Nobody tell Robert Fure, but my choice for this week’s Coroner’s Report is a bit lacking in the sticky red stuff. Even worse by his standards there may not even be any real deaths in the entire movie.
But it does have mysterious happenings in a big, spooky house along with pain, suffering and one or two vengeful, scorned women.
The Hidden Face (aka La cara oculta) is a Spanish thriller about a man whose girlfriend Belén disappears leaving him the number one suspect in the eyes of the police. He takes up with another woman shortly thereafter, but as the new girl, Fabiana, begins to spend time in the house alone she starts hearing noises and experiencing odd events. Could Belén be reaching out from beyond the grave for vengeance? Or is there something even more sinister at play…
Umm, possibly none?
Lots! More than enough to make up for the lack of grisly kills and bloodletting! Fabiana shows her naughty bits fairly often, which is very kind of her as they’re lovely bits to behold in the shower, bathtub, bedroom, etc. Belén is a bit more stingy with her flesh, but it’s still on display once or twice.
If you suspect your boyfriend is cheating on you don’t plan an elaborate scheme to catch him in the act. It will not end well. Especially if you are an idiot. On an unrelated note, the film also teaches us that if you’re a bland actor of average talent and looks the Spanish film industry is happy to cast you in sexy sex scenes with two lovely and uninhibited actresses.
The general setup here is one we’ve seen before, but The Hidden Face does some interesting things with the story. So interesting in fact that I’m going to reveal very little of it here.
We first meet Adrian (Quim Gutiérrez) sitting on the floor watching a video from his girlfriend, Belén (Clara Lago). She can’t handle his wandering eye any longer (his left one). Her belongings are all gone, and so is she. Adrian heads out to a bar where he flirts with Fabiana (Martina García), the sexy bartender, and drinks to the point where she takes him back to her place to sleep. The two hit it off and soon they’re dating and she’s spending the night at his large house outside of town.
It’s not too long before she’s hearing sounds, possibly voices, that are just unclear enough to understand. The lights cut out at inopportune times, strange vibrations ripple through the tub and sink and she gets the feeling that something, or someone, is trying to get her attention.
That’s basically the first act at which point a quick zoom into the bedroom mirror moves us earlier into the story via an extended flashback. We see Adrian and Belén’s early courtship and their move into the mansion, but we also get a glimpse of her suspicions. Adrian is a wildly talented and popular orchestral conductor, and all signs point to him and a female violinist making sleazy music together.
Belén notices the possible infidelity and confronts him.
And from that point forward you’re on your own. It’s a trip worth taking as the film has more than a few surprises in store for you thanks to a fairly sharp script from co-writer/director Andrés Baiz. Major plot elements are revealed quicker than you’d expect, but it never deflates the suspense or mystery. In fact the more you know the more you’ll start to worry about one of the characters.
Baiz also ensures that the film looks quite good as it moves from Spain to Colombia. Granted, you wouldn’t know the movie jumps an entire ocean if they didn’t tell you, but it looks good regardless. The house is shot with care to be both beautiful and creepy, and it helps add to a strong atmosphere of uncertainty and deceit.
The film’s biggest weakness is actually one of its three leads. Happily it’s the one you’ll care least about. Gutiérrez is the blandest thing to come out of Spain since the mop. (Seriously, look it up.) His performance is flat, uninteresting and completely devoid of charisma. How he attracts these two (or three) Spanish beauties is beyond me.
Thankfully both García and Lago carry the film emotionally and in regard to the narrative. The scorned woman and the saying that goes along with them are major themes here, but again, Baiz doesn’t use the idea in the traditional way. And as mentioned above, García shows up naked just as often as she does clothed. She’s probably a bit too small-breasted for Fure’s taste, but anything more than a mouthful is a waste anyway so no one will be complaining.
The Hidden Face was just released on DVD from Fox’s new World Cinema label, and it’s definitely worth a rent. It’s a twisted and creepy thriller that keeps your attention until the final frame and entertains along the way.