Spain has long been a rich source of high quality and thoughtful horror films. The Others, (Rec), the Orphanage and The Skin I live In are just some examples of beautifully made films that have also scared me witless. It is the combination of quality craftsmanship, nuance and subtext that I, particularly love.
There is also a tendency to focus on the characters, rather than the monsters. That tends to make interesting horror films. Develop the characters and do not show big, gribbily CGI monsters in the first 2 minutes. That is a particularly good idea when making a horror film and the Spanish seem to nail this more often than most.
I have a lazy assumption it is something to do with Spain’s troubled past and the divisions that exist to this day. If I were to ever do a PhD (do not worry, I will not) this would be near the top of my list of subjects. There is even a historical novel about Spain’s past called the ghosts of Spain… so horror seems well suited to this interesting Land.
All of this takes us into talking about The Afterglow. A well-shot little Spanish horror/thriller film made by Yolanda Torres (The Forsaken) and Joan Álvarez Durán (The Supers) in 2014 as a student film. We kick off with our protagonist Oliver (Paul Coster, Dragonflies Only Live for 24 Hours, Cyborg Invasion). A middle-aged, and successful writer who finds himself “taking care of” his brother’s ex-girlfriend (following a suicide attempt). Laura (Claudia Trujillo, It Came from the Desert, Terminator: Dark Fate) is half his age, mysterious and has somehow lost a good deal of her memories. Also, worth mentioning, the writer also had a “sexual awakening” with a dead girl when he was a boy. So… there is that.
What follows is a dreamlike, slide into sex and obsession with a slightly supernatural slant. Naturally, as an Englishman, the expression “sexual awakening” makes me slightly uncomfortable. As did the talk of being “seduced by a dead person”, prude that I am.
The Afterglow is slow, deliberate and methodical, acting is decent, camera work, lighting and sound design are all particularly good. You usually must caveat praise for a student film with. Usually, you do not say “the acting is good”. Usually, you say, “the acting is good, for a student film”. But here, most of the performances and work can stand on its own two feet.
“Sexual awakenings” with dead people is not a genre I was particularly aware of before watching The Afterglow but, (as a student film) this is well above average in terms of quality. The director keeps the mystery humming around nicely and there are talented people working, both on and off-screen. This is not my cup of tea, but I applaud the craft and passion that has gone into it.
The Afterglow is available on streaming platforms via Bayview Entertainment.