32 Malasana Street opens in 1972 with two young boys retrieving a marble from the apartment of a strange old woman and getting one hell of a scare. But that’s nothing compared to what awaits the Olmedo family when they move in four years later. Manolo (Iván Marcos) and Candela (Bea Segura, Age of Kill) have relocated their family, daughter Amparo (Begoña Vargas), sons Pepe (Sergio Castellanos) and Rafael (Iván Renedo), and Candela’s father Fermin (Jose Luis de Madariaga, Bunker: Project 12, 30 Coins) from a farming village to Madrid.
Almost immediately after they move in strange things start happening. Doors open, close,e and lock themselves. The lights flicker and the phone rings. Grandfather starts talking about a mysterious woman. The family catches glimpses of someone, or something, at the edge of their vision. And then their youngest child, Rafael, goes missing.
Like Veronica, 32 Malasana Street is a Spanish ghost story based on true events. Well, “inspired by actual events” is how the film’s publicity puts it. Malasana Street is an actual street in Madrid, although the numbers stop at 30. And the script is based on bits and pieces of several local tales. It also seems to have been based on bits and pieces of several movies, most notably Poltergeist. Thankfully the film had enough atmosphere and jumps to keep me satisfied despite the familiar elements.
Albert Pintó (To Kill God) directed 32 Malasana Street from a script credited to four writers. Two of them had long track records in Spanish TV, and not, as far as I could tell in horror. This may explain why the film feels like it was the result of a weekend spent binge-watching horror films and writing down all the good scenes.
Since it’s set in the 1970s they couldn’t work in creepy text messages, but Pepe gets notes sent via the clothesline that stretches across the build’s courtyard. And, despite the care the filmmakers took to get the look right, that’s about the only time the setting mattered. This could as easily have been set in the present. Indeed, one of the film’s late revelations should have, given the time and place, provoked some strong reactions. Instead it’s brought up and the ghost is the only one who cares.
I do give 32 Malasana Street credit for coming up with an interesting backstory for the haunting. It was different and put the spectre in a more sympathetic light. But again the script fails to capitalize on it and goes in a more traditional direction. Seeing the writers miss these opportunities was frustrating given Spanish cinema’s track record with ghost stories such as The Others and The Orphanage.
All of this is well shot and put together. Pintó knows how to set up a good scare, and the old apartment building gives him plenty of opportunities to do it. Between the drab, dull colours of the family’s apartment, and the dark, dusty basement there’s atmosphere to spare. And it’s used to provide plenty of jump scares.
The result is yet another film that’s perfectly watchable and enjoyable, but also predictable. It’s the Spanish equivalent of an entry in the Conjuring or Insidious franchise. It looks good, it’ll make you jump and you’ll have a good time. But it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. So as long as you don’t mind subtitles, you should enjoy 32 Malasana Street as well.