Venus (FANTASTIC) Gets Tonally Lost in the Ambitions of Its Supernatural Story
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Writer: Fernando Navarro
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Starring: Esther Expósito, Ángela Cremonte, Inés Fernández
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
After stealing an excessive amount of ecstasy from her nightclub, Lucía (Esther Expósito) is driven to seek shelter at her estranged sister’s (Ángela Cremonte) house while she heals and figures out her next plan. She crosses paths with Rocío in the elevator, apparently fleeing from her apartment. Something is bothering her but the inclusion of her niece, Alba (Inés Fernández), complicates their awkward reunion. The next morning, Rocío is nowhere to be found. With no phone, no vehicle, and stuck with the responsibility of looking after Alba after just meeting, Lucía’s last resort gets much stickier as her former employer closes in on her and a force within the apartment complex makes itself known in her dreams.
Tonally inconsistent Spanish supernatural horror, Venus has trouble straddling its dual stories yet still delivers on chills.
Combining a siege film with a supernatural thriller leads to some interesting moments that don’t ultimately connect. A promising opening leans into the mystery behind the apartment complex while coasting on the adrenaline high of the club heist. By the time Venus reaches its finale, it’s clear that it doesn’t know exactly what it wants to do. This is further demonstrated by the tonal issues within the story that make it difficult to take the last ten minutes seriously.
The ultimate motivation behind the supernatural terror feels unearned once the why has been subverted. This comes down to Lucía’s character arc from selfish estranged sister to badass warrior. It only takes a few days for her to shift her priorities, and only takes her a few minutes to completely recover from multiple injuries in order to fight back against her enemies. Of course people can rise to the occasion when it is required of them, but with what little time Lucía spent in this apartment complex and what the audience sees, there is little reason to get behind this development. Certain things can be implied, of course, but when does Lucía truly bond with Alba? This relationship could be explored more to not only make her motivations stronger but further develop the antagonist’s plot as well.
Many characters in the film act in ways that betray their goals. Witches bow without confirmation, drug runners ask for forgiveness, and so on. It’s difficult to remain faithful to a film that is dead set on betraying their characters for the sake of plot progression and cool imagery. Much of this occurs in the bananas final fifteen minutes of the film, so it takes a sharp left turn after almost 80 minutes of more grounded development and horror.
Visually, Venus is an engaging and rich film. It employs a great deal of bizarre and twisted imagery to unnerve the viewer while remaining thematically even. The apartment building that hosts the majority of the film is gloriously dilapidated, it almost verges on condemned in its upper levels. Believability is eschewed for a gothic haunted house tale in the middle of the city, which is a neat take on the subgenre. Venus permeates this dark, vibrant atmosphere that leaks into all aspects of its visual style. Aside from the uneven finale, it consistently feels eerie.
Starting off with a bang before taking a left turn in an otherwise solid finale, Venus fumbles its story in favor of its extended metaphor. Anchored by great performances, its perfect location, and a moody atmosphere, it has all the makings of a thoughtful and bloody shockfest. Unfortunately, odd writing choices and uneven character development make this one difficult to root for in the end. It is hard to decry a film for lofty ambitions, but continually Venus confounds with its approach to its witchy story. Perhaps the stars align, and you will enjoy Venus more than this reviewer; the only way to find out is to see for yourself.
Overall Score? 5.5/10