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LA RESIDENCIA (1969) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by goregirl

One of the first things I do when I watch a film I enjoy is look up the director’s other work. After watching director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s excellent Who Can Kill a Child? I added his only other film credit La Residencia to my queue. The rest of Serrador’s work appears to be in Spanish television. Bloody shame. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador made two very entertaining films!

Teresa is the newest student at Ms. Fourneau’s boarding school for girls. Ms. Fourneau questionable disciplinary methods are enacted by pet student Irene who relishes the power and has her own special methods for keeping her peers in line. Principle and proprietor Fourneau has her own issues including an uncomfortably intimate relationship with her teenage son Luis. She reminds Luis regularly that these girls are no good and one day he will meet a good woman like his mother. Meanwhile the list of runaways from the school is growing and it would appear that they may have never left the school at all.

I read a review that described La Residencia as being part Hammeresque gothic horror and part Giallo. That is such a perfect description, I had to use it. I should give credit to its author, but I can’t actually recall where I read it. The film takes place in a girl’s boarding school. The school itself is an impressive building full of shadowy halls to explore and rooms to investigate. The sets and costumes are terrific and the film has this lovely lushness about it that makes it extremely easy on the eyes. It is a lovely looking film with some unique touches I will speak more on later. Visually La Residencia is primo.

For a film of this ilk it was surprisingly conservative. Nudity and lesbianism are pretty much par for the course in girl’s school fare; the girl’s school girl fare I watch anyway! Nudity and lesbianism are promised but never delivered; in fact, it is really only hinted at. The film’s requisite shower scene sees the girls covered in long nightie things. Although one girl rebelliously strips for her shower and taunts Ms. Fourneau. Again, you don’t really see anything. Naughtiness is definitely of the PG variety. They are a little looser with the film’s violence, but there is very little of it. The trio of scenes you do get are not graphic but they are intense and well-executed. Despite a low body count and lack of sex La Residencia definitely has its share of memorable scenes.

 

La Residencia has a few meaty scenes to note courtesy of bad-ass teacher’s pet Irene. A disciplinary whipping for one of the girls as Ms. Fourneau supervises has some punch. Irene humiliating new student Teresa, forcing her to put on her mother’s bustier and sing a song, is also rather effective. One of my favourite scenes in the film involves sexy sewing. The girls take turns going out to the shed to meet up with a man named Henry who makes a delivery to the school once a week. Henry arrives while the girls are sitting with Ms. Fourneau sewing, knitting and doing needlepoint. One of the girls is given permission to leave and goes to meet Henry. As the girl in the shed giggles with joy, her peers are expressing their pent up sexual aggression on their home-economic projects. The camera moves from girl to girl lingering only for a few seconds on each ones expression. I had no idea needlepoint and knitting could be orgasmic.

La Residencia’s murderous central plot is where the Giallo descriptor comes in to play. The students have no idea their peers are not running away but are in fact being stalked and killed. Only the viewer is let in on the secret. Who is the killer and who will their next victim be? While I can’t say the culprit was much of a surprise I nonetheless enjoyed the wonderfully energetic and demented reveal! Speaking of Giallo, Cristina Galbó who plays Teresa was in two excellent Giallo; the 1972 film What Have You Done To Solange? and the 1975 film The Killer Must Kill Again. The film also features Maribel Martín (The Blood Spattered Bride), Lilli Palmer (Murders in the Rue Morgue, What the Peeper Saw), John Moulder-Brown (Vampire Circus), and Mary Maude (Crucible of Terror). The film is well cast; particularly Lilli Palmer who plays Ms. Fourneau with such graceful severity.

My one issue with La Residencia is too much unnecessary chatter between the girls; it bogs the film down at times. Overall, I found La Residencia quite entertaining. La Residencia is well cast, beautifully filmed, with great sets and costumes, and enough memorable and unique scenes to garner a solid recommend.

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador

Starring: Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown, Maribel Martín, Mary Maude, Cándida Losada, Pauline Challoner, Tomás Blanco, Víctor Israel, Teresa Hurtado, María José Valero

WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by goregirl

While searching for Spanish horror the one film that seemed to consistently pop up was Who Can Kill A Child? The title instantly intrigued me as I do love a good killer kid flick. Even more fun than a killer kid is a whole swarm of killer kids! How about a whole damn island of killer kids?!

Tom and Evelyn are a happily married couple vacationing in Spain and are expecting their first child. In hopes of finding some peace and quiet in the midst of a local celebration, they decide to seek out a resort town Tom visited 10 years previous called Almanzora. Despite some unsettling news about dead bodies washing up on the shore the two decide to rent a boat and seek out what they hope will be a more serene destination. As they drift towards the Island they see a small group of children playing. Once on the island however, they are surprised to find all the businesses empty and not an adult in sight. They think nothing of it initially, but as they search the island for signs of life they discover more children. But the reality of the situation becomes sickeningly clear when they run into a group of rugrats playing piñata with an adult body.

Who doesn’t love bashing a piñata?! It is pretty clear something is afoot on the island well before we see the kids bashing papa piñata but this visual revelation sure does make an impact! The discovery is fairly early in the couple’s journey and of course things get uglier from here. The film has a great intensity and atmosphere which is extra impressive considering the films action takes place in broad daylight. The violence is bathed in sunshine and is complimented by a great score featuring children’s “la,la,la’s”. The film pulls no punches and doesn’t back down from its violence on account of the kiddies. Although the violence isn’t particularly graphic there are scenes that will shock and surprise and the ending is absolutely brilliant!

During the films opening credit sequence we are shown actual footage of the holocaust and various other wars driving home the point that it is children who suffer the most during these adult made atrocities. The clips end with a starving African baby and then segue into the story by showing a shot of a chubby little white kid playing on the beach. It’s an interesting social statement although it did feel a little heavy handed. This is really the closest thing you get to any kind of explanation as to why the children have become little killers. Is there something in the makeup of the children that makes them exact revenge on behalf of those that came before them? Is it something in the water or air? Did they watch a history channel marathon? You really just don’t know. There are more than a few great horror films that offer vague or little explanation to its onscreen action but are nonetheless effective. Who Can Kill A Child? definitely falls into this category. The lack of information actually adds an additional chilliness to the proceedings. If this could happen on this island couldn’t it happen anywhere? Could a loving parent ever consider killing their own child to defend themselves? Clearly the parents on this island could not bring themselves to hurt the little ones.

Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome are perfect in their role as British tourists Tom and Evelyn. The couple is quite likeable and the dialog and chemistry between the two felt easy and realistic. The film focuses on their discoveries and the actions they take in response. Making Evelyn six months pregnant added an interesting depth. Soon to be parents themselves will they be able to hurt a child to defend themselves? There is one particularly creepy scene where Evelyn’s pregnancy is used to great effect. Evelyn is waiting for Tom in an empty bar and a little girl approaches her and touches her pregnant belly doing nothing more than smile slyly. A simple scene that chilled my shit! By the time the final credits role you get the answer to the titular question of Who Can Kill A Child?

Who Can Kill A Child? is a well-filmed, fascinating, atmospheric and intense mystery that warns to heed the little voices or one day they might just combine resources and finish us all. A great lesser known horror film that is definitely worth seeking out. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4.5/5

Directed By: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador

Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, Miguel Narros, María Luisa Arias, Marisa Porcel, Juan Cazalilla, Luis Ciges