the former manager, who’s been driven mad by the imminent destruction of the block and is determined to gain new tenants, by whatever means she can. And Clara and Mario look like just the kind of people who she wants to move in…
To Let is a slight, but highly entertaining, little psycho-thriller from Jaume Balagueró, the hottest name in Spanish horror at the moment. It was made by Filmax for Spanish TV as part of the Films to Keep You Awake (Películas para no dormir) series in 2006, a kind of Hispanic equivalent to the succesful US Masters of Horror, which basically gave some prominent genre names the chance to make pretty much whatever they wanted for the television medium. Maybe it would be an idea for one of the British digital channels to do something similar – they could wheel out someone like Norman Warren, get Clive Barker back to blighty and let some of the newer blood (Neil Marshall, Chris Smith) have a go as well.
This is a slick and effective little film. Balagueró is a highly capable genre director, and handles everything with commensurate skill; there are some decent shock moments, the pacing is good and some of the more subtle incidentals are suitably spooky. Furthermore, the whole thing is bathed in a similarly creepy atmosphere to that which he bought to his previous productions, Fragile, The Darkness and The Nameless, helped no end by the extremely horrid apartment block where it’s set (it’s something of a Balagueró trademark to have these disintegrating buildings that have somehow become populated by evil forces). And, with it’s limited running time, the somewhat limited plot isn’t allowed to drag, meaning that it’s anything but dull.
It also benefits from decent performances. Macarena Gómez had previously featured in smaller roles on Filmax productions such as Romasanta and Dagon, not to mention the S Club 7 movie S Club Seeing Double (!), and does a good job as the panicked heroine, while Adrià Collado has less to do but certainly looks the part and suffers for his art. The standout, though, is the nutty Nuria González, a popular TV and film actress who appeared in Torremolinos 73 among many others, and who is great fun as the sinister landlady.
Review by Matt Blake, 2007