May 25, 2012

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Mythic. Unique. Simply out of this world. The seductive and mysterious figure of Marilyn Monroe is perhaps the greatest icon that cinema has created since its invention. Her meteoric career and sudden death have combined to make of Norma Jean Mortensen (her real name) a modern myth, the perfect embodiment of the dream factory that Hollywood intends to be. A truly pure symbol of the huge impact that cinema has in modern life. And a big part of this myth is to discover just how much of her was the goddess MArilyn and how much was still Norma Jean, the shy and insecure young woman with the dream of being more than a movie star, of being a real artist. This side of her personality is the one seen in the memoirs of Colin Clark, whom in 1957 worked as assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier at the time when Marilyn traveled to the United Kingdom to make "The Prince and the Showgirl". And his cinema memories return now to the big screen with "My Week with Marilyn".

"My Week with Marilyn" tells the story of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a young man recently graduated from University whose greatest desire is to abandon the life of privilege he has with his parents and enter the film industry. To achieve this, Clark moves to London hoping to find a job at Sir Laurence Olivier's (Kenneth Branagh) production company. Thanks to his perseverance, Clark wins the support of Olivier's wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), and his first assignment is to find a house for the star of Olivier's next film: Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Winning the job of third assistant director, Clark enters the world of cinema, finding himself in the middle of the whirlwind that is the shooting of a movie, where he discovers a different side of Marilyn, one rarely seen by her fans: a fragile and insecure Marilyn who tries to win respect as an actress by facing the royalty of British cinema.

With a screenplay adapted by Adrian Hodges, "My Week with Marilyn" in a way tells two stories at once: the coming of age story of young Colin Clark as he enters the film industry, and the struggle of Marilyn Monroe against the world, against Laurence Olivier, against her fears, against herself. Hodges ties both plots with skill, developing Clark's startup in the industry at the same time that Olivier prepares Marilyn's coming to the United Kingdom. Although, while certainly Hodges offers a pretty interesting perspective of the craftsmanship of filmmaking through Colin Clark's young eyes, in the end it is Marilyn's story what ends up absorbing the other. And this is because Hodges offers a captivating portrait of Marilyn's complex personality. Hodges' Marilyn is a Monroe at the top of her game, she's a star, a goddess, but deep inside, she's still a fragile and insecure actress struggling to win the respect of her colleagues.

A TV veteran (with a filmography that includes popular TV series "Cranford" and one of the better adaptations of Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield"), British director Simon Curtis makes the jump to the big screen with "My Week with Marilyn", in which he revives the moment of the clash between the greatest star of American cinema and the most celebrated actor of the United Kingdom. This clash of personalities, a clash of legends, is the most interesting element in "My Week with Marilyn", because in Curtis' film, the focus isn't exactly in the visual aspect of the movie (though it's worth to point out that the time period is nicely represented), but in his skillful handling of actors. To Curtis, the interest lays in uncovering the human side that's hiding deep inside the film industry, behind the glamour and the make up, and to achieve this, director Simon Curtis has made a movie where the faces, particularly the eyes, speak louder than any any line of dialog.

Naturally, performances become of great importance in this kind of cinema that bases its power in the actor's work, and while there are a couple of tragic exceptions; in general, it can be said that the cast of "My Week with Marilyn" makes a remarkable job. Playing the legendary Marilyn, actress Michelle Williams makes a formidable job in which she brings up the great complexity that her character has. With great talent, Williams revives scenes from "The Prince and the Showgirl", capturing that vibrant magic that Monroe gave to each of her performances, and at the same time, manages to portrait the demons that plagued Marilyn, those that made so difficult for her to create those celebrated performances. Unfortunately, Eddie Redmayne, who plays Colin Clark, is quite below WIlliams' work, delivering a performance so poor that visibly affects the film, as the young actor lacks chemistry with Williams and more than once he looks wooden and weak.

However, Curtis backs himself with a solid supporting cast, where Judi Dench and Emma Watson are specially memorable as, despite having minor roles deliver a first class work of acting. Watson in particular is a more than nice surprise, as she demonstrates that without a doubt she was the more gifted amongst the young cast of the "Harry Potter" series. It's kind of sad that Curtis had not been able to bring out of Redmayne a better performance, as even when he's playing the lead character he ends up easily overshadowed by other cast members. Curiously, this makes an even greater problem to become obvious: captivated by Marilyn's alluring persona, Hodges' screenplay almost leaves totally aside the story of Colin Clark, which ends up like a mere excuse to introduce Marilyn's inner conflicts, where the true soul of the story really is. In a way, this isn't really strange, as after all, she's not any actress, she's the one and only Marilyn Monroe.

