Director: Héctor Carré
Writers: Héctor Carré, José Antonio Félez (contributing writer)
Stars: Carmen Maura, Ana Fernández, Juan Margallo
Here’s another entry in the ‘batty biddy’ cycle of films (see also the recent Italian production The Butterfly Room and, of course, the great grandmummy of them all, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?). This time out it comes from Spain and so it’s also infused with a couple of typically Hispanic flavorings: religion looms large; ghosts are hiding in the undergrowth; and the story focuses on the troubled intersection between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ ways of life that exist simultaneously in the country.
Carmen Maura plays Gregoria, a downtrodden housewife with little education, no experience and an abusive husband to boot. One day she witnesses a painter falling from a high scaffold and, just before he dies of his head injuries, he encourages her to visit his hometown, a small coastal village in Galicia. After experiencing a couple of schizophrenic attacks she murders her husband and ups sticks, promptly finding a job as maid and nanny for horrible lawyer Leandro (Evaristo Calvo), his dippy wife Dorita (Ana Fernández) and their creepy son Daniel (Santiago Barón). However, her mental state declines and murder ensues…
Although not the best Spanish horror film of recent years, La promesa is a decent psychological thriller which makes the most of the beautiful Galician locations. It feels curiously old fashioned, both in terms of it’s themes and it’s ambiance, and at times it reminded me of the classic Spanish horror A Candle for the Devil. The narrative is rather sprawling, including a number of strands which go nowhere, but Galician director Héctor Carré directs it with some skill. The whole thing is held together by an excellent central performance from Pedro Almodóvar favorite Carmen Maura, who manages to make Gregoria both sympathetic and terrifying.