La Habatación del Niño (The Baby’s Room) (Álex de la Iglesia, 2006)
I have, so far, only gotten to see two of the movies in the Spanish six-film anthology Films to Keep You Awake—Balaguero’s To Let (viz. review 27Mar2012) and de la Iglesia’s The Baby’s Room. Given those two directors, it shouldn’t be any surprise which one I enjoyed more; Balaguero is a mediocre director on his best day, de la Iglesia has yet to set a cinematic foot wrong as far as I can tell. The Baby’s Room, despite being a made-for-TV (and thus tame, though not nearly as much so as it would have been were it an American made-for-TV production), is an effective, scary little beast of a movie that refuses to pull any punches whatsoever. It’s probably not one you want to watch if pregnant, or if you’ve just had a kid…
Plot: Juan (El Crimen Perfecto‘s Javier Gutiérrez) and his wife Sonia (Hable con Ella‘s Leonor Watling) have just had a child, and therefore they need a bigger place to live. Juan finds the perfect house, big and brash and very new money, recently renovated, blah blah blah you know the drill. They move in and, the house being as big as it is, invest in a top-of-the-line baby monitoring system so they can keep tabs on the child from anywhere in the house. Juan wakes up in the middle of the night, checks the baby monitor, and sees someone sitting next to the cradle. Into the room he goes, and… no one. You know how this story goes—no one else sees the mysterious figure, everyone else starts to think Juan is nuts, but he is determined to prove the house is haunted.
Creepy, creepy, creepy. de la Iglesia pulls out all the stops for this one, including a crazy homeless person spouting odd prophecies who may have a connection to the house, all kinds of lighting and sound tricks to subtly lead the viewer in the right direction, and the very real possibility that, yes, the stress of all the major life changes he and his family have recently made has driven Juan to a nervous breakdown and he just refuses to realize it. Don’t worry, however; de la Iglesia will not leave this one on an ambiguous note, and that last sequence? Oh, man.
The weak points are few, but they do exist. Some of the actors, especially in minor roles, are…questionable casting choices. The movie does play with that means-versus-mansion motivation that never fails to annoy the bejesus out of me (how do these two people making what these two people make afford this house? AND, in this case, while juggling a new baby, which is a very expensive proposition these days?). And, of course, de la Iglesia was severely constrained by the time limit he was working with (the movie clocks in at a threadbare seventy-seven minutes, and I’m wondering how many seconds de la Iglesia had to beg and plead the producers to cut out of the advertising budget to get that length; Balaguero’s entry came in at sixty-eight minutes). None of these things are deal-breakers, but they make me wonder what otherwise could have been. A good, solid offering that probably could have been a great one. ***
U. S. trailer for the full six-film box.