Wednesday, December 18, 2013

La residencia (or The House That Screamed): Quasi-Lesbian Fascist Hijinks

This entry comes to you courtesy of Final Girl's December Film Club. Viva Ponder! Spoilers for the whole movie.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to watch La residencia, a slice of late-60s Spanish-produced horror that has exerted considerable influence on the genre despite its cult status. The film is excellent, calling on antecedents from earlier in the decade such as The Innocents and Psycho; it is a delicate (if not soapier) depiction of the madness that germinates in isolated, sexually repressed minds. Its brutality is minimal but perversely poetic, and although its unconventional structure owes a debt to Hitchcock's earlier masterpiece, writer-director Narciso Ibanez Serrador's invocation of Fascist imagery and methodology gives his work a critical charge all its own. Produced and released during the twilight hours of Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Serrador's flirtation with strategically deployed nipples and incestuous kissing speaks to the crumbling of Spain's heavy cultural censorship, a product of an authoritarian environment quite like La residencia's titular boarding school. The moral is universal, though: save for its noticeably vintage fashions, La residencia is atemporal, and thanks to its spirited English dub and multicultural cast, the movie, although it takes place in France, could ostensibly be staged anywhere.