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November 14, 2017

Frágiles

by Franz Patrick


Frágiles (2005)
★ / ★★★★

Staff and patients of Mercy Falls Children’s Hospital, located in the Isle of Wight, are supposed to evacuate the building and move to a more conveniently located hospital in the middle of the island, but a recent train crash leaves St. James little room for the merge. So, for the time being, they are to remain where they are despite very strange occurrences in the building. For instance, while a boy (Lloyd F. Booth Shankley) with one broken femur is getting his X-Ray done, somehow a second break occurs even though no one is in the room with him. Is it caused by a rare a disease, a form of witchcraft, or an unknown entity?

“Frágiles,” written by Jaume Balagueró and Jordi Galceran, directed by the former, is a most underwhelming experience because although the story takes place in a creepy children’s hospital, not much is done with it on the script level as well as on the level of performance. When the would-be scares finally arrive, they are as typical as they are draining. We’ve all seen horror movies that depend on special and visual effects during the last act because they offer little else prior to that point. This work belongs under this category.

Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart), a replacement night nurse, is a complete bore of a protagonist. While Flockhart is good at evoking sadness mixed with fear, especially when Amy walks down dark hallways during her shift, Amy is written to be untrustworthy. She is a confusing rather than a conflicted figure because her tragic history is often veiled. Her superiors walk around the “terrible thing” that happened prior to her being hired. Since we are kept in the dark so consistently, how are we supposed to understand her as a person who works with children as well as how she thinks and reacts when her patients are in mortal danger?

The supporting actors are less convincing. Elena Anaya who plays one of Amy’s fellow nurses plays her character without consistency. In one scene she seems to care a lot about the work she does. In the next scene, she is cold and afraid of everything. There is no explanation as to what triggers these sudden changes. Halfway through, I began to think that she has a mood disorder even though she is not the one taking medication.

On the other hand, Richard Roxburgh as the lead doctor is deathly one-note. I wondered if he did actual research so that he is able to put a special stamp to his character or he simply watched how soap operas portray doctors. This is because Dr. Marcus neither exudes intelligence nor practicality. He’s just a nice guy, probably well-built under that white coat, designed to console when things are hard for Amy and when Amy asks him to look through files.

Everyone keeps talking about how spooky the place is but nothing special happens. (Although one good sequence involves an elevator.) While there are annoying throwaway shots like a shadowy figure walking across the foreground when our protagonist is not looking, most frustrating is the fact that the writers seem to depend on one thing to get us to care: the potential victims are sick children. Of course no one wants to see them get hurt or die. There is barely an active attempt to involve the audience in its mysteries.

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