The Promise

Carmen Maura as the batty biddy in La promesa
Carmen Maura as the batty biddy in La promesa

Spanish title: La promesa
Country: Spain
2004
Genre: Horror
Director: Héctor Carré
Produced by Francisco Arnoso ‘Pixi’, José Antonio Félez, Eduardo Santana, Antonio Varela, Moncho Varela for Tesela Producciones Cinematográficas (46.05%), Pórtico de Comunicaciones S.L. (46.05%), Television de Galicia S.A. (7.9%)
Story and screenplay: Héctor Carré, José Antonio Félez
Music: Suso Rey, Manuel Varela
Cinematographer: Juan Carlos Gómez
Editor: Nacho Ruiz Capillas
Cast: Carmen Maura (Celia), Ana Fernández (Dorita), Juan Margallo (Roberto), Santiago Barón (Daniel), Evaristo Calvo (Leandro), Xulio Lago (Senén), Luisa Merelas (Felisa), Antonio F. Simón (Don Damián), Luis Iglesia (Doctor), Víctor Mosqueira (Cura), Chete Lera (Amable)
Spanish takings: €335.864,56
Spanish spectators: 67.498
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€651.334,00), Ayudas a la Conservación de Negativos y soportes originales (€8.799,46), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€29.149,08)
Budget: €2,000,000 (estimated)

The Promise
The Promise

Synopsis

Carmen Maura plays Gregoria, a downtrodden housewife with little education, less experience and an abusive husband to boot. One day she witnesses a painter falling from a high scaffold and, just before he dies of his head injuries, he encourages her to visit his hometown, a small coastal village in Galicia. After experiencing a couple of schizophrenic attacks she murders her husband, ups sticks and moves to the aforementioned village, finding a job as maid and nanny for horrible lawyer Leandro (Evaristo Calvo), his dippy wife Dorita (Ana Fernández) and their creepy son Daniel (Santiago Barón). However, her mental state continues to decline and murder ensues…

Review

Here’s another entry in the ‘batty biddy’ cycle of films (see also the recent Italian production The Butterfly Room and, of course, the great grandmummy of them all, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?). This time out it comes from Spain and so it’s also infused with a couple of typically Hispanic flavorings: religion looms large; ghosts are hiding in the undergrowth; and the story focuses on the troubled intersection between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ ways of life in the country.

Although not the best Spanish horror film of recent years, La promesa is a decent psychological thriller which makes the most of the beautiful Galician locations. It feels curiously old fashioned, both in terms of it’s themes and it’s ambiance, and at times it reminded me of the classic Spanish horror A Candle for the Devil. The narrative is rather sprawling, including a number of strands which go nowhere, but Galician director Héctor Carré directs it with some skill. The whole thing is held together by an excellent central performance from Pedro Almodóvar favorite Carmen Maura, who manages to make Gregoria both sympathetic and terrifying.

Review by Matt Blake, 2016

Rating: Rating: 6/10

What the critics said

“The shadow of “The Turn of the Screw” hangs heavy over Hector Carre’s “The Promise,” an offbeat, mostly effective study of madness that combines a psychological study, a supernatural yarn and a tale of domestic violence to surprisingly rounded effect. Built around a multifaceted central perf by Carmen Maura, as a mentally disturbed woman embarking on a new life, pic’s ambition leads it into moments of uncertainty, and even though the horror-meter never really budges, film leaves a memorably atmospheric aftertaste.” Jonathan Holland, Variety.

Notes and further information

 

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