“My name is Angela. They’re going to kill me.”
‘Tesis’, directed by Alejandro Amenábar in 1996, is a Spanish thriller set in modern day Madrid. Angela, played by Ana Torrent (the young girl from ‘Spirit of the Beehives’, is studying video nasties for a project at university. In the course of her studies she discovers that someone is making snuff movies and that this killer is now targeting her. At its heart it’s a baroque serial-killer drama, much in vogue in the 1990s after the success of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in 1991. Angela encounters a series of viable suspects including a loner, nerdish horror fan, an attractive fellow student and the new film studies professor. They all share some guilt, but what is clever about the film is the way it interweaves the project Angela is working on into the movie itself, essentially accusing the audience of complicity in the drama. This is a recurring theme in the film, characters are shown dreaming they are being filmed and the act of watching becomes a fetish. At one stage Angela is shown licking a television screen, an act that immediately reminded me of David Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’. The end of the film, in which we see patients in hospital absorbed by the reports on the killings, and the reports themselves preparing to show the snuff footage ‘in the public interest’ is the climax of this sharp satire. Without this it would be an empty slasher movie clone, but with it, it becomes something more interesting. Curiously, I also made connections between this and Torrent’s earlier role. In ‘Spirit of the Beehives’, she plays a girl who is inspired by a mobile cinema showing ‘Frankenstein’ to explore a local barn which houses a rogue soldier. Both films feature a mystery, the solution to which is found in the fabric and history of film itself.
Would I recommend it? Yes – maybe with ‘Spirit of the Beehive’, or failing that with one of the many American serial killer movies of the same time.