One of those movies I’ve been low-key meaning to watch every year for a decade and a half, and it’s good. Maybe not horror exactly, but it’s still a ghost story, expertly designed and written. Opens with a one-two rhyme just like all those Nightmares on Elm St. I’ve been tearing through, but the ghosts here are sad orphans who died in the house Laura is moving into. She’s Belén Rueda of a couple twisty Oriol Paulo thrillers, has got a husband and a curly-haired boy. When her son goes missing during a party and never returns, she invites medium Geraldine Chaplin to investigate the house’s spirits. Laura plays tag with the house ghosts, finally discovers her son dead under the stairs, then takes all the sleeping pills and plays ghost-mom to the houseful of dead children.

A making-deals-with-demons movie filmed in Spain featuring some really nice beards. Powerful blacksmith lives in seclusion, keeps a demon in a cage – a properly cartoonish red demon with pitchfork and tail – until the ignorant townsfolk break in and muck everything up. Rival demon masquerading as a bald government man is in there, an innocent girl with a dead mom gets mixed up in the mess, and everyone has to go to hell to sort things out.

This looked great, and the director is legit, channeling Danzig on his letterboxd photo… let’s see if we can find his short films.

Photojournalist Jack Nicholson isn’t having a great time in Saharan Africa, sees an opportunity and grabs it, stealing the identity of his suddenly deceased hotel neighbor, the only other white guy in town. Jack’s abandoned wife Jenny Runacre (The Final Programme, Jarman’s Jubilee) investigates, while Jack faithfully follows the dead guy’s appointment book, even after learning that he was an arms dealer, and meets the same fate as the guy he’s impersonating, though he gets to hang out with Maria Schneider along the way.

Maria, Jack, Gaudi:

Thought I’d seen this a long time ago, but maybe I’ve confused it with The Conformist again. MA: “Actually, the entire story takes place in a short period of one day, from early morning until some time before sunset” – that’s not true, it’s set in four countries and we see a UK newspaper article about Jack’s death in Africa, and we see Jack’s appointments spread across a week in the book. Maybe he meant as the film was originally written. The fourth movie I’ve seen in the last few years to play in the 1975 competition at Cannes. Argh, the execution footage in this wasn’t faked.

Las Ramblas:

This is aka La Residencia, but I already have enough horror movies with generic titles like House, so I appreciate the English version. All these movies that have big music and lazy credits as some fancy people arrive at a large house by carriage, I never think they’re gonna be good. This one was… alright. You’re not even sure it’s a horror movie until, as in Halloween, all the bodies are discovered in the final five minutes.

Before that it’s a boarding school drama, with a stern headmistress, a new girl, a bitchy kissup girl, a couple suspicious employees – and the principal’s son who hides in the walls and cuts up the girls for parts. The movie is Spanish, set in France, spoken in English. I was surprised the movie killed the new girl – a couple of the deaths were fun, including Isabelle’s slow-mo stabbing in the garden.

L-R: defiant girl, strict principal, kissup girl

The director died just last year, also made the acclaimed horror Who Can Kill a Child? Principal Lilli Palmer was in The Boys From Brazil. New girl Cristina Galbó went on to Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. The boy in the walls starred in Deep End.

Isabelle with the boy in the walls:

I’ve given up on the miniseries versions, if they’re even still making those, so I think I’m missing some important shots of amazing food. Besides this disappointing shortage of food footage, this is my fave of the Trip series so far… gets on with what we came to see, and saves the bulk of the wallowing for the end. I watched with subtitles while clattering about, assembling the shelves I hadn’t pieced together during Endgame, and was disappointed that all the Spanish – including names of dishes! – are subtitled “(speaking foreign language)”. The subtitlers never even figured out that this language was Spanish. Complaints aside, this movie had some choice exchanges:

Coogan on his new script: “It’s about a man looking for his daughter.”
Brydon: “This’ll be the follow-up to your film about a woman looking for her son … He should be looking for something else, you know, to avoid the comparisons. Maybe man looking for his car.”
C: “The thing is you can do man who’s lost his car. European filmmakers use huge, overbearing thematic metaphors all the time, so it could be a guy looking for his car, but actually he doesn’t realize… he’s looking for something much bigger than that.”
B: “A van.”
C: “Yeah, but the van of life.”

