Sunday 2 September 2018

100 Essential Films That Deserve More Attention - 10. Angustia

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

Director - Bigas Luna
Country - Spain
Year - 1987
Runtime - 86 Minutes

The horror genre is rife with films that toy with the audiences expectations; leading us deliberately down to dark, unsettling places where unimaginable horrors or mysterious experiences leave our knees trembling or our jaws agape. Some of the most imaginative horror films play with our expected notions of reality to confound and disturb us, leaving audiences vulnerable and more susceptible to the shock tactics employed by the warped minds of their creators. Angustia is one such horror from Spanish director Bigas Luna that takes the viewer through a bizarre and mesmerising ordeal, with a groundbreaking approach to storytelling that still feels innovative today.

From the offset it is unclear where Angustia is headed. At first we are presented with what appears to be a graphic Italian slasher flick, albeit one slightly more peculiar than Giallo fans may be accustomed to, until we discover this is only the set-up for something altogether more ingenious. Eyebrows will certainly be raised when the initial storyline segues into another in an unconventional yet intriguing fashion and, as the link between the two becomes more tangible, this is where the fun really begins.

Throughout Angustia there is a central motif of hypnotism, established by our introduction to the killer's mother (Zelda Rubenstein), who possesses the ability to control the mind of her doting son. This gift is used for evil purposes and the power she exerts over her son is strong enough to spill over into the minds of other submissive individuals. One of the film's standout scenes is an exaggerated portrayal of this hypnotism in action, where viewers could be forgiven for fearing that they too might succumb to the twisted grip of her psychic power.

Along with the fascinating visual effects it is Zelda's acting talent that adds credence to these spellbinding scenes. She is well known for her role as the medium in the Poltergeist series and her creepy performance in Angustia demonstrates once again why her presence can be so beneficial to genre films that require a distinctive character.

Angustia is both inventive and playful in the delivery of its intricate screenplay. To explain too much about the plot would deny the viewer the chance to experience one of the film's greatest accomplishments first hand. If you ever have the opportunity to see Angustia in the cinema then you would be well advised to do so. A large portion of the film's events take place in a cinema screen, and being in the same setting as the characters would serve to heighten the tension and deliver a truly chilling and unforgettable encounter with this unorthodox horror.

Meta-horror films that are self-referential and blur the line between horror fiction and reality became popular in the mid 90's due to Wes Craven's Scream and New Nightmare. The genre continues to thrive to this day with films such as Rubber and The Cabin in The Woods attracting a cult following among horror fans. Back in the 80's when the idea had not been explored to its fullest, Angustia's astonishing amalgamation of fiction and reality should have sparked a series of imitators. Instead, it remained an anomaly in the genre - an overlooked and largely forgotten horror. Most audience members were not ready to embrace such a crazy idea when it was first released - hell, maybe we still aren't ready - but those who approach Angustia with an open mind will enjoy a remarkable, one of a kind, horror experience.

If you take the time to watch Angustia then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

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