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September 13, 2013

3

La habitación del niño

by Franz Patrick


Habitación del niño, La (2006)
★★★ / ★★★★

Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) and Sonia (Leonor Watling) have just purchased their first home as a family. While in bed, Sonia tells Juan about her concerns that maybe everything is going too well for them. Juan thinks that this mindset is ridiculous. If things are going well for them, it is important that they enjoy it rather than feel anxious. It seems Sonia does not have to worry for long because that same night, they hear a man’s voice playing with their seven-month-old child through the baby monitor. However, when Juan goes to check the baby’s room, the baby is safe and there is no sign of an intruder.

Suspenseful, creative, and equipped with jump-out-of-your-seats-while-covering-your-eyes moments, “La habitación del niño,” based on the screenplay by Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Álex de la Iglesia, does so much with very little. It begins with a concept of a stranger in the next room and it eventually evolves into something more sinister, consistently interesting because it has an idea that it hopes to explore.

Doubt is created involving the father’s state of mind. Are the strange events driven by a paranormal force or a fractured mind? There are enough evidence to support both. Or maybe the threat is rooted in the real world, that a person is sick and brazen enough to break into someone’s home in the middle of night just to play with a baby. The screenplay touches upon these possibilities with an increasing level of mystery–broken by heart-pounding encounters–until the answer is revealed. I thought I knew what was going on. I was happy to have been proven wrong.

The scares are effective for the most part but they could have been improved by slight alterations. For example, when something scary appears on screen, it is almost always accompanied by booming music. This gets annoying after a while due to a lack of variation. I began to wonder if the filmmakers were confident enough with how certain scenes were set up. If they were, relying on silence as a figure appears on the background, for instance, would have made a stronger statement. Sometimes silence during a payoff is a filmmaker’s gesture of trusting his audience to process the scare independently.

During the first half, there are not enough scenes that last long enough to make us feel uncomfortable and squirm in our seats. After the initial jolt, it cuts to next scene almost immediately and onto the next build-up. It takes a while to break this pattern which is a source of frustration. This is remedied in the latter half, however, when we have more of an idea about what Juan is up against. The scares feel less mechanic.

It is difficult not reveal the secrets of “The Baby’s Room,” but it is lovingly directed by Álex de la Iglesia. He moves the camera a lot–though not to create a dizzying spell–as to alter our as well as the character’s perspective. At times what Juan sees, we see. Sometimes I did not want to see anymore but my curiosity was too curious. A steady level of suspense is built around which lens we happen to be looking through.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Victor De Leon
    Sep 13 2013

    I saw this on Netflix a ways back and I enjoyed it enough to review. I agree that Álex de la Iglesia does so much with so little. Good point. It was very well done and spooky. “Shiver” (Eskalfrio) is another Spanish horror flick that is quite good. There are a few out there. Nice write up!

    Reply
    • Sep 18 2013

      Ah, “Shiver.” I enjoyed that as well. I remember its consistent build-ups and being impressed because the screenplay does not neglect to push the story forward. It’s one of the more imaginative horror movies out there and it deserves to be seen by more people.

      Reply
      • Victor De Leon
        Sep 18 2013

        I agree. “Shiver” did have a very creepy and tight story that the lead actors seem to be able to handle and project well. “Mama” kind of felt like a poor man’s “Shiver.”

        Reply

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