In the end, "My week with Marilyn" is a nice exploration of the great cinema icon, Marilyn Monroe, which offers a superb performance by Michelle Williams. It's a real pity that said performance doesn't find echo in a good counterpart from Redmayne, but at least it's surrounded by a group of wonderful supporting actors. While traditional in his vision, Simon's Curts's work allows his cast to show their talents, which is translated in a movie that even when deals with the stuff that dreams are made of, it still very human.In fact, it's this great humanity what sets it apart from other biopics about Monroe, making of this a films that, while imperfect, it's still quite enjoyable. Specially if one's seduced by the magic of the legendary blonde.


May 23, 2012

Morgiana (1972)

While often considered separate from the Czechoslovak New Wave, director Juraj Herz began his career right at the core of the movement that would redefine Czechoslovak film industry. The fact that he wasn't a student of the Film and TV School of The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Herz was from the Theatre Faculty) distanced him from the movement, but also allowed him to shape his very own style, which was a bit more traditional in form yet not less subversive. In fact, Herz' willingness to work around the constrains of genres allowed him to keep his eccentric and idiosyncratic vision intact even during the years of the Normalization, when the liberalization of the Prague Spring ended and a new time of censorship began. Herz' horror film "Morgiana", released in 1972, shows once again that taste for the horrific previously shown in his classic "Spalovac mrtvol" (1969), though in this case, his fight against censors wasn't that successful.

"Morgiana" is a tale of two sisters, Klára and Viktorie (both played by Iva Janzurová), who live in a large mansion after the recent death of their wealthy father. Viktorie grows jealous due to the fact that Klára has inherited most of their properties, including their family house. Klára's popularity with men is another source of annoyance for her, a feeling that becomes downright hate when Viktorie discovers that the man she loves, Marek (Josef Abrhám) is in love with Klára. Full of rage, Viktorie decides to poison her sister, so she buys a lethal potion from the mysterious Otylie (Nina Divísková). However, Viktorie's plan doesn't go exactly as planed, as the poison she go from Otylie is a slow-acting one. Due to the poisoning, Klára begins to suffer from hallucinations, while Viktorie's impatience grows stronger with each second. To make things worse, Otylie attempts to blackmail Viktorie, and the sister's cat Morgiana is a silent witness of the madness.

Set in a decadent world that seems stuck in mid 19th century, "Morgiana" is based on the story "Jessie and Morgiana" by Russian author Alexander Grin. The screenplay, by Vladimir Bor and director Juraj Herz himself, tells a story that's in essence a fairy tale in which the "good" sister faces the "bad" sister's schemes. However, it's a fairy tale with a dark spin: the story is told from the perspective of the "bad" sister of the story, exploring the growth of Viktorie's hatred for her sister, rooted in their sibling rivalry and her envy of Klára's beauty, popularity and fortune. Everything done with an exaggerated tone of melodrama that ultimately makes of "Morgiana" a Gothic parody of the classic elements of Romantic literature. And this isn't unintentional, because there's an undeniable dash of black humor in the exaggerated plot of "Morgiana". Exaggeration is the key of the story, and this extends from the screenplay to the film's carefully orchestrated visual design.

Taking as basis the conventions of traditional costume drama, director Juraj Herz exaggerates them to give "Morgiana" a highly stylized atmosphere of grotesque decadence. Instrumental for this is the work of cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera (famed for his work in Czechoslovak New Wave classics like "Perlicky na dne" and "Sedmikrásky"), who uses his talent to bring to life Herz' deliriously surreal vision of the sisters' Gothic world. Kucera's camera is highly dynamic, roaming freely through the mansion as it follows the sister's drama (of great interest are the shots that take the point of view of Morgiana, the cat). Playing with color and light, Kucera creates a dreamy atmosphere that enhances the tone of dark fairy tale that "Morgiana" has. As he previously did in "Spalovac mrtvol", director Juraj Herz makes heavy use of wide-angle lenses, not only for the aforementioned cat's point of view, but also to reflect the distorted minds of his characters.

