The Hidden Face (2011)

The Hidden Face (original title “La cara oculta”) is a very difficult film to review without spoiling it. This is a Spanish thriller with a horror tilt and – honestly – if I wasn’t planning to review it I would’ve turned it off halfway through…

…. but I’m glad I didn’t switch off. The Hidden Face is a surprising, thought-provoking, bizarre little Spanish flick that begins life as a horror, moves into drama territory and then quickly becomes a thriller.

But what’s it about?! The Hidden Face focuses on the lovelorn Adrián (Quim Gutiérrez) a successful orchestra conductor who returns home to find a video message from his girlfriend Belén (Clara Lago), saying she’s leaving him. Naturally distraught, he later doubts her sincerity considering she left half her stuff in their home and her family’s hasn’t heard from her since…

As a natural reaction, Adrián gets hammered in a local bar and hooks up with the loveable waitress Fabiana (Martina García) and – after some tough decision-making – ends up moving her into his massive home, which he rented with Belén. Not awkward at all.

Everything is awesome – even with the police poking their noses around – until Fabiana starts to experience weird things in the house. She feels like she’s being watched, the shower suddenly turns boiling hot when she’s in it and the bath & sink ripple unnaturally when she uses them. It all leads to one thought: Belén is dead and her ghost is haunting the house. But that leaves one question. What happened to her?

So why is it called The Hidden Face? Well, ironically enough you don’t actually get to see this secret visage for most of the movie. It should be called ‘The Hidden Thing That Makes Things Ripple A Bit’ and this naming misnomer is just one of the slightly confused elements of The Hidden Face.

Director Andi Baiz and writer Andrés Baiz take a bold and unique choice to make a massive character-change at the mid-point, flipping from Fabiana’s present day story back to the life of Belén & Adrián before Belén ‘went missing’, showing her transition from happy city-dweller to country-living mega-jealous mood-beast.

Unfortunately the massively-long extended flashback doesn’t really work and it feels like we’re watching a slightly boring – and horrendously long – Lost flashback. It makes perfect sense to do this, but it’s such a shame as Fabiana was such a compelling character – and our freakin’ protagonist – that it feels like a bloody tragedy when she disappears from the film for so long.

For a horror-thriller film this time-jump also destroys any potential scares as the extended flashback is set BEFORE any ghost goings-on. The Hidden Face leaps from being a subtle horror into a Spanish soap-opera and then back again – it’s a bizarre, awkward and bold decision, but it simply doesn’t work in filmic terms.

Talking of Spanish soap-operas, the dialogue in The Hidden Face is truly appalling. Awfully on-the-nose and utterly without subtext, I’d like to think it’s the subtitler’s fault for making it so cack… but I doubt it.

Despite being fundamentally flawed, The Hidden Face is certainly a unique film. Your empathy for characters flips around like a bouncy-ball in a washing machine, one minute loving a character and then suddenly despising them, and vice versa. I cannot divulge why without spoilering the cack out of it, but it’s an intriguing and compelling idea that would probably make a superb novel. Unfortunately as a movie it just doesn’t work as well as it could.

Oh, and the trailer spoils the ‘big reveal’ of the movie, which is f*cking ridiculous.

Now, if you like your female nudity then there’s plenty of it on display here too, with Adrián’s ladies happy to bare their breasts for showering, baths and generally wandering around the house. There’s even a bit of full frontal for those longing some bathing-Spanish-babe. Is it necessary? Is it ever? In The Hidden Face it actually makes some semblance of sense – and makes this tragedy even more harrowing – but at times it does feel a little like pointless titillation (if you excuse the pun…).

Overall The Hidden Face is a difficult film to review. It’s a great idea that has been awkwardly delivered. Tonally uneven and featuring a necessary-but-frustrating character switch midway through, it is hard to recommend. Is it worth sitting through for the reveal and thrilling end? The jury’s out on that I’m afraid…

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.