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Nos Miran

Review by: 
They're Watching
Release Date: 
Columbia/Tristar (Spain)
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Norberto López Amado
Carmelo Gómez
Iciar Bollain
Bottom Line: 

 When detective Juan Garcia (Carmelo Gómez) is assigned a missing persons case, he discovers boxes of materials in the police archives that were secretly collected ten years previously by his predecessor, detective Medina (Karra Elejalda). The boxes contain weird video tapes of reversed images shot through mirrors, and Medina's crazy note-book scribblings on his theory of 'cellular transubstantiation'! Medina went mad and was committed to an asylum; Juan goes to visit him, but the former detective will only repeat the same words over & over again: "They're watching!" It turns out that there is a personal reason for Juan's increasing obsession with Mad former-detective: his own sister mysteriously disappeared when they were both children, but Juan always insisted as a child that he could still see her! As these old memories begin to resurface, he begins to alienate his wife (Iciar Bollain) and kids with his crazed behaviour and his interest in Medina's belief that mirrors are the key to uncovering a hidden dimension where the dead reside and Juan himself begins to see shadowy figures surrounding his own children! Do the malevolent forces that he believes were responsible for taking his sister now seek to snatch them as well?
"Nos Miran" is another Spanish supernatural thriller which, although beautifully produced and skillfully directed is probably slightly too subtle and understated for current mainstream tastes. Once again, the familiar ingredients of contemporary Spanish horror are all present and correct: dark family secrets, esoteric cult theories and ghostly children, all woven into yet another mysterious concoction; one does wonder how many more original plots can be generated from these same ingredients though! This particular outing is even more refined than usual, and the film is probably best viewed as a straight mystery story with supernatural overtones rather than a horror picture. It doesn't really have any scares as such -- instead, young director Norberto López Amado takes a quiet, slow-burning approach, more along the lines of Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others" than Jaume Balagueró's dread-inducing "Los Sin Nombre". Take it in this spirit and Amado's film is an above-average study in paranoia and parental anxiety full of brooding atmosphere and classy noir stylings; but it is already beginning to feel like Spanish horror is getting just a bit too comfortable with this formula for its own good.
With its beautiful though naturalistic, lighting full of deep blacks and burnished browns -- and a memorable score built around a touching yet simple piano-based melodic phrase, the film draws the viewer slowly in as the story takes him/her through a number of mysterious and oblique digressions. An initial missing person investigation serves only as a pretext for the real theme of the movie; it is then promptly dumped and plays no further role in a tale which is really concerned with the strange childhood past of its lead character played by Carmelo Gómez. In fact, the film often feels like a short story padded out with (near) irrelevant material. Many strange, elliptical scenes are played out which, in retrospect, have little to do with the main story: Juan killing a wild boar on an isolated road after accidentally running it over; a dream sequence in which the wallpaper peels away from his living room to reveal strange, occult symbols chalked onto the bare black walls; a night-time exhumation of a grave, etc. All these scenes do add atmosphere and mystery while we ponder how all the threads will eventually tie together, but the "problem" is that -- to some extent -- they're red herrings. The real focus of the story depends on a fact which is kept hidden from the viewer for a good length of the film: the disappearance of Juan's sister (while playing with some other children near a railway track) is the first scene of the film, but how it ties in is not clear until much later. The interesting idea that missing persons are often victims of supernatural kidnapping is proffered, but the film becomes a domestic ghost drama in its final third when the "imaginary" friends of Juan's two children are revealed to be the spirit children who took their father's sister. While the initial build-up is intriguing and often mildly disquieting, the climactic scenes are rather too reminiscent of Jaume Balagueró's "Darkness" to be truly effective, though the film ends on a bittersweet note of great poignancy which, once again, typifies the fatalistic attitude to the supernatural so often found in modern Spanish horror movies.
The Spanish Columbia/Tristar DVD features an excellent 1:85.1 anamorphic transfer and a decent 5.1 surround sound Spanish audio track. English subtitles are provided.
The disc contains a small selection of extras but the main one is the director's commentary which is, obviously, in Spanish. Storyboards and artworks are included as are filmographies and a text about the original novel (also all in Spanish).
Spanish horror fans will enjoy "Nos Miran". Just don't expect anything tremendously ambitious or groundbreaking!

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