Julio Fernandez

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Sleep Tight [Mientras Duermes] Review


Even though the central character is somewhat undefined, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing on our vulnerabilities while making the villain the most sympathetic person on-screen. Balaguero is one of the directors behind the [Rec] series, and knows how to unsettle his audience with atmospheric, skin-crawling sequences that are made especially visceral due to the realistic acting.

An impressive presence in the prison thriller Cell 211, the Bolivian political drama Even the Rain and as a drug kingpin in the Miami Vice movie, Spanish actor Tosar stars as Cesar, the likeable doorman at a creaky Madrid apartment block. But he secretly despises the residents, and is quietly destroying their lives, tormenting an elderly woman (Martinez) and her two beloved dogs, brutally threatening a young girl (Almeida Molina), and casting suspicion on mother-and-son cleaners (Fernandez and Morilla). But his biggest plan is for Clara (Etura), the sexy young woman in flat 5B. And while her boyfriend (San Juan) is away on business, he lurks in the shadows of her apartment plotting something unspeakable.

Director Balaguero keeps the film on low boil, refusing to explain everything in the plot while quietly twisting the moody tone. Every scene is a bundle of insinuation that suggests something truly nasty, and it's refreshing that Tosar never tries to make us understand what Cesar is up to: we see why everyone likes him, and also why they should be terrified of him. We only ever get a vague idea of his overall plan, but the things he does along the way are sinister enough to keep us nervous. As are hints that he may have done this before.

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[Rec]3 Genesis Review

Spanish filmmaker Plaza takes this franchise in yet another direction, surprising us with an inventive approach to the genre by twisting our expectations. While Rec 2 turned things darker and more vampirical, this third instalment does an about face into comedy. Naturally, it's dark, blood-soaked comedy. And it's also so inventive that it continually catches us off guard.

The film starts with a cheesy wedding video showing the romance and marriage of Clara and Koldo (Dolera and Martin), leading up to the reception in a beautiful garden hotel. Then guests start feeling queasy, infected by the gruesome virus of the previous films, which turns them into snarling, flesh-eating monsters.

And all hell breaks loose. From here, filmmaker Plaza abandons the found-footage genre, shooting things as a more standard horror romp as Clara and Koldo are separated and must try to find each other amid the carnage.

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The Way Review

This thoughtful, openly emotive film resists cynicism due to its quiet honesty.

As a story of self-discovery, it may seem a little simplistic, but the themes it grapples with along the way are genuinely challenging.

Tom (Sheen) is a California ophthalmologist whose only son Daniel (Estevez) dropped out of society in his late 30s to travel the world. Then Tom gets a call: Daniel has died on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) in northern Spain. In France to collect the body, Tom suddenly decides to take the two-month pilgrimage himself, partly to understand his son better. Along the way he collects three companions who just won't leave him alone: a jaded Canadian (Unger), a too-cheerful Dutchman (van Wageningen) and a jagged Irishman (Nesbitt).

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[REC]2 Review

Picking up right where the first film left off, this sequel proves that the filmmakers have plenty more tricks up their sleeves as they push the story in entertaining directions. And there's barely a moment that doesn't freak us out.

It's been several hours since the outside world lost contact with the residents of a quarantined building that's infected with some sort of plague-like disease, so an assault team (Sanchez, Cassas, Cassaseco and Rosso) heads in with a stubborn doctor (Mellor) to see what's happening. But what they find doesn't look like anything like an airborne virus. Meanwhile, three mischievous, curious teens (Ros, Batllori and Poch) with a camera are caught up in the madness, thinking they might make some cash if they can videotape what's happening.

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[REC] Review

"It gets up and kills. The people it kills get up and kill," said a TV show host in the seminal Dawn of the Dead (1978). While he understood the undead threat, Spanish TV personality Ángela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) obviously never saw Romero's original broadcast before their fire department ride-along turned all-they-can-eat zombie feast in [REC]. The handheld horror film's story will be recognized by most Stateside audiences thanks to the American-remake Quarantine, which can't match the original's atmosphere and scream-out-loud scares. When the fire station gets a call about a woman trapped in her apartment, Ángela and Pablo are happy to see some action as they shoot their nightly TV show. But they quickly realize this is no typical rescue when the old lady goes mad and bites a policeman. As they try to get the policeman out of the apartment building, crews in hazmat suits have sealed off the apartment building, trapping our heroes inside with the flesh-hungry fiends.

