PrintE-mail Written by Cleaver Patterson

Review: Hidden Face / Cert: TBC / Director: Andrés Baiz / Screenplay: Andrés Baiz, Stewart St. John / Starring: Quim Gutiérrez, Clara Lago, Martina García / Release Date: TBC

Though The Hidden Face, the new thriller from Andrés Baiz, the director behind 2007's critically acclaimed crime thriller Satanás, is not strictly a horror film, it has all the qualities for a truly unsettling experience - atmosphere, suspense and a twisted climax which leaves you guessing until the final credits.

Adrián (Quim Gutiérrez) and his fiancé Belén (Clara Lago) move into an isolated mansion outside the Colombian city of Bogotá, after he takes up the position of conductor in residence with the city's orchestra. As time passes Belén convinces herself that Adrián is having an affair with a member of the orchestra, which leads her to become increasingly paranoid and hostile towards him. Then suddenly one morning Belén disappears. Accepting that she has gone for good Adrián moves on and meets a young waitress called Fabiana (Martina García) with whom he falls in love and brings to live in the house. Everything is fine until Fabiana begins hearing sounds when alone in the house, becoming convinced that there is more to her strange new home than meets the eye...

In the age of the modern horror movie, film-makers appear to have forgotten that often what isn't seen is much more unsettling than anything CGI wizardry can come up with. Productions from large Hollywood studios seem honour-bound to include as much visual mayhem as they can, meaning that audiences increasingly have to look beyond mainstream American cinema (in this case to Spain) for cutting edge frights.

The Hidden Face works because it has no such constraints. Eschewing gore for subtlety, the film builds tension by encouraging your affinity with the individual characters. However, despite Adrian's distress at the apparent loss of Belén being brought to life with believable intensity by Gutiérrez, it is Lago and García's performances as the suspicious Belén and bewildered Fabiana which stand out, leaving the viewer's loyalties torn between the two with equal sympathy and contempt.

Setting and soundtrack are as important in the creation of the film's suspense and atmosphere as the characters. Though the secluded country house which Adrián and Belén move into is your typical 'haunted house' with twisting corridors, wide open rooms and dodgy lighting which fails just when needed most, it creates an added air of menace through its beautiful yet austere decor. The strains of classical music which echo round the dimly lit mansion as Adrián pounds his grand piano late at night would be enough to send anyone over the edge, let alone the fragile Fabiana who increasingly believes that the house she has moved into is haunted.

Like the work of that master of the twisted tale Roald Dhal, The Hidden Face keeps the best shock to last. Its unexpected denouement would be worthy of the master of the macabre himself, thus completing an original and disturbing classic.

Expected Rating: 5 out of 10

Actual Rating:

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