As written above, "Morgiana" plays like an exaggerated melodrama, so a fair share of over-the-top acting is to be expected; however, even this kind of overacting requires great skill and a certain subtlety to work correctly and avoiding looking artificial, and fortunately, actress Iva Janzurová achieves this feat. Playing both Klára and Viktorie, Janzurová delivers two very different yet equally remarkable performances. As Klára, she looks sweet and frail, and manages to convey the mix of juvenile naiveté and tedious indifference of the spoiled girl's personality. The complete opposite is her performance as Viktoria, which is vibrant and full of energy, making a quite believable portrait of a woman driven by hate. Through the layers of make-up Janzurová disguises her beauty to give her character an identity of her own. Two remarkable performances indeed. The rest of the cast is less fortunate, but while their work doesn't reach the the point of being downright bad, there's a noticeable difference in quality.

Hauntingly atmospheric and deliciously grotesque, Juraj Herz' "Morgiana" is a horror film that's more unnerving than shocking, as it's based on the subtle distortion of a familiar setting. Unfortunately, despite its many interesting elements, "Morgiana" is far from being perfect, as the final third is a messy and rushed climax that feels forced and out of place. As if the scriptwriters hadn't been able to find an ending to it. In fact, there may be a reason for this unsatisfactory finale, as originally "Morgiana" was supposed to include the revelation that the two sisters being actually two different personalities of the same woman (actually a key twist of Alexander Grin's source novel). It certainly sounds like a more appropriate ending, but sadly the administration got in the way and Herz was forced to devise a different second half for the film. Remnant of this original idea is the fact that Iva Janzurová played both sisters.

Perhaps this change in the screenplay would had resulted in a more coherent and complete film, but unfortunately, it's one of those things that will never be known. Nevertheless, despite its problems "Morgiana" still holds up well as a prime example of surreal horror; and while far from being one of Juraj Herz' best works, it's a nice showcase of the style and talent of this often forgotten member of the Czechoslovak New Wave. Quirky and grotesque, "Morgiana" may not have aged that well (it may even look kitsch to modern eyes), but it's a quite interesting surreal horror film that combines horror and melodrama to create something unique. "Morgiana" is, in a way, a sadly imperfect masterpiece.


May 21, 2012

Spalovac mrtvol (1969)

Conceived within the walls of the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) in the early 1960s, the Czechoslovak New Wave was an important artistic movement that brought light to the artistic sensitivities of a new generation of filmmakers from the communist country. A generation that included amongst its ranks Miloš Forman, Jirí Menzel and Jaromil Jireš, directors that would later become the major figures of Czechoslovak film industry. However, there were also filmmakers who, while less famous, had an equally interesting contribution to the movement, and one of them is Juraj Herz. The reason behind the apparent exclusion of his name from the more famous poster children of the Czechoslovak New Wave is simple: he wasn't a film student, but a theatre student, specifically a puppeteer. However, this puppeteer would bring one of the most interesting styles amongst the movement, one grounded in the horrific and the grotesque, and "Spalovac mrtvol", "The Cremator", is perhaps the best example of it.

Set at the onset of the occupation by Nazi Germany, "Spalovac mrtvol" tells the story of Karl Kopfrkingl (Rudolf Hrusínský), the man in charge of a crematorium in Prague. While friendly and sociable, Karl has a morbid fascination with the dead which he fuels with his reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. To Karl, the cremating of a body is necessary for the correct liberation of the soul. Nevertheless, despite the morbidity of his obsessions, Karl remains a loving father to his children Zina (Jana Stehnová) and Mili (Milos Vognic); and though he is attracted to other women, he keeps a cordial albeit distant relationship with his wife Lakmé (Vlasta Chramostová). Karl feels his life is in correct balance, however, when the Nazi forces enter the Czech border, he is invited to join the Nazi party because of his German heritage. The Nazi agents will play with his obsessions, awaking the manias that Karl has hidden in the deepest side of his soul.

"Spalovac mrtvol" was based on the novel by Czech author Ladislav Fuks, whose entire oeuvre revolves around German occupation of Czechoslovakia. The screenplay was adapted by Fuks himself along director Juraj Herz, whom use the story of the deranged cremator to make an allegory of the progressive introduction of Nazi ideologies into Czechoslovakia's society. Taking advantage of Karl Kopfrkingl's ambitions and delusions of grandeur, the Nazi influence completes the transformation that makes this morbid yet harmless man to turn his darkest fantasies into a reality. So, driven by his new beliefs, Kopfrkingl is now able to turn against his friends and family, fully convinced that his actions are actually for "the greater good". And what's perhaps more interesting about "Spalovac mrtvol" is that this dark, disturbing tale of psychological horror is told with a great dose of black humor that oddly, gives the film a quite fitting touch of irony.

