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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Review: The Wasteland (El Páramo)

Director: David Casademunt

Screenplay: David Casademunt, Martí Lucas and Fran Menchón

Year: 2022

What is real and what is caused by desolation and stress? This is the main argument used by “El Páramo”, the new Spanish horror film on Netflix, where it bears the name “The Wasteland”. Wait, have I heard this argument before? Well yes, recently it was an important part of the plot of "The Wind", with which it bears many similarities.

"El Páramo" takes place in Spain in the 19th century, where wars led people to move to desolate areas to safeguard their lives. This is the case of Salvador, Lucía, and their son, who go to live in a desolate wasteland, not knowing that danger would follow them there. After some time living in the desolate area, the family begins to be visited by an evil entity, or is it all the product of a mental breakdown?

The term prairie madness comes from the people who in the nineteenth century moved to these desolate places for various reasons and began to lead a life away from civilization, but as a consequence, developed psychological conditions. Being isolated and living in harsh conditions put a lot of stress on these people, who could begin to experience hallucinations and other psychological problems. 

Throughout the film, we follow a Spanish family moving to a wasteland fleeing the war, so we see the events from the perspective of an unreliable narrator. The family begins to be harassed by an entity known as the beast, an evil creature that brings them to the brink of paranoia, or is the beast the product of paranoia caused by stress-induced loneliness? This is the dichotomy in which the script of David Casademunt, Martí Lucas, and Fran Menchón keeps us, where we never feel comfortable taking a position towards one idea or the other.

"El Páramo" is developed with the classic elements of a folk horror, where the typical costumes of the time predominate, little lighting at night, and a dense atmosphere that helps maintain tension. Its slow-burn development also helps maintain tension, which is one of its main virtues, with permission from the interpretations that play an essential role and are phenomenal. 

With a simmering development where tension and atmosphere dominate, “El Páramo” offers a captivating story for those who enjoy folk horror. Although its similarities to “The Wind” cannot be ignored, it manages to create its own identity and distinguish itself from other films in its genre. Its development may be a bit slow, but the way it maintains the tension and the excellent performances are enough to give you a vote of confidence that the patience required in its development will pay off well.

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