Los Inocentes 2013
aka Bloody April Fools
Directed by: 12 Directors
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bárbara Mestanza, Mario Marzo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, I have to be honest; I just couldn’t live with it. You see, despite my respect and gratefulness to the country I live in (UK), I’m a patriotic Spaniard and I’m one that sees beauty in all things de España. Well, except maybe bull fighting. Oh and Magaluf. Anyway, I’m proud to state that I was the first slasher critic to give Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche a reputable ranking and here you’ll find an equally complementary review of José Larraz’s, Al Filo Del Hacha. I defended Jesus Franco’s cheese-tastic video nasty, La Sierra de la Muerte, and didn’t wince once during the corny closing of Los Ojos de Julia. So with this in mind, how could I live with the knowledge that the most recent Spanish slasher film to be reviewed on a SLASH above was the awful Altrapados en el Miedo. Since watching it, I’ve felt depressed, panicked, I’ve suffered insomnia, began drinking and smokin… Ok, I’m exaggerating, but still, something needed to be done.
I had to quickly find a film that could regain my home country some credibility, but with my copy of El Arte de Morir miles away in Spain, I was somewhat struggling. Then I remembered that I hadn’t yet got round to watching a DVD that I picked up a year back, called Los Inocentes. I came across it in a small shop in Aracena, purchased it and then totally forgot that I’d done so. Last Wednesday, I was tidying up my room and there it was staring at me, almost as if to subtlety say, “llevarme, verme, yo te ayudo… yo te salvo!!” – Could I have found the cure to drag me from the gutters of despair..?
A gang of kids get lost on the way to a party and so decide to spend the night in an abandoned school. It was the site of a gruesome accident a few years earlier, where a student was killed during a practical joke. Now someone haunts the corridors and the joke is most definitely on the partying teenagers…
It seems that when I watch slasher movies, I go through phases. I’m sure that as readers, you notice that I’ll post one or two ‘one star’ movies in a row and then a couple of much better ones. I don’t do this deliberately, it’s a coincidence, but I’m back on a roll, because Los Inocentes sits comfortably with Kill Game as one of the best modern slashers that I’ve recently seen. Much like a bottle of Sangria, it doesn’t blur the lines of what it has been produced to achieve. It’s a straight up slasher movie for fans of the genre and ticks and underlines the things that we expect and most importantly WANT it to do.
I guess that you could call it a mix between the stories of both Slaughter High and Friday the 13th, but it’s refreshing how the script never feels the urge to over-elaborate the homages. In a pre-launch interview, the crew openly admitted that they were referencing the peak period, but it’s a natural vibe that doesn’t overpower. We get a more typical final girl, ‘the have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and even a romantic sub-plot that is intelligently conveyed. Perhaps because the main characters are given emotive scenarios, we want them to prevail and I was extremely surprised by a couple of the deaths. Los Inocentes is a merciless movie at times and this tone is set from lift off, when the old ‘prank that went wrong’ chestnut is delivered with a starker more graphic flair than usual. In fact, this is quite a gory little movie that is filled with creative deaths of the like I’ve never seen previously. My favourites were the bee attack and a bizarre one with a girl’s brain, which is gooey, erotic and somewhat artistic in its delivery. The screenplay attempts to inject pitch black humour on occasion, including a genius play on words with the Spanish slang for a lighter; – ‘fuego’ (fire). In honesty though I preferred the moments when the atmosphere was more macabre.
The idea stemmed from a collaboration of twelve writers/directors that had met and studied at the notorious ESCAC School of cinema. Whilst some would question the concept of so many varying ideas on a production, one member of the crew, Laura García, said that she found it extremely natural and that she wanted the film to act as proof that ‘being a team’ really works. What we’re left with is an entry that strives to provide some deftly shot set pieces. The lighting is exceptional in places and the filmmakers do their best to bring the large dilapidated hi-school backdrop to life. We also get a nod to the recent ‘found footage’ trend where the action is shown through iPhone cameras, which leads to a pulsating escape sequence as the survivors hotfoot it through the woodland. There’s no killer guise for the antagonist and he isn’t even given a physical presence until the climax, but we do get a ‘killer calling card’; – a kind of ‘ginger bread man’ that’s left upon the corpses of victims. Writer Lluís Segura describes his vision of the classic slasher structure as starting out with 10 or so characters and killing them off throughout without knowing who’s doing it or the reasons why. You can see that they stayed true to this formula.
At times the film pushes the boundaries of reality and begins to feel a bit fairytale-ish. It’s not supernatural in any way, but some of the murderous set-ups defy logic, which seemed out of place with a concept that was so traditional. I was also disappointed with the performance of the actor that played the killer. In general, the acting was solid, but the best villains are restrained and not over-played. It looked like the person given this role (I won’t reveal so as not to ruin the mystery) knew what to do, but somehow didn’t really convince. Still, we get some truly beautiful women and a cute lead in Charlotte Vega – a girl that was born in Spain from English parents – who I predict that we’ll see more from.
Los Inocentes is pretty much a Slaughter High remake (El día de los Inocentes is like April Fool’s Day in Spain), but it is far more gritty and ruthless. There are a bunch of smart twists and gimmicks that bring the film to life, with the only real weakness being the killer’s revelation, which lacks the explosion of the source code that it was borrowed from. All is thankfully salvaged by a downbeat ending that we’ve seen before (even in a great eighties Spanish slasher), but was still a surprise. The DVD that I own comes with English subtitles so you should definitely check it out. I’m excited about the sequel that may already be on the cards…