Spanish title: Romasanta
Country: Spain (78.4%) | UK (21.6%)
Director: Paco Plaza
Produced by Julio Fernández, Brian Yuzna, Carlos Fernández (Executive producer) for Catelao Productions S.A. (78.4%), Future Films Ltd (21.6%)
Story and screenplay: Alfredo Conde (story), Elena Serra, Alberto Marini
Music: Mikel Salas
Cinematographer: Javier Salmones
Editor: David Gallart
Art director: Balter Gallart
Cast: Julian Sands (Manuel Romasanta), Elsa Pataky (Bárbara), John Sharian (Antonio), Gary Piquer (District Attorney Luciano de la Bastida), David Gant (Professor Philips), Maru Valdivielso (María), Luna McGill (Teresa), Carlos Reig-Plaza (Gómez), Reg Wilson (Judge), Ivana Baquero (Ana), Laura Mañá (Antonia), Sergi Ruiz (Francisco), Itziar Fenollar (Benita), Carlos Sante (Hunter 1), Jaume Montané (Raúl), Arantxa Peña (Helena), Anna Estellés (Paula), Ben Temple (Defending Counsel), Tacho González (Police Officer 1), Pep García (Laborer), Alejandra Juno (Laundress), Jesús Berenguer (Merchant), John Easthman (Police Officer 2), Macarena Gómez (Romasanta’s victim)
Spanish takings: €432.671,49
Spanish spectators: 92,156
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€762.740,05), Ayudas a la Conservación de Negativos y soportes originales (€16.665,15), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€29.149,09)
Budget: €4,500,000 (estimated)
Set in the mid-19th century, Barbara (Elsa Pataky) is a young woman who takes a shine to her elder sister’s new boyfriend, travelling salesman Romasanta (Julian Sands). Unfortunately, Romasanta is not all he seems: he suffers from a delusion that he’s actually a wolf and is driven to murder people with alarming regularity. When Barbara’s sisters are both killed, and not realising that it was he who was responsible, she initially embarks upon an affair with him. Before long, though, she’s confronted by a hulking oddball called Antonio (John Sharian), who turns out to be Romasanta’s former partner-in-crime and who tells her exactly what they’ve been up to. In search of revenge, she pursues her ex-lover across the Spanish countryside…
Romasanta is yet another of the numerous films made in recent years by Castelao, Spain’s contemporary equivalent of Hammer (see also To Die in San Hilario). As with all of their productions, it’s a slick, effective and entertaining piece of cinema that deserves more attention than it’s received since its release in 2005.
Based on a true story, it’s a novel take on the werewolf legend, eschewing the supernatural in favour of a kind of psychodrama that reminded me a lot of the recent adaptation of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (which – surprise, surprise – Castelao also put money into).
A kind of historical serial killer flick, this is all put together with some skill by director Paco Plaza (who had previously made the effective Second Name (El Segundo nombre, 2002) and more recently co-directed the succesful [Rec] with Jaume Balagueró). It also benefits from a clever script by Alfredo Conde and Elena Serra, which throws in some interesting narrative diversions (such as an early Psychologist (David Gant) who becomes involved in the case, recalling Patrick Magee’s character in Demons of the Mind). Some of the photography is very classy indeed, and certain scenes – Romasanta’s capture in a field of agricultural workers, for instance – are composed with some elan. It’s all very different to it’s title and most of the marketing information, which would indicate it to be a cheesy monster movie of the Van Helsing ilk.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Julian Sands, who often has a tendency to be wooden, but he’s managed to chalk up a really very curious filmography (this is a guy who’s worked for Ken Russell, Dario Argento, Carlo Lizzani, Nicolas Gessner, the Taviani brothers, David Cronenberg, Mauro Bolognini, Wim Wenders and Mike Figgis!) He’s actually very good in this, and the part really suits his somewhat lupine visage. The gorgeous Elsa Pataky is good as the heroine, and there’s capable support from interesting performers like John Sharian, Gary Piquer and David Gant (something of a post-millennial horror staple).
Review by Matt Blake, 2008
What the critics said
“Spinning something cinematically new out of lycanthropy is always a challenge, but director Paco Plaza intermittently achieves it with his sophomore feature, historical horror yarn Romasanta. Based on a true story from the 19th century, offbeat pic is cleverly ambiguous where it counts; however, it lacks dramatic focus, and subtlety in plot and characterization takes second place to well-turned visual and sonic effects. ” Jonathan Holland, Variety.