The handheld, point-of-view style of [REC] is nothing new to horror, but it's the first film that actually gets it right. Rather than a bumbling film student (i.e. The Blair Witch Project) or a terrified New Yorker (Cloverfield), the person wielding the camera is a cameraman. While there's plenty of shaky-cam running during the action, when things slow down, shots are neatly framed. Pablo knows where to put the camera and where people should be standing to make things interesting. He is more than a character -- he becomes the camera -- and we are right there with him.

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Quarantine Review

With innovation such a scarce commodity, Hollywood should really stop remaking foreign films. Aside from their almost universal track record for underachieving, there is something so basic about experiencing a movie in its native tongue that no translation (or poorly scripted dubbing) can match. This past August, the sensational Spanish thriller [REC] -- as in the "record" button on a video camera -- caused an uproar in New Zealand when one beleaguered audience member soiled themselves during a screening. Naturally, Tinseltown already had its version -- relabeled Quarantine -- ready to jump on such publicity. As found footage/first person POV style shockers go, it's pretty good. You can leave your adult diapers at home, however.

Viewed through the lens of her accompanying cameraman Scott (Steve Harris), reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) prepares for a night following the exploits of an LA fire company. Quickly introduced to Jake (Jay Hernandez) and George (Johnathon Schaech), she learns that the hook and ladder life isn't always emergencies and heroism. When a call comes from the tenants of a rundown apartment building, the guys treat it as routine. But Angela and Scott soon uncover something horrifying -- people in the complex appear infected with a kind of super rabies. And the city, state, and national governments are closing off the building, locking everyone -- the sick and the healthy -- within. While trying to get out, our news crew discovers an even more shocking truth. The ill have gone insane and are attacking and killing the living.

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Transsiberian Review

As the train rattles through the frozen tundra with its cargo of weary passengers, a melancholic detective gives the American tourists an idea of just how far into it they've stepped: "In Russia we have a saying, With lies you may go forward in the world, but you may never go back." To same extent, this is the Slavic equivalent of fortune cookie wisdom. Ah, Russia, with its apparently inexhaustible capacity for resigned suffering. But as presented here, in the context of a tight and terse thriller like Transsiberian, and coming out of the mouth of a particularly sharp Ben Kingsley, cynical bits of wisdom like that go down like an invigorating shot of chilled vodka.

In Brad Anderson's film, the scenario is one we've seen before, but it's handled here with an unusual alacrity. Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer play Roy and Jessie, a pair of young Americans who just finished a volunteering stint in China and are now taking the Trans-Siberian train all the way to Moscow. Both as comfortable in their roles as few actors are ever allowed to be, the two need little more than a handful of lines and a couple of telling looks to apprise viewers of their characters. As the good-natured Christian rube from Iowa, and the girl with a past who's looking to put it all behind her but doesn't trust herself to do so, the two are ripe for the plucking. So when a dark and sexy couple in black move into Roy and Jessie's cabin, it's all a question of time before the Americans find themselves in a situation they're less than prepared for.

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The Abandoned Review

What if I told you that two plus two equals three? You wouldn't believe me, because that's a lie. Two plus two equals four... not three. Meaning, when you add two and two of anything, you get four. Except with The Abandoned, the movie equivalent of a rookie algebra error.

That's a shame, because The Abandoned is the first genuinely scary movie of the year. The film knows how to make spines tingle and hearts pound. There are moments when characters are walking through dark, desolate hallways and grimy, web-infested bedrooms that contain enough tension to cut with a knife. But there isn't much cutting... the tension just builds and builds. And at the end of the equation, things just don't add up.

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Darkness Review

I love road trips. Not because I'm especially fond of sitting in my car for days at a time, but because with each passing mile a promise is fulfilled. Every hour behind the wheel draws you nearer to your destination, and along the way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. But, though paperback self-help writers may tell you otherwise, the journey itself is not enough. You have to actually get somewhere to make the whole trip worthwhile. And if, at the end of a day's travel, you haven't gone anywhere at all, you've wasted all your time and a whole lot of gas.

Like a long road trip to nowhere, Spanish director Jaume Balagueró's Darkness is miserable, frustrating, and hard on the buttocks. Though the film's run time is a mere 102 minutes, the psychological impact of wasting precious money and energy staring at the screen and waiting for something -- anything -- to happen could take years off your life.

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Dagon Review

Reuniting Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna, Dagon unfortunately proves that no amount of nudity can redeem a zombie-fish-creature movie

That's right, it's zombie-fish-creatures as a boatload of four tourists visit a coastal Spanish town and soon find themselves on the run from the aforementioned beasts -- disciples, as it turns out, of the ancient sea creature Dagon.

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