Six films to keep you awake, indeed! The Spanish television anthology series, Peliculas Para no Dormir, comes to America on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate, and, in the process, shows us who the real Masters of Horror are. These six feature-length episodes look and feel like actual motion pictures rather than television productions, sporting great production values, marquee talent, and enough jumps and ingenuity to dispel any notion that a television horror anthology series can’t be truly and effectively scary.
In BLAME (La Culpa), a young woman and her daughter move in with a seemingly kind obstetrician, discovering that their room and board comes at a terrible price. Directed by series producer, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Blame is a subtly creepy, somewhat disturbing meditation on abortion and its potentially disastrous effects on women who undergo the procedure.
Mateo Gil’s SPECTRE (Regreso a Moira) focuses on an elderly man’s return to the town he grew up in, and the relationship he had in his youth with a young woman that the townsfolk believed was a witch. As we learn more about the guilt-stricken man’s past, we learn that his own actions were far more evil than even the blackest of magic.
Paco Plaza’s THE CHRISTMAS TALE (Cuento de Navidad) is a wonderfully entertaining blend of “The Goonies” and “A Simple Plan”, as a group of youths discover a woman dressed as Santa Claus trapped in a hole in the woods. When the kids discover that the woman is, in fact, a bank robber who made off with 2 million dollars, they hold her captive in hopes of extorting the money from her. What starts off as a somewhat goofily fun flick quickly becomes a dark and demented tale of greed, corruption, and…well…zombies!
A REAL FRIEND (Adivina Quien Soy) is another somewhat lighthearted kid-centric flick in which a horror-obsessed young girl imagines herself surrounded by the movie monsters she’s so infatuated with (including Leatherface, Nosferatu, the undead, etc). The girl regularly questions her mother about her father’s fate, but she soon realizes the truth about her dad, and only her “imaginary” friends can save her.
In the hysterically funny and occasionally quite scary THE BABY’S ROOM (La Habitacion del Nino), a couple’s dream house becomes a nightmare when they see and hear apparitions around their baby’s room, thanks to the baby monitors they’ve installed. Driven to find out the truth behind what’s haunting his family, the husband makes a horrific discovery in which he may be the biggest threat to his own family! Alex de la Iglesia’s entry in the series had me jumping out of my skin nearly as many times as I was doubling over in laughter, and the fact that it stars the outrageously attractive Spanish singer Leonor Watling was an unexpected bonus.
Rounding things out is Jaume Balaguero’s TO LET (Para Entra a Vivir), in which a young couple face off against their sadistic elderly landlady. This is another slow-burn, old fashioned suspense tale that builds up to a fever pitch in its final act.
Each of these wonderful telefilms feature great production values, exceptional casts, and a great assortment of nasty little tricks up their sleeves. If I had to pick a winner here, Balaguero's To Let would probably take top honors, but only just barely, as both The Baby's Room and A Christmas Tale proved nearly as entertaining! I had fun with A Real Friend, but found it a bit "Tales from the Cryptish" and predictable, and The Blame, while very sobering and haunting, is a bit of a downer. Still, they're both solid flicks, and definitely an improvement over the lion's share of DTV fare.
Six Films to Keep You Awake is an absolute blast, and a very unexpected surprise. Fun, original, imaginative, and, most importantly, scary, Six Films to Keep You Awake lives up to its name! This is also one of the best bargains out there, with prices as low as a tenner in the U.K., and just over that here in the states. For the price of a small cheese pizza one can take home a collection of fright films that will keep them not only entertained for the better part of a weekend, but for years to come, as the bulk of this collection features films you'll likely want to revisit again and again. Very highly recommended.