However, the most striking feature of "Spalovac mrtvol" is its visual narrative, which director Juraj Herz conceived as a highly stylized Gothic nightmare in which disorientation is the key. A disorientation devised to reflect the twisted mind of the film's main character, whose train of thought twists and turns from the morbidly macabre to the downright grotesque. And to do this, Herz makes good use of the lavishly beautiful expressionist cinematography by Stanislav Milota and the frenetic work of editing by Jaromír Janácek. Jump cuts, montages, and a narrative that shifts from linear to non-linear, are some of the tools Herz employs to disorientate, but rather than being clichéd, they feel appropriately in tone with the story. Cinematographer Milota nicely employs the distortion of fish-eye lenses to evoke the distorted vision that Karl has of life, and by playing with light and shadows, Milota creates an unsettling Gothic atmosphere that suits nicely the quirky tone of the film.

As the title character, actor Rudolf Hrusínský shines in the role of Karl Kopfrkingl, the cremator whose twisted desires will take him to a descent to madness. While in a way Karl could be seen as an exaggerated caricature of a madman, Rudolf Hrusínský's remarkable performance gives uncovers the many layers the character has and unveils a complex and somewhat tragic figure. With great use of subtle yet noticeable mannerisms and his powerful screen presence, Hrusínský completely becomes this deranged individual, able to be sympathetic and horrifying at the same time. Certainly, in many ways "Spalovac mrtvol" is entirely Hrusínský's show, however, while the supporting actors in the film do have a considerably inferior space to develop their roles(after all, the film is told from Karl's perspective), some of them truly make an effective job, particularly Vlasta Chramostová, who plays Karl's dutiful and timid wife Lakmé.

Perhaps the most disturbing horror amongst the many conjured by Juraj Herz' "Spalovac mrtvol" is the very fact that while this is an exaggerated tale, it may actually have happened in a way. As the film starts, Karl knows and respects many people who are Jews, however, after the Nazi ideology enters his mindset, the morbid cremator is unable to conciliate those thoughts and begins to see them in a bad light. Behind the horrors unleashed by the deranged Karl himself, the real horror of how the Nazi ideology slowly infiltrated and changed a society's mindset is the most haunting element in "Spalovac mrtvol". In Herz' nightmarish Gothic world, the morbid cremator is certainly a monster, but greater monsters are those playing with his mind. Karl is convinced that his actions are helping a good cause, that he is cleaning the contaminated souls of the world, helping them to achieve peace. Karl's actions are a reminder that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

While his membership of the Czechoslovak New Wave is often disregarded, the work of director Juraj Herz has many of the trademarks of the movement, though his perspective is often a more perverse and cynical one, and "Spalovac mrtvol" is perhaps the best example of it. Unnerving and grotesque, yet at the same time absurd and darkly comic, "Spalovac mrtvol" or "The Cremator", is a unique gem of Czechoslovak cinema that employs the horror genre to bring light to the real horrors of Nazi occupation. Though more than being an accusatory film, "Spalovac mrtvol" is instead a cathartic one, a film that through its grotesque imagery may help to understand a madness that turned a country against itself.


May 18, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Without a doubt, arriving to the old age is truly a change of life as hard as adolescence, perhaps even harder, as when it shows up there's a greater resistance to the changes that come with it. And yet, sooner or later the human being will end up adapting to these new stage of life, perhaps even with some new instances of self-discovery. This posibility inspired British author Deborah Moggach to write the book "These Follish Things", a novel published in 2004 (when the author herself was already 56 years old) that explores precisely this theme, with a touch of cultural shock, as the novel deals with a group of British senior citizens who are sent to a retirement home in India. Seven years later, writer Ol Parker and filmmaker John Madden offer an adaptation of "These Foolish Things", now with the title of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and with a strong cast that gathers some of the best British actors of their generation.

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" revolves around the lives of several characters: Evelyn (Judy Dench) is a housewife whom after the death of her husband realizes that she hasn't lived her own life, Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are a couple who has lost their retirement savings investing in their daughter's company, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a High Court judge whom has suddenly decided to retire and travel to the country of his youth, Norman (Ronald Pickup) is an aging bachelor who still has the ambition of being a Casanova (Ronald Pickup), while Madge (Celia Imrie) is a widow unable to live without the company of a man in her bed. Finally, Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a strict and racist old woman forced to travel to India to have the hip replacement she needs. All of them find in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a promising (and cheap) place to live their retirement, but what they find when they arrive is a place in ruins whose enthusiastic owner (Dev Patel) dreams to improve.

