19th Century horror gets a lame revisit in the werewolf movie Romasanta (2004)
Along with the seven wonders of the world, Julian Sands getting work is one of those exceptional miracles that just blows my mind. How does he do it? How does this wooden, witless charisma vacuum continue to get cast in even the shoddiest of B-movies? It's not just that he struggles with dialogue, it's that he can't even seem to master English as a first language. Romasanta is the sort of B-movie that he's now (thankfully) been restricted to - a bland and bloodless werewolf flick that brings nothing new of interest to the horror sub-genre and plods along with little excitement. It's a significant step down for Fantastic Factory and a disappointment from director Plaza, who in 2007 put out the excellent [Rec]. It's just a glossy and shamelessly derivative film; lazy and boring.
The film obviously owes a huge debut to Christophe Gans' excellent historical horror Brotherhood Of The Wolf (2001), in terms of basic plot, stylistic 'flourishes' and even some costume design. The DoP for this picture is Javier Salmones and he gives it much slicker tones than any of the other Factory films, which are decidedly grimier and more in touch with their exploitation/fleapit roots. Romasanta just looks too clean and lacks any of the grit and gusto that a film like this really needs - for one there's just not enough blood and head lopping. The compositions are nice, sure, if a little drab, and the film is well framed, but the entire production has an incredibly pale aesthetic that dulls environments which should be exciting. There's colour in the film, but it's not absorbing. There's shadow in the film, but it's not scary. It's set in a series of rundown 19th Century villages, surrounded by dark, dense forests where the beast supposedly lies. The film should have atmosphere, and a sense of lycan lunacy. I think Yuzna must have been having a nap through the production of this one, because it has none of those things. It attempts to be more of character study, get into the psyche of the wolfman and examine how such a killer would be treated in a court of law at the time. But 12 Angry Men (Lumet, 1957) with fur this isn't. It's a Universal horror with ideas way above its station and it falls over itself trying to present them. It's a dreadfully dull film, and I just wanted to sleep through most of it.
I mean, I don't even have anything to say about it. I could rip on Julian Sands a bit more (frankly his own performances are his greatest parody) and talk about how boring it is, but that in turn would be boring for you to read. The film lacks any kind of pace and feels like it's been (shoddily) scripted from the Werewolf 101 manual, which it even seems to have skimmed the CliffsNotes version of. I wanted to like this movie - honestly I did. But it's just nothing. It's painfully rubbish to the point of reminding me of an Asylum knock-off, and that's never a good thing (although their version of Sherlock Holmes, Rachel Goldenberg, 2010, is a delightfully silly steampunk romp). It's such a shame too, because I can wholeheartedly recommend the rest of the Fantastic Factory Presents... Box Set. Perhaps if you invited some mates over, warmed up the popcorn and just prepared yourself for an absolute stinker you might get some joy from Romasanta, but that's honestly the only way...
Another new release, only seven years old, so the image and sound are perfectly fine. Accompanying the reversible sleeve artwork and poster is another mini-essay by Calum Waddell, this time entitled 'Sex, Sun And Sinful Celluloid'. It's basically a small document on the Spanish horror industry and is much more interesting and entertaining than watching Romasanta. This is actually the most extras packed disc in the set, which is a shame. The main feature (21-minutes) sees Yuzna talking about the genesis and production of Romasanta. Given that the film is quite dull, so is the feature. There's some wider context about Factory as well though, and that's quite good. The rest are shorter but quite solid features: 'Special Effects'; 'Composing Romasanta'; 'Deleted Scenes' and 'Making Romasanta', alongside which lies the original trailer. Good package, rubbish film.