A sizable hit in its native Spain, Tuno Negro (meaning Dark Minstrel) is, like Deep in the Woods & Long Time Dead, an attempt to make a home-grown slasher film inspired by the success of the likes of Scream & I Know What You Did…, but filtered through the unique sensibilities of its own country. Thankfully, it is closer in quality to the oft-underrated French film than the pretty weak British one.
The film is based upon the tale of medieval Tunos (Minstrels) who took to banding together to sing in town squares in order to pay for their University studies. The richer students eventually started their own Tuno groups, which meant that the original groups got much less money. The poorer students then started the secret Tuno Negro sect to kill off the false minstrels, who were also the bad students who didn’t deserve to be getting the University education. It seems that someone is reforming the sect in order to kill off the time-wasting students who under perform.
The film opens with the seemingly obligatory pre-credit kill sequence that borrows very heavily from Scream, with Internet chat replacing the telephone calls - & even dragging in the time-delayed video footage from the climax of that film. Although this sequence is entertaining enough, it is rather too heavily indebted to the US tradition & style for my tastes, & with the cheap shock tactics used early on, I was almost ready to dismiss the film as a waste of time.
However, there becomes a point when the film becomes rather more interesting than it at first appeared. There’re some neat giallo-style moments when we scour again over a series of images from earlier in the film, searching for clues. The big turn-around for me came with a blackly comic medical exam/autopsy turned bloodbath. The best scene is probably a hallucinatory kill of a victim who’s high on acid. There’s plenty more to like too, with some reasonably inventive kills, a neat sense of humour, & a dangerous Basic Instinct-esque sex scene. The final revelation of the killer’s identity was another plus point. I certainly hadn’t seen it coming (although the clues are all there), & it adds an interesting new dimension to the usual climax. I will say, however, that I was not at all convinced by the motivation. It makes a change from the usual insanity or revenge, but I just didn’t buy it.
The film is very beautifully shot in a palette primarily of yellows that makes a lovely difference to the usual boring schemes of most recent US films. It boasts a pretty solid score which is perhaps rather too heavily indebted to Marco Beltrami’s fine Scream scores. The cast do a pretty good job, with Silke Hornillos Klein as feisty heroine Alex the stand out for me, but there’s some solid support too.
Whilst it’s not particularly deep, & is never really scary or shocking, Tuno Negro is a fun & sometimes compelling little film that, unlike so many others, actually improves as it goes on. It has a strong visual style (whilst not as pronounced as say, Deep in the Woods), a reasonable amount of inventiveness & neat sense of humour. By no means essential viewing, if you get the chance to see it, it’s still worth a couple of hours of your time. Even those normally averse to Euro horror may quite enjoy it, since it’s Euro-vibe is countered by a clear influence from the US horror tradition.