The screenplay by Ol Parker takes the premise of Moggach's novel and develops it as an ingenious light comedy in which this group of forgotten characters discover in the remote India a bit of themselves. Unlike the novel, Parker focuses only in his elderly characters, whom have been practically left aside by their families back in England. However, this toning down of the novel's plot doesn't mean merely a simplification, as Parker's script keeps with inteligence the typical wit of British humor. Parker manages to unfold the very different stories of his group of quirky characters with great skill, with a good development of the relationships between them and how they affect each other. Graham's story and the one of the Ainslies are particularly moving and captivating ones. In general, Parker does a great job at handling so many characters, though it's worth to point out that there are also a couple of them in which he could had gone deeper.

Director John Madden brings these stories to life with a solid work of directing, taking good advantage of the effective work of cinematographer Ben Davis, who captures the vibrant colors and seductive shapes of the culture of India, contrasting them sharply with the grayness of that good old England that the characters leave behind. However, Madden doesn't employ any complex visual flair in his vision, on the contrary, he keeps a natural and realist touch, giving space to his actors to work in their characters. In fact, Madden avoids falling in that typical travelogue style so common in films set in exotic locations, and instead, he focuses totally the attention to his characters, who are truly the film's heart. Despite having a big group of characters, Madden unfolds his story at a nice pace, keeping a slick and dynamic visual narrative that allows him to move between the different subplots that are developing in the film.

The cast of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is truly a collection of first class British talent, with Judi Dench at the head playing Evelyn, a shy old lady willing to discover the world. Dench offers a warm performance, full of her natural charm and talent. Tom Wilkinson makes a remarkable job as Graham, the retired High Court judge who travels to India with a very particular mission of his own. HOwever, and while both Wilkinson and Dench make a brilliant job, the real scene stealers are two different actors: Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. With great subtlety and an excelent timing for the dry humor that Parker's script handles, veteran Bill Nighy delivers an amazing performance in which he displays his enormous talent. The other gem in the film is Maggie Smith, whom makes a powerful performance as Muriel, the arrogant and racist old lady who feels trapped in a country she despises. It's a testament of Smith's talent the way she makes the most of her quite unlikable character.

As the wife of Bill Nighy's character, Penelope Wilton faces role as difficult as Smith's, perhaps even more, as her character is another in the group who refuses to adapt to the culture of India. Wilton makes of her hateful character something more than a the mere charicature that she could had bee, as she gives her great verosimilitude and a well defined identity of her own. In minor roles we find Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel, all of them making a remarkable job in their roles, particularly the beautiful Imrie, whom as Madge, makes a terrific performance. So good that it becomes a bit sad the fact that hers is perhaps the least explored character in the plot. And this is the great problem of Parker's script: the character development is a bit uneven, with a couple of subplots ending with the feeling of being incomplete. However, despite this problem, it's quite commendable the way that Parker manages to keep logic and inteligence as he weaves his stories.

While on first sight "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" looks like a the typical film about cultural shock between East and West and the fish out of water theme, but actually, what director John Madden and scriptwriter Ol Parker achieve with this movie is an intelligent comedy that tackles the human relationships with naturalness and subtlety. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" gathers a great cast of British actors that, delivering a series of brilliant performances, prove that this group of artists has kept their talent intact. In the end, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is an optimistic film that, without big pretentions, just reminds us that in the end, everything will be fine. And if it isn't, then it's not the end yet.

This review was originally published in Spanish for Habitación 101 in May the 4th of 2012. Habitación 101 is a great site to check for news and reviews on cinema and theatre in Spanish.

May 15, 2012

Emergo (2011)

Unlike what happens in the case of vampires, werewolves and other creatures from folklore, whose existence is understood as pure fantasy, in the case of ghosts this is a much more controverted affair. Facing the difficulty to explain certain supernatural events, there are several groups of people with the goal of studying and investigating the supposed cases of paranormal activity. Of course, many of these groups walk the thin line between science and superstition, but their existence is testament of the deep fascination with ghosts, which is more alive than ever. The world of these paranormal investigators captured the imagination of Spanish filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés, inspiring him to write the film "Red Lights". However, his research was so extensive that it originated a second screenplay which he titled "Emergo". And this new screenplay meant the big opportunity for a young filmmaker named Carles Torrens, who was picked by Cortés to direct the film.

