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IN DARKNESS WE FALL (La Cueva) – BFI London Film Festival 2014
October 12, 2014
If I say “Spanish film”, “horror” and “found footage” the first thing that comes to mind is [Rec]. The 2007 zombie film instantly became an internationally acclaimed cult that generated inevitable sequels, renewed attention for Spanish cinema, and revitalised both the genre and the “found footage” technique.
In Darkness We Fall (La Cueva) follows this successful current; despite not featuring any undead or supernatural threats, it still terrifies, emphasising the darkest aspects of human nature.
Utilising the “holiday video” device, director Alfredo Montero lets us witness directly a leisure trip turned into nightmare; a group of friends’ adventure to Formentera turns unexpectedly when they decide to visit a cave on the coast, where they get lost. Panic, desperation, and ultimately violence soon overcome all logic, friendship, and hope.
The film opens with a few shots of Formentera: beautiful coastal rocks hit by sea waves, pine groves, the beach at sunset, and then abandoned tents. A series of recorded (and presumably unanswered) voicemails play in the background: “I bet you’re having fun, you’re not replying to my texts…” and “I’ve been trying to call you for days, where are you?”.
After this very uncomfortable prologue, the found footage kicks in: we meet Jaco, Celia, Ivan, Begoña and Carlos at the airport, excited and joyful, ready to depart. The film carefully introduces all of them, with several sequences that slowly take us through a discovery process, rather than a schematic and canonic presentation.
They are friends, they make fun of each other, but they’re also real people in need of a holiday, each for their own reason. We see them skinny dipping in the sea, hiking, getting drunk around the bonfire. The more we get to know them, the more we feel the tension and dark irony of what we know is going to happen.
It’s not until halfway into the film that the group discovers the clearly dangerous gap in the rocks, and decides to explore it, leaving the sun-drenched beaches and fields for a dark, humid, claustrophobic pit.
We can interpret what happens next in two different ways. Both start from the same assumption: like in a zombie film, the danger lies in people themselves, and the way people react in life-threatening situations unfailingly generates conflict and drama.
Deep down in this cave we see people losing their way: not only they get lost in the dark, they also lose control over who they really are, becoming terrible monsters. Or, if you prefer a darker point of view, down in the cave they can free themselves of the constraints and imposed manners of the civilised world, and let their hidden, animalistic self emerge.
Whichever interpretation suits you best, In Darkness We Fall delivers its point. Its simplicity (probably outcome of its limited budget) makes it accessible; it works almost flawlessly, and entertains throughout.