Set sometime in the 19th century, in a war torn Spain, the 2021 Netflix film ‘The Wasteland’/’The Beast’ (El paramo) is about a family pitted against a creepy demon.
Directed by David Casademunt, this movie is so slow that it took me two days to finish it. Roberto Alamo plays Salvador, the patriarch of the family, who wants his son Diego to be braver and tells him the story of a demon who feeds on fear. Inma Cuesta (who is an interesting mix of Monica Belluci and Penelope Cruz) is Lucia, the lady of the house, who isn’t very happy with Salvador’s attempts to make Diego learn the violent ways of men. The story heavily relies on child actor Asier Flores, who plays Diego. Because circumstances make Salavador leave home, and it’s up to the little boy to help his mother and grapple with a demon too.
While the basic premise is interesting enough, the execution is muddled, and as a viewer you keep hoping for something more concrete to happen.
The biggest problem lies in the fact that it feels like the makers couldn’t decide what they want to do with the plot –
A) Did they want to make a psychological thriller about a family losing their marbles living isolated in a ‘wasteland’?
B) Did they want to make a horror movie about a demon that terrorizes people, forcing a little boy to grow too soon?
For a horror/thriller film, the lead cast is quite talented and get their parts right. However, the pace is slow and tests your patience. It doesn’t manage to build much dread and could’ve used more background story for the characters, because you don’t feel too much for them. It doesn’t help that some things that happen don’t make sense at all. Like there is a scene where Diego makes his mother Lucia sit at one place, seconds later she isn’t there. Less than two minutes later, she has changed clothes and has gotten herself a hair-cut too. What??
The climax is partly predictable but ends on a poignant note. Asier Flores has done a fantastic job as the lead character. Too bad the film isn’t gripping enough. It’s a 5/10 from me.
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