"Emergo", from the Latin word for "appear", tells the story of a team of paranormal investigators that decide to take the case of an apparent haunting in an old apartment. The team is made of Dr. Helzer (Michael O'Keefe), his assistant Ellen (Fiona Glascott) and technical expert Paul (Rick Gonzalez), who enter apartment 143 where Alan White (Kai Lennox) lives with his children Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and Benny (Damian Roman). At the apartment, Paul and Ellen begin to install their electronic devices: movement detectors, cameras in each room and electromagnetic waves detectors. The reason for this is that the White s have been suffering from paranormal activity since the death of Alan's wife. Strange noises are heard in the house, objects move by themselves, and there's also the terrible feeling that something else is there with them. To make things worse, things between Alan and his daughter Caitlin aren't good, making more difficult the work of the investigators.

Rechristened with the international title of "Apartament 143", the film deals basically with the experience lived by the three investigators who face their first real case of a haunting. The most interesting element of the script is the realist tone given by writer Rodrigo Cortés, to the way the characters are developed in the apartment. That is, Cortés' team of investigators aren't mere amateurs, they see themselves as scientists and act with a scientific mindset, moved by a curiosity that defeats their fears. This gives the film a good dose of verisimilitude, as in a way it justifies their staying in the house and filming of the whole thing. In general, "Emergo" distinguishes itself from similar found footage horror films by the mere fact that there's a conscious effort for developing its characters and give them well defined personalities. This makes the story to feel fresh and vibrant, which is good as originality is not one of the plot's main assets.

Developing the film as a found footage mockumentary, the young débutant Carles Torrens offers a story told by the sum of the material recorded by the many cameras that the team has installed. So, the film includes footage from security cameras, professional video cameras, handy-cam video recordings and even footage from a cell phone. Visually this makes the film very rich, with cinematographer Óscar Durán employing a wide variety of visual styles that not only look great, but that are also justified by Torrens' visual design. However, not everything is perfect in "Emergo", as even when it presents an interesting camera work, the visual narrative is in general deficient, and this can be appreciated in the uneven rhythm that the film has in occasions, as more than once the action gets too slow to the point that nothing really happens, including a couple of long scenes full of expository dialogs that could had been solved in a more effective way.

It must be said that, while nothing amazing, there are a couple of high quality performances in "Emergo", mainly amongst the cast members who play the team of paranormal investigators. Michael O'Keefe, who plays the team leader, Dr. Helzer, makes a good job as the voice of reason in the film, skeptic at the supernatural explanation of a haunted house, though decided to find the real origin of the strange events that take place at the Whites' apartment. Rick Gonzalez and Fiona Glascott deliver quite good performances, and the couple has great chemistry on camera. Gonzalez showcases as well to have a nice comic timing, which without overacting, manages to give some good comic relief to the film. Gia Mantegna (daughter of actor Joe Mantegna), who plays Alan's rebel teenager daughter Caitlin makes an acceptable job, though her character is somewhat a stereotype and she overacts it a bit more than once.

The negative side is without a doubt Kai Lennox, who delivers a quite poor performance as Alan White, being too overacted and artificial in his acting. This becomes particularly obvious in the couple of scenes in which director Torrens let his character explain himself in a series of expository lines. This is a mistake on Torrens' side, as not only these takes are too long and break the rhythm the film carries, Lennox doesn't take advantage of them, and on the contrary, his limited acting ends up revealed. Perhaps decisions like this have an origin in Torrens' lack of experience as a filmmaker, but they sadly do affect "Emergo" and make it tired and boring, despite its short runtime. Of course, there are a couple of well executed moments in the film, and particularly the climax results being a really effective scene that mixes perfectly the fantastic theme with the realist tone (what every found footage should do) in perfectly crafted scene.

There are certainly many good things in "Emergo", things in which it really surpasses many films of the found footage subgenre. However, there are sadly a good amount of bad elements that unfortunately downgrade the film. For what it's worth, "Emergo" cements Rodrigo Cortés' reputation as a horror author that takes risks with new proposals in each project (as shown in his own film, "Buried"); but sadly, his pupil Torrens couldn't overcome his lack of experience. Anyways, despite the mistakes Torrens may have done in "Emergo", the film shows that the young filmmaker has an interesting vision, fresh and original. And not every débutant achieves this.

This review was originally published in Spanish for Habitación 101 in April the 28th of 2012. Habitación 101 is a great site to check for news and reviews on cinema and theatre in Spanish.