LIST: 7 Spanish Thriller Movies That Marked the 2010s
NOTE: At the end of the list, you can find the posters and general information about each movie.
1) "THE INVISIBLE GUEST" ("CONTRATIEMPO"/2016)
The crown jewel of the Spanish thriller productions during the last decade, The Invisible Guest is an unmissable thriller about revenge wrapped into a fascinating story that unfolds in the present and the past, with the director, Oriol Paulo, employing extensive flashback sequences to add efficacy to the narrative. Paulo is known both for his directing feats and his work as a screenwriter for several eminent Spanish thrillers such as The Body, Julia's Eyes, and Mirage. This movie also established a wider audience for Mario Casas, one of the hottest names in the current list of most popular Spanish actors, who plays Adrián Doria, a young and wealthy arriviste who is involved in a fatal car accident that results to the death of a young man, Daniel Garrido, while driving in a country road along with his mistress, Laura (Bárbara Lennie). The two of them decide not to tell anyone about the incident, covering their tracks as well as possible. Nevertheless, this story will come back to haunt both Adrián and Laura as it seems that there is at least one more man who knows the truth about the death of young Daniel. Furthermore, the victim's parents, Tomás (Jose Coronado) and his wife, are determined to learn the truth and punish the person responsible for their son's demise. With the compelling plot unravelling in the present and the past, the one complementing the other, and the main narrative setting being a hotel room in which the protagonist, Adrián, discloses his version of the story to his new lawyer, Victoria Goodman (Ana Wagener) with the latter being openly suspicious about what she hears. The final result is exciting, suspenseful and there is also a great final twist that turns the story in its head. There are no excuses for having missed this one.
2) "THE BODY" ("EL CUERPO"/2012)
Oriol Paulo had already given his credential long before The Invisible Guest as he is both the screenwriter and the man behind the camera in the 2012 thriller The Body. The production features a stellar cast with the seasoned veterans Jose Coronado and Belén Rueda as the most prominent names and narrates a bizarre story about a body that goes missing from the morgue one rainy night in Barcelona. The dead woman was Mayka Villaverde (B. Rueda), a powerful businesswoman married to Alex (Hugo Silva), a man a few years younger, who works in her pharmaceutical company. Inspector Jaime Peña (J. Coronado) will be summoned to solve the mystery of the vanishing corpse and in the process of a long night her will put Alex under the microscope as he seems to think that he is the prime suspect for his wife's murder. On his part, Alex will have to be careful in order to navigate himself out of a tough spot, resisting to the relentless questioning by Peña. Narrated over the timespan of a single night and with the help of carefully selected, brief flashbacks depicting the torturous life of Alex as Mayka's husband, Paulo keeps the viewer constantly on edge as the twists succeed one another in a frenetic pace and we quickly grasp that nothing can be taken for granted. The final revelation is ingenious and answers the totality of the questions raised by the film's elaborate plot, while also brings the necessary catharsis. The Body is the ideal choice for the lovers of suspense and mystery fiction, and it is still one of the most popular native titles in the genre's cinematic productions.
3) "JULIA'S EYES" ("LOS OJOS DE JULIA"/2010)
Another great role for Belén Rueda in a film that flirts with horror fiction while brimming with suspense and terrifying moments. This time, Oriol Paulo is the co-screenwriter along with the director of the movie, Guillem Morales, and together they present a hair-rising thriller about a woman who is progressively losing her eyesight due to an irreversible disease while at the same time trying to solve the mystery of her sister's, Sara, suicide in the basement of her house. Julia is convinced that there is foul play involved in Sara's death, and despite her ailing health and the objections of her husband, Isaak (Lluís Homar) who struggles to keep her in check and focused on her actual problems, embarks on a personal investigation which results in a one-on-one encounter with a serial-killer targeting blind women. The film's atmosphere is its main asset with the audience watching glued on their seats as the ominous spell surrounding the protagonist and becomes evident from the beginning, develops and culminates in the resolution of the story and the revelation of truth about her sister's murderer. Julia's Eyes is an exhilarating ride, featuring dark cinematography with gloomy colors dominating the screen, while keeps playing with the audience's assumption regarding who is the killer until the very end. Overall, it's a production that is closer to its American counterparts as it treads on the slippery ice of horror filmmaking, a genre that has been literally destroyed by the myriad titles tarnishing the category. This Spanish horror/thriller guarantees entertainment and high-quality.
