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THE WAIT [Fantastic Fest 2023]

Written By:

Martin Unsworth
the wait

Javier Gutiérrez (Rings) returns to his Spanish roots with this rural shocker that takes its time to burrow into your head before unleashing a surreal and nightmarish finale.

Set in the ‘70s, Eladio (Victor Clavijo) has taken a job as a groundskeeper that will set him and his family up for the next few years. While planning an annual hunt, he reluctantly takes a bribe to increase the number of shooting stands. When tragedy strikes, his life becomes an increasingly living hell.

The Wait (La espera) is the sort of story that thrives from being in a foreign language. With the rugged expanse of the Spanish countryside as its backdrop, the tale gradually unwinds before us, moving from a heartbreaking family drama in the vein of Jean de Florette to a demented piece of folk horror. Clavijo is captivating as a good man who makes one wrong decision, albeit against his better judgement. The class system is part of the real horror here, too. The landowners and his acolytes visibly have a superiority over the much more moral menial worker, something that’s brought to a head in the shocking climax.

Miguel Ángel Mora’s cinematography makes the most of the rural landscape, and this creates a vivid contrast to Eladio’s grace-and-favour, basic home, which gets more oppressive and claustrophobic as events unfold. The nightmarish scenario he finds himself in is all the more believable, thanks to Clavijo’s impressive, relatable performance.

The Wait is a brooding, potent tale of calamity, loss, revenge, and class divides. It would do it a disservice to call it merely a horror film, as there is so much more here and plenty of food for thought.

stars

THE WAIT screened at Fantastic Fest 2023.

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