Director – Martín Garrido Barón
Cast – Fernando Acaso, María José Bausá, Raquel Arenas, Xènia Reguant, Sonia Moreno, Alejo Sauras
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This has been on my list of films to watch for quite some time, but I never found a convenient opportunity to give this flick a watch until now. Spain’s stranglehold on the horror genre lead me to assume that this would be a great watch, and I was curious to see how they would do a serial killer film given most of their fantastic watches either involve the “infected” ala REC and REC 2, or the paranormal ala The Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone. Well, I over-estimated this one and was not too impressed with the outcome, however it does come with some good positives and an enjoyable serial-killer.
After serving 14 years in prison for the violent beating death of a former girlfriend, Antonio Frau greets his newly found freedom by pursuing his old ways and soon finds himself with cravings that lead him to become Spain’s greatest serial killer/rapist of all time.
I constantly came across comparisons between this film and Hostel, claiming that this watch pre-dated Hostel in delivering the torturous goods the horror scene now eats up at a moments that. Because of this, I went in expecting to see some brutal torture scenes but with a serial-killer twist unlike Hostel, but that was never the case. That does not necessarily come off as a fault of the film, but as you will soon find out this Spanish watch never really amounted to the film it could have been, and that itself is a fault I cannot forgive.
The storyline is an interesting one thanks to the excellent usage of Antonio Frau, a deeply troubled yet savvy man whose taste for primal domination leads him down a violent, egotistical path to become not only a killer who will be written about for ages, which he sees as being immortal, but to live his life in achieving his most selfish desires. I really enjoyed how well-written Antonio was, with great dialogue and just the kind of personality I would want to see in a serial killer. While he mostly fit the overall template of what a serial killer “is”, he was unique in his own right thanks to the pleasures he seeks from those unfortunate enough to deal with him. Much applause goes to writer/director Martin Garrido Baron for this awesome usage of Antonio, and this being is debut effort goes to show the talent this inexperienced filmmaker carried within him. My balks against this film include poor pacing, which was a result of the the story not heading in any particular direction and just giving us Antonio killing and torturing a girl here and there. I loved the torture scenes, mostly due to how sick the guy was, however when all you get is torture it does tend to get old after a while. What really surprised me though was how un-graphic this flick was. Sure the content was not of favorable taste, but aside from a lot of dry-humping most of what went on was occurring off camera. At times it seemed like the story would get more into psychological horror, then torture horror, then revenge horror, but none of those elements ever become prominent and each shared the runtime with one another. Some of you may enjoy all of these elements combined, and trust me it did make for a fun experience, but I was left a bit unsatisfied at the film’s climax due to each of them only being delved into just a little bit, and not to full potential. Thankfully, the film’s climax itself is an enjoyable one, and plays heavily on Antonio’s plan on becoming an immortal legend in the media surrounding famous serial killers.
Baron’s direction was mostly-positive, with his biggest selling point being his execution of Antonio, how as expertly portrayed by a fairly-inexperienced Fernando Acaso. Acaso was dead on and one of the most enjoyable serial killers I have ever seen, thanks to his his portrayal of polar opposite personalities ranging from suave/savvy to a downright diabolical beast. Everyone else involved gave solid performances, surprisingly enough, but Acaso stole the show from the very moment he hit the screen. Baron’s execution of the horror was good, giving us a full-frontal view of the torturous (physical and psychological) ordeals Antonio put his victims through, and we get a decent amount of gore at times thanks to my favorite scene of the film, which involves a chainsaw and Antonio’s reassurance that his female victim won’t feel a thing. Excellent. The locations and sets used were good, providing a lonely and shadowy atmosphere for the horror to dwell in. Unfortunately the story held his directorial effort back given the story’s many pacing issues, and with only so much that Baron could do as a director (even though HE wrote the story), he failed to sell the film to me at times thanks to the content.
Overall, H6: Diary of a Serial Killer is a mostly-positive Spanish serial killer effort that gives us a great serial killer but suffers some story-related faults. The horror is good and shows the talent the inexperienced Baron had to offer, but unless you can be more forgiving than I can I say this is a film you should only watch if you cannot another film that you know you will enjoy.