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With the fabled Mayan apocalypse deadline just weeks away, this high-gloss Spanish puzzler may well prove to be the last end-of-the-world thriller mankind ever gets to see. If so, the genre is bowing out in style with a gripping, suspense-filled yarn that wraps a thought-provoking novel by David Monteagudo in blockbuster production values. Screened at the Turin Film Festival last week, the film is now on general release in Spain with other territories to follow.
Although director Jorge Torregrossa may be a TV-schooled beginner, his team includes the cream of Spain’s current genre-movie talent, including co-star Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth) and co-writer Sergio Sanchez (The Orphanage). With distribution deals already lined up in multiple territories, The End has the makings of a sizeable hit with potentially broad appeal beyond the horror and sci-fi hardcore.
At a remote house in the Spanish mountains, a gang of old friends assemble for their first full reunion in 20 years. Some harbor tantalizing secrets, notably Felix (Daniel Grao), who has paid pretty young prostitute Eva (Clara Lago) to pose as his girlfriend. Around the campfire, ancient sexual tensions and guilty confessions bubble to the surface. But the shadowy organiser of the gathering, a mentally fragile drug casualty nicknamed The Prophet (Eugenio Mira), never arrives. Shortly after midnight, a mysterious celestial explosion overhead disables all the group’s vehicles and electronic appliances. Has their absent friend engineered some kind of terrible revenge for their past mistreatment of him?
At dawn, one of the gang is missing. A search party only reveals steadily more disturbing scenes: deserted houses, abandoned cars, terrifying stampedes of mountain goats. Most alarmingly, the friends begin to vanish, one by one, apparently into thin air. Fears of malicious human trickery fall away as the cosmic scale of the event becomes clear. Unmanned airliners plummet from the heavens. Bustling coastal resorts become ghost towns. Packs of hungry dogs attack the last few human survivors. Stars flicker and die in the night sky. Supernatural events, all foretold in a series of sketches made by The Prophet.
Polished, beautifully shot and jammed with nerve-jangling twists, The End is a high-class pulp thriller made from quality ingredients. The characters may be a little too stock – the incurable womanizer, the old flame, the crazy drunk – but the plot bounds along with enough energy to excuse a few clunky touches. The ending also leaves plenty of questions unanswered, which may irritate viewers expecting the kind of cathartic resolution seen in most genre movies.
That said, the film’s unsettling Rapture-style storyline is a smartly layered piece of work, serving just as well as religious parable, philosophical riddle or straight sci-fi horror scenario. With its handsome young cast and swooping helicopter shots of gorgeous mountain landscapes, this terrific Spanish thriller could almost be a slick campaign ad for Judgment Day.
Venue: Turin Film Festival screening, Nov. 27
Production companies: Mod Producciones, Apaches Entertainment, Antena 3 Films, Misent Producciones S.L., Antena 3 Televisión, Audiovisual Aval SGR, Canal+ España Institut Valencia de Cinematografia, La Sexta
Producers: Belén Atienza, Fernando Bovaira, Mercedes Gamero, Enrique López Lavigne, Mikel Lejarza
Cast: Maribel Verdú, Daniel Grao, Clara Lago, Antonio Garrido, Carmen Ruiz, Eugenio Mira
Director: Jorge TorregrossaWriters: Sergio G. Sánchez , Jorge Guerricaechevarría , from the novel by David Monteagudo Cinematographer: José David Montero
Editor: Carolina Martínez Urbina
Music: Lucio Godoy
Sales company: Film Factory Entertainment
Rating TBC, 88 minutes
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