Monday, December 11, 2006
Rooms for Tourists (2004)
One of the few exhilarating and truly terrifying movies I've seen all year, Rooms for Tourists is a tension-filled indie flick from Argentina that sticks with a simple story but delivers big scares.
Five girls get off a bus in a tiny, seemingly deserted town to catch a train to Trinidad. They've arrived a little too late as the train has already departed and are stuck in the town overnight until the next train arrives in the morning. The town has a creepy vibe, and as they pass by a church, they see that most of the townsfolk are attending an exorcism. The town preacher, Horacio, is praised by those they meet, but as they see him perform the exorcism, the girls are more than a little freaked out. At the train station, they meet a kind man who explains that he lives with his brother in a large house and they rent out rooms to tourists passing through. The girls accept his offer of room and board for the night, and head to his isolated house. They get to know each other a little more, as they were all strangers when they disembarked from the bus. Each of the girls gets her own room, and they all rest before dinner. The house has a strange vibe, though and one of the girls, timid Elena, has horrible visions about a masked man butchering women. At dinner, the girls find out that a special guest will be joining them - Horacio, the preacher from town. He lectures them a bit on morals and the evil of relativity before everyone drifts off to bed. A sudden scream wakes everyone up, and they discover one of the girls is missing, leaving only a pool of blood behind. Utter panic ensues, in which they realize that all the windows are barred and all the doors are locked. They are trapped in the house, but not alone. They have a masked killer to contend with, as well as not being able to trust the two brothers. When the lights go out, them must stumble around in the dark to try and find a way out, as one by one they get picked off by the menacing killer.
A simple story, yes, but one that packs a wallop! This movie is shot entirely in black and white and was supposedly made for under $3,000, so it does look very low budget, but it doesn't hinder it. In fact, the gore actually looks better here in black and white than it would have in color. The depiction of hacked up flesh and bone is so realistic and the film so grainy, that it almost feels like a snuff movie. The opening scenes alone give us a dog and its owner getting their skulls bashed in, a woman being burned alive, lots of chopping of flesh and lots of free flowing blood.
The acting is even pretty decent...I actually cared for each of the girls. They each had their own personalities and weren't just cardboard cutouts with boobs. It reminded me of another horror movie with a great cast of women that had to fight against the odds...The Descent, another top favorite of mine from this year.
The story, though simple, was very well written and had a few interesting twists and turns. As the girls discover more and more about the house they are in, they also discover more about themselves and each other, finally realizing that each one of them shares a deep secret.
The ending of the film is brutal and shocking...no one could have seen that coming. Just when you think everything is peachy keen, BAM! the filmmakers bust you upside the head.
The film also has some strong pro-feminist views, as the audience roots for the girls in light of their situation. For the most part, the girls are strong, intelligent and put up a good fight. Their enemy is portrayed as evil and a monster, not the girls. Some have claimed this is a misogynistic movie, but I cannot disagree more with that statement. It definitely questions some religious views, but it doesn't seek to "put women in their place" (like most sorry excuses for horror films do these days).
A definite must-see for horror fans, Rooms for Tourists is a gory ride down memory lane as it inevitably brings back memories of old school horror cinema a la The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Track this one down, because I assure you it's completely worth it.
Order it on Amazon!