“Listen, the mustache is the trendiest thing out there.”

Okay, I followed The Unity of All Things pretty well, enjoyed the atmosphere while barely following the “very minor” narrative threads, but this one is just scenes from a party without anything going on. A 4:3 frame shot on 16mm, the post-punk party music skips forward or back with every edit – maybe the sound is strictly accurate to the single-camera picture, so any cut necessitates interrupting the music flow. Most of the time the conversations are too indistinct to make out or subtitle, so this music thing is all I had to hold onto.

“I don’t know if I belong to the working class struggle.”

Finally it gets good, with a slideshow of family photos over a song about nuclear destruction, and near the end the edits start glitching, and there are sound dropouts and giant cigarette burns over the picture, but after fifty minutes of nothing happening, this is too little too late.

Set in Madrid 1982 – Franco was dead and socialism was in, and the kids were free to grow trendy mustaches and listen to Spanish-language covers of “Heroes”. Filmmaker says it “pinpoints a willful political ignorance,” but I’ve got enough of that these days, and Mubi says the facial expressions start to tell a story upon the fourth viewing, but I haven’t the time – I’d settle for trading in this movie for a CD of its soundtrack.

Cute mouse Dinki runs away from her fake family (her “dad” is a guy wearing mouse ears and her “brother” is a dog) with a boy and her creepy girlfriend who hears murder-voices. Birdboy himself spends most of the movie a useless junkie, having nightmares and reminiscing about life with his late father in a lighthouse, but briefly he turns into a giant enraged bird-beast and kills all the dump rats who threaten his friends.

It doesn’t feel like an adult animation so much as a kids’ animation that has been isolated and deprived of light or hope for decades until all the happy furry creatures have turned to despair. Also featuring a living piggybank and living alarm clock, the opposite of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast trinkets, showing the cruel horrors we inflict on the objects that are just doing their jobs for us. Played with a short…

Decorado (2016, Alberto Vásquez)

From one of Birdboy‘s directors, a handful of truly awful animal-characters interact in short sketches, while one of them (the guy whose best friend is a ghost and is married to a robot-voiced woman whose secret admirer is a horrible monster) starts to realize that he’s in a Truman Show situation with artificial scenery. Some crude gags striving towards profundity, not quite making it.

With shades of Talk To Her, a hopeless balding dude has a one-sided relationship with a woman in the building where he is concierge – every night he drugs her and sleeps with her, the only witness a young girl across the hall, who is blackmailing him. He is Luis Tosar (Miami Vice, The Limits of Control), very friendly and polite to the residents, but depressed and secretly causing all sorts of misery for them. Things are looking bad for César: police investigate the threatening letters Clara is getting, he’s caught inside her apartment and fired, he kills Clara’s boyfriend, but César gets the last word, a year later confessing to Clara in a letter that he’s the father of her baby. A good, tense variation on the recent home-invasion horrors from the perspective of the invader.

Flashes back and forth in time, so I didn’t realize the two lead actresses on the poster art are both Julieta: younger Adriana Ugarte and older Emma Suárez (she worked with Julio Medem in the 1990’s).

Julieta hears word of her missing daughter Antía from a mutual friend and abruptly breaks contact with her boyfriend Lorenzo (Talk to Her star Darío Grandinetti, looking exactly the same), moves back into her old apartment building and writes a long letter to Antía explaining past events: meeting Antía’s dad Xoan, his affair with artist Ava (Blancanieves star Inma Cuesta) and their argument just before he died at sea while Antía was at camp. After her daughter disappears, Julieta makes up with Ava, waits and searches for Antía, and anyway there’s more, it’s a complicated movie, but it has a happyish ending and everyone’s just wonderful in it, and it’s particularly nice to see Rossy de Palma again (as a suspicious housekeeper). Didn’t make Cinema Scope’s year-end list, but I liked it more than The Ornithologist. I got a long way to go if I’m gonna be a celebrated art-cinema critic.