Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Baby's Room (2006): or, Chillin' in the Crib

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 7!

Young parents Juan and Sonia (Javier Gutiérrez and Leonor Watling) and their infant son have just moved into their new home: a palatial but dilapidated old house that would ordinarily be far beyond their means, but which for some reason the realtors have priced within a mid-level sports journalist's budget. Before you can say "stop me if you've heard this one," they're hearing bumps in the night and strange voices on their baby's crib monitor. Juan goes hi-tech and purchases a home alarm system and a video monitor for his bouncing little boy's room, which only leads to more disturbing revelations: in the dead of night, the terrified father spies the shadowy figure of a man sitting beside his baby's bed! Rushing to the rescue with a butcher knife, Juan nearly skewers his confused and sleep-addled wife, who has witnessed none of this and is rightly concerned about her husband's mental well-being, to say nothing of the baby's safety and her own.

Alone in the house, Juan continues to see strange visions through the video monitor--furniture that isn't there, rooms arranged differently on the screen than in real life, and even more of the shadowy, cigarette-smoking man. Wondering if he is imagining it all and fearing for his own sanity, he is finally vindicated when his baby monitor-visions lead him to a secret room, apparently a doorway to another realm. There he discovers the identity of the shadowy man who has been haunting him, but the solution to that riddle only prompts more disturbing such things so often do, in cases like these.

I've heard a lot of positive buzz for The Baby's Room since its release in 2006 as part of the Spanish film series Peliculas para No Dormir (Films to Keep You Awake). I'm delighted to report that the good press is more than justified. Director Álex de la Iglesia and his writing partner Jorge Guerricaechevarría here deliver a creepy, thrilling, and inventive horror story that turns out to be much more than just your standard haunted house tale. Gutiérrez and Watling have great chemistry, and both turn in excellent performances. Also, I liked how the writer and director played with the conventions of the "endangered baby" story, here making Gutiérrez's Juan the "hysterical" figure, with Watlin's Sonia the supportive but disbelieving spouse. No spoilers on the cause for the haunting--but I thought it was pretty interesting, and I dug it a lot.

Well-photographed, well-acted, well-plotted, and well creepy, The Baby's Room is another winner from the new Spanish Horror revival.Recommended with 2.5 thumbs.

"And when I push *this* button, the baby will self-destruct!"

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