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Case Number 14347

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6 Films To Keep You Awake

A Christmas Tale
2005 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
The Baby's Room
2006 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Blame
2006 // 72 Minutes // Not Rated
A Real Friend
2006 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Spectre
2006 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
To Let
2006 // 68 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Lionsgate
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 22nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan fell asleep.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of A Christmas Tale: Criterion Collection (published December 1st, 2009) and A Christmas Tale: Criterion Collection (Blu-Ray) (published January 6th, 2010) are also available.

The Charge

Get Ready for Bloodshot Eyes.

Opening Statement

…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:

• Blame
Nurse Ana (Nieve de Median) moves into a doctor's apartment where she can assist in exchange for rent. This doctor happens to perform abortions, and eventually Ana needs one of her own. After her abortion, the fetus disappears and people start dying.

• Spectre
Tomás (Jordi Dauder) returns to his hometown after many years. He is obviously still haunted by what happened at a particular house at the edge of town, a house that seems unchanged despite the years. As the story unfolds we learn about his relationship with the woman who lived there, Moira (Natalia Millán). Tomás has to discover in himself if she was simply a free spirit or something more sinister.

• A Real Friend
Estrella lives alone with her mother, but she has a rich inner life with imaginary friends. One day a vampire appears before her, but he seems more real than the rest of her friends. He keeps asking Estrella about her father, prompting her to dig deeper into her past.

• A Christmas Tale
Five kids (including Ivana Baquero of Pan's Labyrinth fame) discover a woman who has fallen into a hole in the woods. Before they get her out they discover that she has robbed a bank and is in possession of the loot. They decide to get the money from her before setting her free. However, things go wrong after a couple of them decide to perform a zombie-making ritual.

• The Baby's Room
A young couple move into an underpriced house in a nice neighborhood. Everything seems fine until they receive an old baby monitor and begin to hear voices in their baby's room. This prompts the father to dig deeper into the house's history, and he discovers a door into a parallel dimension which contains his evil twin.

• To Let
Another young couple and another wonky apartment. This time the couple finds a steal of an apartment, but once there finds themselves trapped with a crazy woman with plans of her own.

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.

The Evidence

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.

Closing Statement

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.

The Verdict

These six films are guilty of squandering their talents on needlessly long runtimes.

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Genres

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• Horror
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Scales of Justice, A Christmas Tale

Video: 89
Audio: 88
Extras: 50
Acting: 94
Story: 86
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, A Christmas Tale

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Christmas Tale

• "Making of A Christmas Tale"

Scales of Justice, The Baby's Room

Video: 89
Audio: 90
Extras: 50
Acting: 90
Story: 79
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, The Baby's Room

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Baby's Room

• "Making of The Baby's Room"

Scales of Justice, Blame

Video: 90
Audio: 89
Extras: 50
Acting: 88
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Blame

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Blame

• "Making of Blame"

Scales of Justice, A Real Friend

Video: 91
Audio: 90
Extras: 50
Acting: 92
Story: 86
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, A Real Friend

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, A Real Friend

• "Making of A Real Friend"

Scales of Justice, Spectre

Video: 90
Audio: 89
Extras: 50
Acting: 90
Story: 75
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Spectre

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Spectre

• "Making of Spectre"

Scales of Justice, To Let

Video: 89
Audio: 88
Extras: 50
Acting: 93
Story: 85
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile, To Let

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 68 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, To Let

• "Making of To Let"








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