Set in 1950s Spain, Macarena Gómez plays Montse, a fragile woman who has unintentionally taken on a role of being a parental figure to her younger sister (Carolina Bang), following their mother’s death and father’s disappearance. Unhinged, unstable and unhappy – to add to Montse’s degenerative state, she also suffers from agoraphobia, leaving her locked up in her claustrophobic abode. Though as flashbacks of her tragic and troubling relationship with her sadistic father (Luis Tosar) haunt her, she starts to break down, and with the accidental arrival of Carlos (Hugo Silva), he soon bears the brunt of this woman’s maniacal rage, unwittingly caught up in her ‘Shrew’s Nest’.
While Andrés and Roel play heavily on the conventional tropes of the horror genre, at this film’s core is a tragic, demented study of what abuse can do to a child, and how it can affect them later on in life. Of course this offers a heightened take on reality to enhance the message, but there still lies a painfully real aspect at the heart of proceedings. We’re able to empathise and pity Montse as a result, which serves the picture well towards the latter stages when we’re desperate for her to find some solace in her life. The fact the film takes place in just this very apartment allows the viewer to almost embody her too, and get a sense for that claustrophobia that exists, as we too feel confined in our surroundings.
The character of Montse is what makes Shrew’s Nest a worthwhile endeavour, as while somewhat generic in parts, it’s always compelling given the unpredictability of the protagonist. Gómez shines in the role, and she has this cold look behind her eyes, one that screams of somebody who has nothing to lose, and someone who bears so much pain. Montse doesn’t want to be a killer, and this very fact makes for an intriguing entry point, as, similarly to Blue Ruin, for instance, to come into this world through the eyes of somebody who is incensed to kill, but gets no joy from it, makes for an emotionally charged offering as it makes these “monsters” suddenly seem all the more human.
The Spaniards have had an inclination of late for turning out unique and creative horror movies – and Shrew’s Nest fits that mould perfectly. Plus, like many others such as Rec, Julia’s Eyes and Sleep Tight – they all come complete with a darkly comic undertone which makes for such enjoyable and unashamedly entertaining cinema.