The review of La abuela – Blood Ties: in the evocative horror of Paco Plaza, just released on home video by Midnight Factory, a niece who hastens to help her beloved grandmother finds herself living a nightmare.
It had been presented at the Turin Film Festival in December 2021, now La abuela – Blood ties came to home video via Plaion Pictures’ Midnight Classic release. The right opportunity to rediscover a suggestive atmospheric horror, one of those that strike the senses, which almost entirely renounces the easy and traditional jump scareto rather travel more subtle and insidious roads, those that lead directly to the soul.
All thanks to the director Paco Plazajust that of Rec (film that later became a saga), capable of creating that kind of subtle fear that penetrates your bones, behind your skin, that is all anxieties and disturbances. And if the story works it is also due to the two very good protagonists, the young and beautiful Almudena Amor and the elderly Vera Valdez, capable of transmitting destabilizing sensations without saying a word, thanks to the thousand facets of a look or a grimace.
Love for dear grandmother becomes a nightmare
In La abuela – Blood ties, Susana (played by Almudena Amor) is a young Spanish model who lives in Paris: just when she is about to make the leap in quality in the workplace, she learns from Madrid that her grandmother Pilar (Vera Valdez) has been hospitalized urgently for a cerebral hemorrhage. A grandmother to whom Susana is very close, having practically grown up with her after losing her parents in an accident as a child. Among other things, the two celebrate their birthday on the same day, another fundamental fact in the continuation of the story. So the girl flies to Madrid to look after her sick and no longer self-sufficient grandmother (no words, apparent mental confusion, so much so that she doesn’t seem to be able to recognize her granddaughter), waiting to find someone to take care of her on a permanent basis.
Gradually, however, the old woman, albeit incapable of understanding and wanting, is the protagonist of some disturbing facts to say the least: she laughs for no reason, mutters incomprehensible things, also seems to hide secrets, and perhaps above all powers like a real witch. Soon Susana, although animated by good intentions, instead finds herself living a nightmare between visions, audiovisual hallucinations and inexplicable episodes. Another bizarre presence also takes over, a blonde girl named Eva (Karina Kolokolchykova), whom Susana doesn’t remember but who has had a great bond with her and her grandmother since she was a child. A grandmother who seems to be able to cause unexplainable things, all as long as her granddaughter stays with her on their birthday.
A tension created with intense gazes, plays of shadows and small details
The greatest advantage of La abuela – Blood ties it is the fact of being unsettling, it constantly changes focus while always revolving around the two protagonists, the beautiful model and the disturbing grandmother of the title. In her choices she never proves trivial, even audacious, as in the obscene incipit or when she flaunts the transience of the flesh, without fear of showing the wrinkles and swellings of an over eighty year old. And he manages to make the trauma of the protagonist credible, in the grip of a precarious balance that is impossible to maintain between the supernatural component and the harsh reality, dreamlike dimensions and removed traumas of ancient childhood rites.
All without resorting, if not in the slightest part, to the typical horror tricks full of surprises and sound effects. The great weapon of the film is rather that of being able to introduce a constant sensation of tension, ambiguity and unease through other much deeper and more effective systems, such as a series of small gestures, of glances now empty now all too intense, games of particularly suggestive lights and shadows in the apartment. Or still highlighting mirrors, photographs, paintings, all elements that almost recall a fusion between the two protagonists, an interpenetration of destinies and bodies.
The immortal evil that crosses the generations
In short, the path chosen to frighten or maintain at least a high level of suspense is not trivial but full of ideas and small details that enhance the path and amplify the nightmare of the protagonist. There remains a pinch of predictability and some brief moments of tiredness, but otherwise the work of Paco Plaza remains valid. The key theme is that of the passage of time, of the dark forces that fight the nature of things and aging itself, of the evil that wants to stay young and be immortal. And in this regard, the scene of the clocks all stopping together is very suggestive, as indeed the matryoshka seems to explain many things. Because evil is personified here in the figure of grandmother Pilar, but in reality it is not enclosed in a body, but rather inhabits a spiritual dimension, capable of crossing generations.
Blu-ray: quality video, high-octane audio and a booklet
As mentioned, now La abuela – Blood Ties is available in home video with the blu-ray of the Midnight Classic series edited by Plaion Pictures (here the product on Amazon). In the usual beautiful slipcase package, there is also an in-depth booklet. The video is of good quality, sometimes affected by a slight noise in darker scenes and a softer rendering of the picture, but it always manages to maintain its compactness even in the play of shadows and the detail is still excellent, apart from some bending mainly due to photography. Even the chroma adheres to the look and remains sober and natural. The audio is even more convincing, a DTS HD 5.1 that manages to be involving even in the most furtive and subtle noises, thanks to excellent spatiality and perfect distribution of the effects between the speakers. The moments of greatest tension are also underlined by a good dose of bass, while the dialogues always have a good timbre. In the extras only the trailer, but let’s not forget the booklet.
At the conclusion of the review of La abuela – Blood Ties, we can only praise the horror of Paco Plaza, which cleverly manages to build a mechanism of constant tension without resorting to easy ways, but playing on small details, plays of shadows and above all on the superb interpretation of the two protagonists. In the end everything remains a bit predictable, but the path is full of interesting ideas.
Because we like it
- The interpretation of the two protagonists, especially that of Vera Valdez.
- A careful direction, able to play on small details, looks and plays of shadows.
- The constant tension and some brave scenes.
- The feeling of a certain predictability remains.