★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A family hoping for a new start in life by moving to Madrid instead finds itself targeted by an angry ghost in 32 Malasaña Street, which makes up for any familiarity with technical quality and fine performances.
Directed by Albert Pintó
Spanish/French coproduction 32 Malasaña Street lets viewers know what they are in for starting with its cold open about two boys chasing their marble into an eerily quiet apartment, building suspense until something scares them into running away. Yes, horror film fans have seen similar setups numerous times before, but when something familiar looks and feels as eerie as director Albert Pintó makes that opening sequence, we can expect to be in for a creepy ride.
Set in 1972 Madrid, the story sees Manolo Olmedo (Iván Marcos), his common-law wife Candela (Bea Segura), and his children — teenage daughter Amparo (Begoña Vargas), teenage son Pepe (Sergio Castellanos), and young son Rafael (Iván Renedo) — and Candela’s elderly father Fermin (Jose Luis de Madariaga) relocate from their rural farming village to the titular big-city address, leaving them penniless but hoping for a better life. Unsettling occurrences happen from the get-go, with Rafael and Fermin noticing first, and Amparo not far behind.
Without getting too far further into the plot so as to avoid spoilers, 32 Malasaña Street is a supernatural horror film with the spirit of a former resident haunting the family. Although Pintó uses many tropes of the trade, he uses them effectively and shows a deft hand at wringing suspense out of every slow walk down a dark hallway, every handwritten note slowly pulled over on a clothesline, and so on. Another of the film’s strengths is its creepy atmosphere, thanks in part to the spooky set design of the apartment building’s interiors.
Something that may not sit well with some viewers is the backstory of the ghost that has its sights set on the family. Although meant to elicit sympathy for the spectre, the way the story is initially presented comes across quite roughly, though one of the protagonists is quick to give her more positive opinion on what could and perhaps should have been done.
The entire cast is terrific. Vargas and Renedo do most of the heavy lifting, the former as the teen daughter who does her best to protect her young brother and to solve the mystery of why they are being haunted, and Renedo as the main target of the vengeful spirit. Of note from the supporting cast are Concha Velasco as Maruja and María Ballesteros as her mute, wheelchair-bound daughter Lola, the latter of whom can see both people troubled by spirits and the ghosts themselves.
32 Malasaña Street may not be a wholly unique offering in the haunted house subgenre, but it is beautifully shot, superbly directed, wonderfully acted, and most importantly, unnerving and plentiful in the nail-biting suspense department.
32 Malasaña Street is a Shudder exclusive and is currently available on that platform. It was also presented by Shudder as part of Nightstream Film Festival, which ran from October 8–11.