Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: SHREW'S NEST Unleashes A Torrent Of Pent-Up Emotions
A maelstrom of highly-charged, dysfunctional family dynamics, Shrew's Nest (Musarañas) unleashes a torrent of pent-up emotions in the form of a bloody suspense thriller.
The movie sets up easily as a two-hander about the tense relationship between Montse (Macarena Gómez) and her much younger sister (Nadia de Santiago), who has just turned 18. With both parents long out of the picture, Montse has become a stern maternal figure; she's a fragile creature who can only exercise her authority by dispensing corporal punishment to the younger woman as she sees fit. Further complicating the relationship, Montse suffers from agoraphobia, so she can't step one foot out of their apartment before collapsing in a fit of anxiety and stress.
Montse's sister has learned to get along by going along, but her long-held resentment about the situation is beginning to manifest itself to a greater degree, with occasional rebellious activity. She yearns to spread her wings, even though she still feels a sense of great obligation and, truly, fear of Montse's fractured psyche and unpredictable moods. At the same time, she displays evidence confirming that she has been deeply wounded by her troubled domestic situation.
Into this simmering cesspool falls Carlos (Hugo Silva), an upstairs neighbor who has taken a bad tumble on the stairs, breaking one of his legs, and seeks medical assistance. Faster than you can say "Don Siegel's The Beguiled meets Rob Reiner's Misery," Carlos is safely tucked away in a spare bedroom and Montse is giving him glasses of "holy water" to deal with the pain -- and keep him constantly sedated.
As more tension is developed, the story threads are pulled together more tightly, the pace picks up, and the interaction between the three main characters becomes more intense. With an evil father figure (Luis Tosar) looming in Montse's memory, her actions are pushed further away from any recognizable reality, and the movie goes with her, becoming a story of insane activity and melodramatic motivations.
Now, as a colleague kindly pointed out afterwards, the premise rests upon a hoary, potentially objectionable masculine perspective, to which I plead a pitiable ignorance. i.e., I was vaguely aware of the potential problems and, nonetheless, allowed the current of the story to carry me past them. As directed by Juanfer Andres and Esteban Roel, the mechanics of the film are sturdy, which provides good support as the twists and turns in momentum become more pointed and jagged. Whether that's sufficient compensation is up for individual judgment.
For me, Shrew's Nest worked extremely well at the subatomic level, creating the kind of tension that rippled through my body and only began to subside when the final credits rolled.