Stars: Macarena Gómez, Nadia de Santiago, Hugo Silva, Luis Tosar, Gracia Olayo, Lucía González, Carolina Bang | Written by Juanfer Andrés, Sofía Cuenca | Directed by Juanfer Andrés, Esteban Roel
In the mood for a Spanish-language psycho-drama? Shrew’s Nest is another Shudder exclusive and is a fun jaunt into the weird world of sisters Montse (Macarena Gómez) and Nia (Nadia de Santiago).
Montse and Nia live in an apartment in Madrid in the 1950s. Montse has raised Nia alone since their mother died in childbirth and their father disappeared some years afterwards. Whilst Nia has an outgoing and sunny disposition, Montse is a highly strung, paranoid agoraphobic, suffering crippling panic attacks if she so much as takes a step outside their home and is reliant on doses of morphine supplied by a friend and customer of her dress-tailoring business that she runs from the apartment.
The lives of both sisters change when their upstairs neighbour, Carlos (Hugo Silva) falls down the stairs and breaks his leg right outside their door. Montse manages to drag him inside and puts him up in bed to recuperate and soon becomes dangerously obsessed with him.
Shrew’s Nest makes excellent use of the sisters’ apartment, which accounts for about 95% of the film’s locations. Though clearly quite a large apartment, it’s a claustrophobic space and shot in such a way as you never quite work out the geography of the area and which room connects to which, a neat and disorientating trick. I was also particularly impressed with how the film incorporated flashbacks. Actors that play younger versions of the characters quite literally occupy the same spaces as their present iterations, who watch on. This is a much more satisfying and convincing way of implementing what can be a fairly clunky narrative tool and also adds to the suggestion that for Montse at least, the apartment really is her entire world. The film also boasts a couple of enjoyably wince-inducing acts of violence to satiate the lizard brain too.
Gómez does a good job with her role, managing to make her character suitably sinister and if not quite sympathetic, then certainly understandable in her increasingly deranged behaviour. De Santiago has an easier role, but is spunky and likable. Credit is also due to the Nick Cave lookalike Luis Tosar for his quietly scary role as the sisters’ father in the aforementioned flashbacks and for his magnificent eyebrows.
There is a quite clear point at which the film abruptly transitions from a tension-heavy, realistic psycho-thriller into batshit craziness and the choice to let its freak flag fly may disappoint those who were enjoying its relatively naturalistic approach. I think it just about gets away with the detour into the bizarre and it remains good fun, but is a lot less serious for the final third or so. It tries to recover some of its more level-headed atmosphere in the final moments where some kinda predictable and largely unnecessary plot twists are thrown in for good measure but I could have lived without these. There’s also some pretty prevalent Catholic imagery but there never really seems to be much point to this stuff other than set-dressing.
As long you can handle the abrupt shift of gears the film makes, then there is plenty to enjoy in Shrew’s Nest. It’s maybe not the most original film in the world but everything it does, it does pretty well and makes good use of filmmaking techniques to complement story. Another recommendation for Shudder.
Shrew’s Nest is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription or £49.99 yearly membership.