4) "MAY GOD SAVE US" ("QUE DIOS NOS PERDONE"/2016)
Rodrigo Sorogoyen, the director of Stockholm and El Reino, is both the director and co-screenwriter, along with Isabel Peña, of the 2016 thriller May God Save Us, a grim and realistic take on the professional and personal lives of two Homicide Inspectors on the trail of a sadistic serial-killer in Madrid. Velared (Antonio de la Torre) and Alfaro (Roberto Álamo) are the two protagonists of the story, two middle-aged, disillusioned men who struggle with dysfunctional relationships in their private lives while trying to do their best professionally in the hunt of dangerous criminals. The director's focus is equally divided into the character study and the story, with the final result being more than satisfying and reminiscent of HBO's immensely popular True Detective in terms of production values and focus on characterization. Each one of the two Spanish detectives carries his own cross and their problems are not just a note in the margins, as it happens in the purely plot-driven thrillers, but constitutes the fundamental context without which the audience wouldn't be able to realize the film's essence. The performances by both the protagonists are exceptional, besides a look at their filmography is enough to convince anyone of their worth, while the photography, for once, is not limited to night shootings, taking advantage of the darkness and its connotations, but dares to portray the big city in broad daylight, the sun shining and providing a stark contrast with the bleak storyline. If you are a fan of character-oriented thrillers, then May God Save Us is your optimal choice.
5) "MARSHLAND" ("LA ISLA MINIMA"/2014)
This is one of the most critically acclaimed Spanish thrillers of the 2010s, directed by Alberto Rodriguez who is also the screenwriter along with Rafael Cobos. Marshland won numerous awards in various national and European festivals, establishing its reputation as one of the most solid native productions of the last decade. Again, we have two male detective-protagonists, Juan Robles (Javier Gutiérrez) and Pedro Suárez (Raúl Arévalo) who arrive to in a little Andalusian town where the disappearance of two young girls has forced the local authorities to bring in help from the city in order for the investigation to move forward. Juan and Pedro will have to interrogate the locals, facing all the problems of a police investigation conducted in a tight-knit community, and their joint efforts will reach a fruitful end in a final showdown that will threaten their lives. As characters, the two Madrid detectives are as different as two people can be. Robles is an extrovert, always making funny remarks that may lead to the mistaken assumption that he doesn't take his work seriously, but carries a dark past relevant to the period of Franco's dictatorship in Spain. Pedro, on the other hand, is quiet, laconic and dead serious about everything he undertakes. The odd pair will develop a peculiar relationship in the course of the story and their bond is the aspect that adds flavor to a rather ordinary crime story. Gutiérrez and Arévalo are both impeccable and it was perhaps their legacy which led to the creation of the central duo of characters in May God Save Us two years later.
6) "YOUR SON" (TU HIJO/2018)
Jose Coronado's acting tour-de-force is the most striking asset of Miguel Ángel Vivas's 2018 vengeance thriller, Your Son. Despite the fact that vengeance stories have been overused in the genre's silver screen productions, this time there is a catch that makes everything a bit different: the story is told through the perspective of the victim's father in a case of a brutal street beating that puts Javier Jiménez's (J. Coronado) son, Marcos (Pol Monen), in a coma. Javier, poisoned inside by a vicious mix of feelings of impotency together with overwhelming rage, embarks on a personal quest to find those responsible for his offspring's dire predicament, but what he discovers shake his resolve and puts the whole incident under a whole new light. The finale leaves room for debate as there will be certainly those who will condone Javier's last decision as well as those who will see it as morally dubious, to say at least. Coronado's face reflects each and every feeling that he experiences during this vengeance course and though we can sympathize with his reasoning, his actions sometimes seem to cross every ethical line, thus putting in question his overall assessment as a character. Ana Wagener and Pol Monen are worthily framing Coronado who, nevertheless, is the number one reason to watch this film. If you are one of the many fans of the great Spanish actor, then it is imperative to check this title out.
7) "SLEEP TIGHT" ("MIENTRAS DUERMES"/2011)
Last but not least, the creepy domestic thriller by the director of REC, Jaume Balagueró, featuring Luis Tosar in the role of a misanthropic apartment concierge who enjoys invading the tenants' lives, upending their whole world through numerous insidious means. Cesar (L. Tosar), only reveals his inner thought to the audience through the use of voice-over where we get a glimpse into a disturbed mind, a mind of a true psychopath, dead set on doing anything in his power to see those around him as miserable as possible. His primary target in this film is the young and beautiful Clara (Marta Etura) who happens to live in one of the building's apartments, a girl full of life, always smiling and having a good word for everyone, even Cesar. Clara's benevolence enrages Cesar who swears that she will make her see the dark side of life. He begins by sabotaging her apartment causing minor inconveniences and continues with more grave methods. The story is built in a measured pace and the gradual undermining of Clara bears fruits from the second part onward and reaches its climax in a shocking finale. This is not a feel-good movie; it is dark in its essence and many viewers may find highly distressing. The absence of a happy ending renders Sleep Tight a daring thriller and one of the most unique Spanish thrillers of the 2010s. Luis Tosar ascribes a major dramatic quality to his character and his portrayal of Cesar haunts the viewer long after finishing watching the movie. If you are a fan of thrillers told from the perspective of the villains, then this is an unmissable one.
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