A movie within a movie within a movie within, well, you get the point!
Screenplay By: Bigas Luna
Directed By: Bigas Luna
Years before The Cabin in the Woods was even an idea in Drew Goddard’s head there was a movie called Angustia. There are a ton of differences between the two films, but in some key areas they are very similar. What struck me the most was how similar they are in terms of their meta approach to horror. Both films are about horror as more than just what it has been pegged as by popular society. The two films approach horror as something special, a genre worthy of the deepest level of dissection and contemplation.
However, the two films begin to differ in their approach the deeper they get into the meta-textual aspects of their screenplays. The Cabin in the Woods strives to keep things light and humorous, it wants to have fun with the horror genre. Angustia stays true to its horror roots and seeks to use its meta aspects to pen a love letter to the horror genre. Bigas Luna’s film isn’t having fun with horror so much as it is proclaiming for all to hear that it loves horror. To this end the film adds layer upon layer to the basic premise behind the film and continues to move around and distort the horror tropes that we horror buffs have come to easily recognize. It’s not that Angustia is a dreadfully serious film, but rather it’s a film that wants to revel in the glory of horror while peeling away what horror says about its fans, and vice-versa.
There’s an enclosed feel to Angustia, not quite claustrophobic but suffocating to some measure. Señor Luna uses a lot of close-ups, but they aren’t used to no effect. They focus on the tactile nature of the made up world of the film. One of the reasons we go to the movies is to feel, and Angustia is asking why we go to the movies to feel fear or to be scared. The close-ups are of eyes opening, snails crawling across the floor, and hands touching faces. Most of the close-ups appear innocuous on the surface, but they focus almost exclusively on movement and touch. The movies make us feel, sometimes that’s for the best, and other times not.
Señor Luna’s script sets up a film within a film within another film. The end result is the view that there’s no true reality, especially if we’re willing to lose ourselves in fantasy so frequently. Again, the film asks why we are willing to lose ourselves in fantasy. To what end do we watch movies, do we allow ourselves to be subjected to material that offends us, and so forth. Angustia asks question after question of its audience and never provides a single answer. This film is the proverbial rabbit hole, the more one wants to know the deeper they fall into the hole and the harder it is to get free.
Angustia is an entirely intellectual exercise. The horror presented in the film is the type that the audience has to work for. Cheap scares and things that go bump in the night aren’t present in Angustia. There are elements of the slasher, Giallo, and more to be found within the folds of Angustia’s screenplay. Señor Luna plays around with many different subgenres of horror to deliver a complete horror experience. Just when an audience member will think they have the film pegged Señor Luna pulls the rug out from under them yet again. I didn’t have any expectations going into Angustia, and I’m happy to say that it’s an underseen horror movie worth spending the time to find. An intelligently constructed film with a deep love of horror at its core, Angustia may not be held up as an all-time great horror movie, but that’s something horror buffs need to correct by seeing this hidden gem as soon as they can.