Ten years ago Spain gave us the best horror movie of the decade in the form of supernatural zombie found footage REC. Titles such as The Valdemar Legacy, Shiver, The Orphanage and Sleep Tight are other examples of fantastic genre flicks out of Spain from 2007 onwards. Coming from all regions of Spain, these films excel in style, cinematography, rhythm, tension and, most of all, buildup, which commonly results in memorable experiences.
Contributing to the legacy of European horror, Galician filmmaker Samuel Lema has been experimenting with genre filmmaking in his short movies, namely Raw Meat and From Inside. The first, which can be found on YouTube for free (not recommended for people with a weak stomach), is a retelling of the notorious case of Armin Meiwes, the Rotenburg Cannibal.
La Carne Cruda is an extreme piece that utilizes various narrative styles along with black-and-white aesthetics to tell one of the grittiest stories ever recorded. In 2001, German computer repair technician Armin Meiwes posted on a website for cannibalism fetishists that he was looking for a young man willing to be slaughtered and eaten.
Surprisingly, (or not) a man, Bernd Brandes, answered the ad and allowed himself to be killed and eaten. The entire thing was caught on tape, including the two men attempting to Brandes's severed penis. The videos were never released and it's said that many people who saw it had to undergo some sort of psychological treatment.
Released in 2013, Raw Meat matches two seemly new tendencies that I've noticed in contemporary horror. The first being a new cannibal cycle that includes films like Raw and The Bad Batch and the TV series Hannibal. The other is a wave of black-and-white flicks such as The Eyes of My Mother and True Love Ways. It also goes beyond these themes and includes inspirations from other mediums. Some of the director's main references come from Japanese manga and Takashi Miike. It's always refreshing to notice crossovers between different cultures.
Experimenting With Genre Filmmaking
In his newest film, which is currently running the festival circuit, Lema has gone far more experimental.
Using different narrative perspectives, FROM INSIDE investigates the terrible murder committed by a psychopath of unknown identity.. The case becomes a media sensation so a TV channel, "C5", decides to make an "instant movie" about the events with the objective of increasing its audience.
The film narrates, from a multilineal perspective, the problems with which the production of the film was faced in order to get ahead, and provides us with certain pieces of the puzzle to unravel the identity of the assassin, known by mass media as "The Stalker."
The film works like a big puzzle of different medium, creating a fractured narrative about a serial killer case. As with many other European horror films, this one draws inspiration from psychoanalysis and philosophy. Lema refers to Derrida and his concept of Archive Fever, which is said to be:
An explanation of the impossibility of rearranging and reordering all the information we receive from the numerous audiovisual and digital platforms, reinterpreting, in a biased and directed way, the reality, placing the emotional instinct over textual comprehension or inferred.
Horror In The Visual Era
It's important to remember that we live in the age of images. Every person has a portable camera on his or her phone and every establishment and street has a security camera. We are being recorded nonstop and we allow it to happen; we don't even question it.
The most remarkable aspect of From Inside is how it captures this social phenomenon and transforms it into something that is both scary and captivating. Using archive footage, Lema builds #horror out of ordinary scenes that are typically broadcast on television or easily found on the internet.
The horror genre is alive and adapting to our world, and many filmmakers are crafting stories based on questions that are relevant nowadays. From Inside is an active part of that trend. It's currently unavailable for general audiences, but is expected to hit the festival circuit soon.
What did you think of Lema's short films?