'The Wasteland' Review: Inma Cuesta's Netflix horror flick is a slowburner, so stay till the end
Spoilers for 'The Wasteland'
'The Wasteland' comes with a theme that makes for a classic horror movie. Set in a battle-ridden 19th century Spain, the movie primarily revolves around three characters (later reduced to two) as they battle a beast that torments them time and again in their isolated home that seems far away from civilization. The father, Salvador (Roberto Álamo), Lucia (Inma Cuesta), and Diego (Asier Flores) live away from the community after escaping the war. Their living is pretty much a quarantine from mankind who come with the intent to destroy.
The fear in itself is the horror element in the film. It does captivate the viewer, making the film seem more of a psychological thriller rather than a screamer film. Much of the Netflix film is shouldered by Diego and Lucia, with the latter becoming an integral part of the movie. The young boy is the one whose lens we watch the flick from as he sees the idea of fear and a deadly beast form in front of him after his mother lets her paranoia get the better of her. While the father is the one who prefers to knock some bravery into his boy the hard way, the mother uses love and is less macho in her approach.
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Diego is a rather delicate chap, but astutely observant of his surroundings. He's everything a nine-ten-year-old could be — curious, eager, scared and immature. However, his life changes when things go haywire and the father never returns after he goes to deliver the body of a man who shoots himself dead in front of the family. What plays a crucial part in the movie is the fact that there's very less of the devil, but there's so much fear that it garners. Director David Casademunt makes rich use of the sepia tones and the sound effects to induce some hair-raising feels.
It isn't until the final minutes of the movie that we get a glimpse of the beast (that's what the deranged mother and the son call the entity) that Diego finally manages to counter. In short, he manages to conquer fear, an element that leads to an unexpected death in the climax. The director and the writers Martí Lucas and Fran Menchón aim to use the threat as the greatest weapon at their disposal to scare the audience and they manage to do so with utmost ease. However, what's more impactful is the stellar performance by the cast.
The tone is grim and there is no part where some light humor comes into play. 'The Wasteland' doesn't evoke horror until the first 25 minutes and picks the pace only from the second act. This makes it a bit dry and can turn the attention away, but it's the cast that makes you root for normalcy and hope for the horror to recede. Netflix's Spanish horror is a thriller and it does manage to send shivers.
'The Wasteland' is streaming on Netflix.