You know how there are certain films that you can tell in the first couple of minutes that you’re going to love them? The Appeared is one of those films.
Three minutes in, I knew I was going to love it. I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling that I got. The beginning wasn’t particularly spectacular, but with excellent direction, cinematography, music, and acting, I could tell that this would, at the very least be a well made film.
The Appeared, which comes to us from Spain, tells the story of Malena and her brother Pablo, who have just arrived at the hospital to sign the forms necessary to terminate life support for their father, who has been in a coma and is showing no signs of brain activity. Malena hates her father for reasons that aren’t really clear to her. He never beat her, or their mother – he’s just a jerk, and was never really home. She’s anxious to sign the forms and get back to home in Madrid. Her brother Pablo is more sentimental. Upon seeing their father in the bed on life support, he sits with the old man, a man he never really knows, and starts to look through his personal belongings. He finds a photo of their old family home, the house where Pablo was born, and tells Malena that he won’t sign the forms to terminate life support unless they go back to the house to discover the father he never really knew.
Well, along the way, Pablo finds an old journal in his father’s old beat up car, and flipping through it, realizes that it’s an extremely detailed account of a murder that occured in a hotel 21 years ago. So, what does Pablo do? What any of us would do! The hotel happens to be along the way to their father’s house and, without telling his sister why, insists they stay there. They end up only being able to get the room next to the one in which the murder occurred and, when 3 AM rolls around, the same time the murder happened all those years before, they start to hear strange noises coming from next door. As they investigate, they start to wonder if they can really save the victims of a murder that’s already happened.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the connection between their father and the murders they are investigating but that’s one thing I’ll give The Appeared – despite the fact that, really, it’s not anything new, it manages to overcome that by just being an extremely well made film. I LOVED The Appeared. The acting in it is excellent, it’s beautifully filmed, and very suspenseful. As the tension builds and the storyline unfolds, even though you know where it’s going, you’re so involved with these characters that you can’t help but feel for them. The character development really is fantastic.
Imagine a horror film directed by Alfonso Cuaron (director of Children of Men) and you have a good idea of what you’re in store for with this film. I’ve actually never heard of director Paco Cabezas, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on his future output. This film was beautiful to look at and a joy to watch.
One of my favorite aspects of the film (and something I’ve noticed a little more in Spanish horror) is that it defies the convention of that “final jump scare.” It seems like all American horror films have to end with the monster popping out of a closet and the idea that everyone died. The Appeared ends beautifully, with a very powerful scene that is bittersweet – it’s happy, but the character’s lives are changed forever.
The Appeared is playing right now on IFC On Demand and in select theatres. Definitely seek it out and give it a watch!
Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 9 out of 10