the wasteland | david casademunt | marti lucas | fran menchon | inma cuesta | robert alamo | asier flores | allegory | monster | creature | drama | mystery | spain | alejandra howard | victor benjumea | amir bengard
Film: The Wasteland (El paramo)
Director: David Casademunt
Writers: David Casademunt, Martí Lucas and Fran Menchón
Starring: Inma Cuesta, Robert Álamo and Asier Flores
This is a movie that I sought out when looking for 2022 released movies. It appeared on a list of movies that my buddy Tim has watched so I decided to give it a go. Spanish horror tends to be good or at least I enjoy them. It paired up well having now seen it with my older movie that I watched this week on my podcast, Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis is the tranquil lives of a family isolated from the rest of society are disturbed by a terrifying creature, testing the ties that bind them together.
For this movie, we start learning that we are in 19th century Spain. There have been multiple wars that have ravaged the land. Some people have isolated themselves to avoid it. We are following one of these families. It introduces us to Diego (Asier Flores) who is the son of Lucía (Inma Cuesta) and Salvador (Robert Álamo). There are these wooden figures that are carved that sit across from Diego. He gets spooked and breaks his bedpan in the process. He needs to go to the bathroom, so he goes into his parents’ room. Salvador is awoken to take him to the outhouse. The reason is that going outside is dangerous for the time and how far out in the middle of nowhere they live.
From this point, we see the butting of heads for Lucía and Salvador. He wants Diego to grow up as life is hard. We see this through needing to kill one of their rabbits for food. Lucía wants to protect him and help keep his innocence.
This all changes when they find a man drifting in a boat in a nearby river. Salvador sends Diego home. The man is bleeding and looks to have been through a lot. He is portrayed by Víctor Benjumea. We get to see even more of that with what he does back at the cabin this family lives in. To complicate things further, Salvador tells his family the story of a beast that roams this area. He thinks this is what killed his sister Juana (Alejandra Howard). After hearing the story, this haunts the nightmares of Diego.
Salvador decides to take the man back to his family, leaving his wife and child alone. From here we see the isolation causes them to both sink in a madness of sorts. The question becomes though, are they crazy or is there actually a beast that roams this land?
That is where I’m going to leave my recap as there isn’t a lot to this story. It is more of getting to know these characters before we see them descend into madness. Where I want to start then would be the time that it is set. This is a period piece. We are seeing that the people of Spain had to deal with war and were sick of it. This family wants to just live off their land and be left alone. Isolating yourself is fine. I won’t tell people how to live their lives. The problem becomes though that madness can set in without interaction with other people. It becomes a catch-22. This family must decide to isolate and avoid the world, or deal with it and face the consequences there.
From that idea I want to go next to the idea of the beast that we are getting in the movie. At first, Salvador is the only one who can see it. Lucía wants him to stop talking about it, fearing that it will give Diego nightmares. Once Salvador leaves, we see that Lucía descends into depression. She believes she will never see her husband again. She then starts to see the beast. It isn’t until much later in the movie that Diego also starts to see it. The question is though, is the monster there or is this the madness setting in?
There is an interesting commentary that comes with this though. Salvador tells the story of his sister Juana who saw the beast. It appears that Diego’s grandparents were harsh with her and physically beat her. She saw the monster and her brother thought it came to get her. Lucía gives us a different explanation of what happens. I’m taking that this beast is a manifestation of the horrors of the outside world and things being too much to go on. To see it, you need to have the loss of innocence. Having a boy as one of our leads helps to present this. There layer is that it could also be a representation of depression and despair. What I did like here though is that you can also see it as having a monster as well. There isn’t necessarily a definite answer. I think with how things end, it makes sense.
I do have some negatives to go into. This movie wasn’t great in conveying everything that I’ve described. For one thing, it runs too long. I feel bad saying this as it runs just over an hour and half. I think that ten minutes should have been cut from it and there are things we can remove. It does well in setting up this family. It doesn’t take too long to get our characters being depressed. From there, we harp too much on it without things necessarily escalating. I think removing some of that and getting to the beast quicker would help this. Thankfully this movie isn’t longer as this would have hurt it much more for sure.
Going from this though, I’ll shift to a positive which was the acting. I did like seeing Cuesta shown as the nice parent. She wants Diego to stay a boy. That is until life gets hard without her husband there to help her. On the other side of this we have Álamo. He recognizes that life is hard and he’s been broken by it in the past. He wants Diego to realize it. I think the parents play well off each other. They both love him and each other, but things aren’t easy. Flores I thought was also good as our boy here. I like seeing him not being ready for the difficult things that adults must do. It felt real and works for what they’re pushing. Howard was solid in her minor role along with Benjumea.
This will then take me to the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, I think that the effects we get are fine. There is a gnarly one with Benjumea’s character that I liked. We get a bit of blood here that looked real. There is also the beast we see stalking them. I like what they did there. I’m assuming some of this was done with CGI and I didn’t have a problem. The cinematography was also well done here. It helps build this bleak atmosphere that this movie needed. Going along with this is the soundtrack. I thought the musical selections were fine. We get use of sounds off screen that are effective. This includes from characters as well as this creature. I was also a big fan of the use of thunder in this movie. It rains and storms a fair amount which builds tension with a potential beast that I liked.
So then in conclusion here, this movie had potential. I like the ideas that we are exploring here with life being hard and the loss of innocence. I even like the idea of a beast complicating things or just being a metaphor for what the movie is giving us. The acting was good. The effects were solid along with the cinematography and the soundtrack. This movie runs too long though. I don’t think they do great with exploring things due to me losing interest unfortunately. I would then have to say that this is just over average for me. There were just too many issues for me to go higher.
My Rating: 6 out of 10