Aimless 32 Malasaña Street (2020) Offers Few Thrills and Chills
Title: 32 Malasaña Street
First Wide Release: January 17, 2020 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Albert Pintó
Writer: Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, David Orea, Salvador S. Molina
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Starring: Begoña Vargas, Iván Marcos, Bea Segura
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Leaving their home in the village long behind them, a family with secrets moves into an apartment complex in Madrid. Each family member looks at Madrid with fresh eyes and a place to start over, free from the difficulties and judgment of their former village. Unaware of its violent past, the family begins to experience strange and frightening things in their new home.
Albert Pintó directs this supernatural horror film, his second full-length feature film.
A middling haunter with few scares, 32 Malasaña Street attempts to differentiate itself from its peers but instead succumbs to subpar writing and messy gender politics.
Quite possibly 32 Malasaña Street’s biggest issue is how unbearably generic its story is and how little its ideas are explored. It follows the haunted house formula to a T. The cold open features a spooky interaction with young kids then introduces the audience to its protagonist family. From there the film overextends itself by supplying each family member with their own paper-thin subplot while Amparo (Begoña Vargas) deals with the brunt of the supernatural. It ends with the standard third act reveal that not only adds little to the film but plays up offensive and dated stereotypes.
The characters introduced are largely forgettable and generic, yet serviceable. There’s a big family secret that’s talked about in hushed tones, but we learn almost nothing about our characters otherwise save for some shallow observations. Once the revelations drop, it’s evident we are supposed to feel sympathetic, but it largely feels weird given how little we care about this family. Driving character motivations are never fully realized. For example, one character struggles with phonetics while another dreams of being a flight attendant. These are important pieces of information needed to find our characters relatable, but these aspirations fizzle out just as quickly as they are introduced. In fact, the ending counters almost any development these characters make as people.
It’s clear that 32 Malasaña Street does try and create to create a genuinely scary film. The camera work is really well done. There are plenty of long, single-shot sequences, not unlike The Conjuring series, which is a clear influence on this film, that do try and build tension. It’s unfortunate that they never really amount to much here. Probably one of the best scenes in the entire film and my favorite scene involve a creepy children’s tv show that includes some great mirror work. Much does go against 32 Malasaña Street rather than rally in its favor. It’s an incredibly dark film. I’m sure some scenes may have played with me better, had I been able to actually see what was happening. The set is nice, but it is very much wasted potential. Aside from a few good moments inside a grandfather clock, there are not any memorable set pieces that are worth mentioning.
32 Malasaña Street suffers from its runtime. It does make the choice of wanting to flesh out each character, but in doing so it robs the film of the necessary pacing it needs to propel the story along properly. We spend maybe five minutes each, getting to know one or two very surface-level things about them before moving onto the next. Trimming out the fat here and focusing on a few central characters would make for a much more enjoyable ride. While its editing is an issue for me, the effects are pretty well done. I really appreciate the use of practical effects for much of the action leading up to the end.
Pintó has the capabilities of a good horror director, but the material needs to be better to really eke out a win for him. 32 Malasaña Street is a slog of a film to watch. It’s so "been there, done that" that it is hard to pay attention to the paranormal happenings onscreen. Few new ideas are brought to the table and the new slants are not that great. Dull and suspenseless, I kept thinking about all the ways it could have been more engaging. I always appreciate a straightforward and even-toned ghost film, but Pintó needs to step up his game to compete with more modern directors who are thinking towards the future rather than the past.
SPOILER ALERT for the following paragraph, please skip to the final paragraph if you wish to avoid them.
Speaking of the past, let’s talk about the incredibly dated, and lazily offensive, stereotypes used in 32 Malasaña Street. Character’s gender and disability are used as ways to generate fear. Playing into harmful tropes on transgender individuals, particularly trans women, the film’s tone shift upon the reveal of the ghost’s identity, who, no less, is jealous of the main character’s pregnancy, is a rather uncomfortable experience. Furthermore, a disabled character is literally used as a prop in the final confrontation scene, rising up as a spiritual conduit that the ghost uses from the other side. None of it sits right with me for a film that was made, produced, and premiered in 2020. It’s rather inexcusable at this point.
I struggle with giving a recommendation here. The intentions to craft a classic and true-to-form haunted house film are here, but none of the heart or technical execution is present. It’s just fine. With a better script and more thought into making a clever or more unique approach to the subgenre, 32 Malasaña Street could have been a solid ghost story. Unfortunately, the obnoxious themes it chooses to tackle, and lack of technical prowess make 32 Malasaña Street a forgettable and skippable film.
Overall Score? 5/10