Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Blind Alley – review

Director: Antonio Trashorras

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

It’s funny how sometimes a film manages to stay off the radar despite itself. I would have thought this little thriller would have been better known but it only actually hit my radar when Everlost alerted me to it with a clip that showed its vampiric side.

Now that could conceivably be said to be a huge spoiler because nowhere, on the DVD blurb or on the IMDb page, is the word vampire mentioned. In fact serial killer is the phrase of choice. However it wouldn’t be being reviewed here if there wasn’t a vampire aspect and I can’t help but think being honest about this would have given the film more exposure. In reality it doesn’t feel like the big twist one might think.

dancing title sequence
Speaking of twists the opening of the film starts with a quote from Gorey’s the Insect God, we see a woman running for her life, scenes of police at work around murder scenes and then a look at the blind alley of the title. Then we get a title sequence with a Hammond organ jazz theme and Rosa (Ana de Armas) dancing away in a 60s style (twist, geddit?) It seems a strange opening until we get to the end of the sequence and she is dancing against a green screen as part of an audition.

Ana de Armas as Rosa
She goes to work – she is a cleaner in a hotel – but is called by Drazen her ex-boyfriend who is looking for a hook up. After a while she tells him to go to Hell. She works with Nyela (Judith Diakhate) and, during the sequence where they are together, we hear that Rosa has been suffering from insomnia and has been prescribed pills that could knock a rhino out.

Outside somewhere we see a pair of bloodied bodies, one is dragged away by a person unseen and the other regains consciousness, scrambles up and manages to get away. Rosa is walking home and puts some music on headphones. Due to this she doesn’t hear the bloodied girl come up behind her. The girl reaches out, fails to grab Rosa and falls to the floor. She is dragged away, again by a person unseen.

the launderette
Just as she gets home, Rosa gets a voicemail message on her phone (we hear later she is having intermittent phone problems) to say that she has a callback, for the next day, from her audition. She is about to go into the apartment building when she gets another voicemail from her sister (also played by Ana de Armas) saying the washing machine is broken. She has her dance clothes in her bag and the apartment is on the mouth of a blind alley. At the bottom of the alley – across from a derelict movie theatre – is a 24 hour launderette. Rosa heads there, though the amount of panic she feels as she walks down the alley might have one question the sense of the move.

Diego Cadavid as Gabriel
The launderette is empty when she gets there (or at least looks it). Later a vagrant comes in, stealing coins from the machine - whilst he scares her, he doesn’t actually harm Rosa and leaves when Gabriel (Diego Cadavid) comes in. The two of them hit it off until he is looking for a bathroom, his washing seems to stop mid-cycle and she opens the washer to find blood stained women’s clothes. This makes things turn into a stand-off (he ends up outside the launderette, she inside) and he also threatens her sister in the nearby flat. Given that he talks about his mother (Leonor Varela, Blade 2) it’ll come as no shock that he is not actually alone.

There isn’t much vampire lore. Sunlight is an issue – and this leads to a wondrous melting scene at the climax of the film. Turning involves the sharing of blood and the flashback scene sees the mother slicing her tongue and then letting blood pour into Gabriel’s mouth. It is very stylish and that underlines the film. It is stylish. There are some head scratching moments, for instance Rosa, before all-Hell breaks loose, is told by her sister to take a pill and get a good night’s sleep for her audition. This she does, whilst still in the launderette. Given we have already established how strong they are it does add another element to what is a fairly simple film but why would she take a strong sleeping pill whilst still in the launderette waiting for her clothes to wash?

vampire face
Moments like that aside, as I said there is plenty of style and the film is pretty much carried by Ana de Armas and Diego Cadavid. They have a great chemistry together and he makes for a brilliant villain able to move from boyish charm to violently dangerous with ease. Perhaps the repeated technique of the film returning to thoughts or dialogue that had only just passed suggested a belief that the audience needed hand-holding through the plot but it was, at the very least, consistent through the film. There is a final twist at the end of the film that was unnecessary and, dare I say it, cheap. Despite that, I enjoyed it. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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