Stars: Alba Ribas, Cristian Valencia, Albert Carbó, Bernat Saumell, Belén Fabra, Montserrat Miralles | Written by Hèctor Hernández Vicens, Isaac P. Creus | Directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens
For those that don’t know already, Shudder is a new online streaming service that is basically Netflix with a catalogue exclusively composed of horror films. If you’re a fan of the genre, then it is well worth checking out. As well as hosting scary films old and new, obscure and well-known, it also has an expanding list of Shudder exclusives, including the Spanish language 2015 feature, The Corpse of Anna Fritz.
When the famous and beautiful actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) dies at a party, her body is taken to a mortuary at a nearby hospital. Pau (Albert Carbó), the mortician, takes a picture of her and sends it to his friends Ivan and Javi (Cristian Valencia and Bernat Saumell) who soon turn up to see her for themselves. Things escalate and Pau and Ivan decide to have sex with Fritz’s corpse, much to the disgust and outrage of Javi. What follows is a minor spoiler, but I’m sure you can tell where this is going, what with this being a horror film and all: during the act, Anna Fritz regains consciousness, much to everyone’s surprise. The rest of the film deals with the inevitable ramifications of what the men have done.
The nature of Fritz’s revival is never fully explained, but it seems she has been drugged with some sort of muscle inhibitor (maybe a date rape drug) – at first she is barely able to move her face or talk and it is some time before she regains any real ability to move her limbs. What’s key though is that she isn’t a zombie or anything and there’s no supernatural elements at play here – everything is all too believable, which is the film’s real strength. You might argue that some guys deciding to indulge in some light necrophilia (which obviously turns out to be rape) is a bit of stretch, but I felt that the dialogue leading up to this turning point was actually pretty convincing. It helps that the trio aren’t made out to be very pleasant in the first place, they’re high and they find themselves unlikely to be caught; in any case, I found it easy enough go with the story on this point. Fritz’s celebrity, another major influence on their decision to defile her supposed corpse, is also made clear and believable.
To be fair, the film plays out more as a very dark thriller but, much like Ryan Reynolds vehicle Buried, as a horror scenario, waking up whilst being raped in a morgue is right up there with being buried alive. The way this scene is shot and scored is very effective and it is a credit to writer and director Hèctor Hernández Vicens that the scene (and indeed the film as a whole) is disturbing rather than ridiculous. The tone is judged pretty much exactly right. Obviously the whole concept of the film is fairly divisive - you probably already know if this is the kind of thing you’ll enjoy or not, but it should be said that the film itself rarely feels exploitative – it’s the characters that are doing the exploiting here and their actions are never sexualised or glorified – much like Compliance, it’s a film that involves a lot of sexual content but is in no way sexy.
Credit is also due to the small cast – it’s essentially just the four actors on screen for the vast majority of the film’s length and they are all well cast and again, very believable. The film is quite brief at 74 minutes but despite this, it feels a little draggy (pun kind of intended) towards the final act where it becomes apparent that ideas have run a little low, but there’s a strong ending to compensate. Some have said it may have worked better as a short but I think Vicens just about justifies it as a feature length production. I thought it was tense and convincing pressure cooker of a movie and like many of my favourite thrillers, made excellent use of a single location.
If you’ve signed up to Shudder, add The Corpse of Anna Fritz to your watchlist.