A Real Friend

A Real Friend (2006)
★ / ★★★★

Estrella (Nerea Inchausti) does not have many friends. To cope, she pretends to interact with characters from the horror movies she watches when her mother, Angela (Goya Toledo), is at work and the books she reads while waiting to get picked up from school. Believing that it is only a phase, her mother does not make a big deal out of it even though her daughter is approaching her teens. Danger comes knocking, however, when a vampire (Eduard Farelo), able to walk in daylight, meets and grows attached to her.

“Adivina quién soy,” written by Jorge Arenillas and Enrique Urbizu, has some ideas that might have worked if they had been executed with focus and verve. Since the protagonist relies on her imagination to make up for a severe lack of human interaction with kids her age, it is necessary that her imaginings remain interesting. For us to buy into the story completely, the screenplay must convince us that the girl is someone special, as is done in Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” someone who is worth knowing both as a person and as someone who may or may not possess a powerful ability, and not simply function as a machine to keep the plot moving forward when convenient.

The picture is largely tonally flat. There is an atmosphere of muffled paranoia throughout but the would-be apices fail to generate much thrill or suspense because time is not taken to build up a scene. Mysterious music plays in the background when someone is alone in the house or walks alone at night. But why go through the trouble when nothing happens?

Inevitably, since it is supposed to be a horror-thriller but one that is generic and having no ambition, people start getting killed. Even the kills lack originality. With the first victim, we observe the stalking and the pummeling, but there is no fluidity to the scenes so it fails to create a catharsis. With another kill, it gets lazier and simply shows a desk covered in blood. In horror movies, I actually prefer not to see everything and use my imagination, but to watch a series of scenes that are not carefully put together is infuriating. In addition, the people who end up dead make minimal impact. We know little about them.

It comes alive a little too late. In its final five minutes, it gets somewhat exciting even though it is far from earned. One of Estrella’s friends is Leatherface. When he gets angry and starts revving up that chainsaw, I felt some level of terror. But it is not because of this movie. It is due to the fact that I have seen Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and I know how terrifying Leatherface can be in strength, speed, determination, and complete lack of soul.

Directed by Enrique Urbizu, “A Real Friend” does not have an identity. It takes characters from various sources and makes a potentially interesting girl into a black hole of boredom. Watching it is so unpleasant, so torturously slow, that I felt like I had been released from shackles when the end credits finally appeared.

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