"COMPARABLE TO DE PALMA IN ITS OVER-THE-TOP SUSPENSE SET PIECES & HALL OF MIRRORS PLOT"
Above is the opening image of Bigas Luna's Anguish, which the Chicago Reader's Ben Sachs felt compelled to write about this week. Here's the opening segment of his Bleader blog post:
Since invoking Spanish genre entertainment in my review of Non-Stop, I've been thinking a lot about Bigas Luna (Jamon, Jamon), the Spanish writer-director who passed away last year at the age of 67. Luna excelled at the flamboyant stylization that I associate with a particular strain of Spanish filmmaking, coupling deliberately outlandish plots with deliberately show-offy camerawork. "Luna's point," Fred Camper wrote of his 1998 film Chambermaid on the Titanic (released in the U.S. as The Chambermaid), "is that one can enjoy [overblown] fantasies and still acknowledge them as false," a sentiment conveyed by all of his work. Here was a filmmaker who worked hard but didn't take himself too seriously—even the shallowest movies of his I've seen have made me smile.
Of the Luna works I know, I'm most partial to his English-language horror film Anguish (1987) because a large section of it takes place in a movie theater. It's comparable to Brian De Palma's work in its over-the-top suspense set pieces and its hall-of-mirrors plot. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend saving the rest of this post until you do. You'll have to rent it, though, as I doubt if any theater will revive it soon, for reasons I'll explain below.
Anguish begins as a quasi-spoof of psycho-killer movies, in which a timid optometrist (Michael Lerner, an actor I've always enjoyed for his resemblance to Randy Newman) murders people and plucks out their eyes while acting under the telepathic control of his overbearing mother (Zelda Rubinstein, best known as psychic Tangina Barrons in the Poltergeist movies). I say "quasi-spoof" because the scary sequences really deliver the goods. Like De Palma, Luna deconstructs the mechanics of suspense filmmaking without sacrificing suspense, acknowledging that sometimes it's just fun to be scared.