Judge Gordon Sullivan fell asleep.
Get Ready for Bloodshot Eyes.
…too bad they'll be bloodshot from boredom.
Facts of the Case
Spain's 6 Films to Keep You Awake contains six films (shocking!) on three discs:
• A Real Friend
• A Christmas Tale
• The Baby's Room
• To Let
A word of warning: these six films come on three double-sided DVDs in a standard keep-case. Because of the moveable tray and the double-sided disc, there are numerous opportunities for scratching. All the discs in my copy were scratched to a certain extent, although playability was unaffected. So, I suggest checking these discs upon receipt.
These six films, created for Spanish TV, encompass the breadth of the horror genre. We've got a couple of ghost (or apparent ghost) stories, zombies, vampires, witches, and even more recent survival-horror style menaces. Each of the stories has an intriguing premise, whether it's the Goonies-meets-Diabolique of A Christmas Tale or the imaginary friend aspect of A Real Friend. Because of this, I really wanted to like these films. However, they all suffer from the same basic problem: at an average of 75 minutes, they're simply too long. Each film squanders whatever audience goodwill the basic premise establishes by taking entirely too long to get to the conclusion. Yes, some of the conclusions are good, but by the time I got there, I simply didn't care. Generally, I don't mind if a film takes a while to build (especially if it has creepy atmosphere), but these films didn't seem to be building. Instead, they just seem like films that would be perfect if someone was a little more ruthless in the editing room.
For example, I'll discuss A Christmas Tale (although keep in mind that these numbers are approximate). We spend about 10 minutes getting to know the kids before we even set up the whole "robber in a hole" plot. Once they discover the woman, it's another 10 minutes before they decide what to do with her. Then, it's another 10 minutes as we watch their plan. After that, it's 10 minutes of agonizing over whether they've done the right thing. Finally, the plot seems to pick up, and the hole is mysteriously empty, so they spend 10 minutes worrying about that. Then it's 10 minutes of being chased by the angry robber before a 10-minute epilogue. It all just takes too long. By the time the chase came around I really didn't care any more and just wanted to see how it ended. If those numbers had been cut in half, it would have been vastly easier to hold my attention. I felt that way about every one of the films included here: they're not bad, but they waste their charms with their length.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
With that said, everything else about 6 Films to Keep You Awake is top notch. The production values were consistently high, with interesting sets and obvious attention to lighting and camera setup. The acting was likewise very effective. Horror often gets the short end in the acting department, but everyone here was convincing.
On the technical front, this is a decent package from Lionsgate. All the films are presented in anamorphic widescreen and looking surprisingly good for television productions. They are generally sharp, with very little noise or compression artifacts. The Spanish audio did a fine job keeping dialogue clean and distortion free. The subtitles were clear and easy to understand. Each film gets its own EPK-style making-of, which are the only extras. However, I will complain (briefly) about the Lionsgate logo. We get one when the disc opens and another when each film starts. It's impossible to skip either. Boo to Lionsgate for wasting a minute of my life with each film on your silly (and excessively long) logo.
For a show about other realities and the like, 6 Films to Keep You Awake appropriately falls into that cinematic nether region of not-good-but-not-bad. Despite the strong stories and acting, these films are very frustrating to watch, which diminishes the impact of their otherwise obvious strengths. However, this failing doesn't quite put them in the "avoid" category either. Fans of Spanish horror are therefore urged to give these films a rental. Perhaps you'll have more patience for slow narratives than this reviewer.
These six films are guilty of squandering their talents on needlessly long runtimes.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, A Christmas Tale
Perp Profile, A Christmas Tale
Distinguishing Marks, A Christmas Tale
• "Making of A Christmas Tale"
Scales of Justice, The Baby's Room
Perp Profile, The Baby's Room
Distinguishing Marks, The Baby's Room
• "Making of The Baby's Room"
Scales of Justice, Blame
Perp Profile, Blame
Distinguishing Marks, Blame
• "Making of Blame"
Scales of Justice, A Real Friend
Perp Profile, A Real Friend
Distinguishing Marks, A Real Friend
• "Making of A Real Friend"
Scales of Justice, Spectre
Perp Profile, Spectre
Distinguishing Marks, Spectre
• "Making of Spectre"
Scales of Justice, To Let
Perp Profile, To Let
Distinguishing Marks, To Let
• "Making of To Let"
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