Time for another Spanish horror effort… the 2009 film “No-Do” also confusingly know as either “The Beckoning” or “The Haunting” depending upon whether you are watching the UK or the US DVD release for this one. It’s popped up lots and lots of places… all under a myriad of names. I almost missed it here in the US… given that it got released under the title “The Haunting”…. which was already the name of two other earlier films. Grrrr!! Gotta hate when they do that… always confuses the crap outta me and makes tracking these lil’ films down so darn hard.
Our synopsis goes: “Francesca, a pediatrician who is dedicated to both motherhood and children, is married to another physician, Pedro. Following the birth of their new son, Francesca begins to suffer from postpartum depression. Following the advice of friend and psychiatrist Jean, the couple move to a new home away from the city. But Francesca’s obsession with her new baby begins to engulf her. Regardless of Pedro’s and Jean’s attempts to help her, she seems to drift dangerously close to madness. To make matters worse, she is starting to hear and see freakish unbelievable things. Furtive figures and ghostly shadows start tormenting her. The large house in which she and her family live alone seems to hide terrible secrets. Both the cellar and the attic are locked and barred to the family by the owners, and yet it is from both of these places that Francesca receives nocturnal visits that are slowly driving her mad.Is she truly losing her mind or is the old house haunted by restless spirits? What can be the truth?”
Sounds good… and lately Spain has been very good to this wee Catgirl, movie-wise, so I’m hoping they’ll score again with this tale of haunted houses and ghostly children, no matter what the heck title they give it… If you want to know if it’s worth a look yourself… why then by all means, “Read On” and find out for yourself.
It all gets going with a flashback to the Franco years in Spain with a little background on “No-Do”, the colloquial name for “Noticiarios y Documentales” (“News and Documentaries”), the state-controlled series of cinema newsreels made under the 1939–’75 dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Mostly propaganda and fluff journalism in favor of the regime, they also apparently had a connection to the Catholic church in Spain. Our film uses that connection to postulate that a series of secret films were made for the church to document their investigation of reports of religious phenomena and possible miracles. Sounds like the Catholic version of “Project Blue Book”… and with much the same conspiracy theory cover-ups and “X-files” feel to it.
At the very beginning of our film, an old woman named Blanca (played by Maria Alfonsa Rosso) has just awoken from a mysterious sixty-year coma. Also, as it happens, that very sanatorium in which she was a patent is in the process of being shut down by the church as part of a budgetary measure. Jesuit psychiatrist Father Miguel (played by Héctor Colomé) is the guy in charge of seeing that it’s all being done properly. Naturally it turns out he’s stuck with this particular task as the result of his experiences with the secretive investigatory service within the church who’s job it is to debunk and discredit reports of miracles and possible supernatural events not favorable to the accepted doctrines of the church. Should it be a surprise that Blanca was once involved in a terrible church sponsored exorcism gone horribly wrong? Nawwww…
Her hubby Sergio was a cameraman for No-Do and was one of those that got to film all those top secret church investigation using some special film emulsion that lets you capture those otherworldly things invisible to the ordinary human eye. At a convent school, three little girls claim to have visions of the virgin Mary. Pilgrimages came to house to be cured by the girls but they grew sicker instead of recovering as they should have. Suspecting the worst, the church sent investigators to the school who soon realized that the force in the house was evil masquerading as the spirit of the Virgin. Unfortunately… their attempts to exorcise the malignant spirit went terribly wrong and a hasty cover-up was arranged to hide what happened. Blanca… traumatized by her experiences, went into her coma…. until now. Why has she suddenly awakened? Is it the recent death of the Archbishop who ordered the exorcism and who spent his lifetime keeping the house empty? Or is it because the house is no longer empty…. rented out to Francesca and Pedro who know nothing of it’s tragic past? Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?
Now… as it happens, Francesca isn’t the most stable of women. After the tragic crib death of her first child some 10 years ago, she’s been haunted by the idea that it could happen again to her newborn son. Her husband Pedro (played by Francisco Boira) has tried to be understanding and supportive, but years of her obsessions have just about brought him to his limits. Under the advice of family friend, and psychologist Jean (played by Rocío Muñoz) he’s moved them to the somber and somewhat isolated house to ease her mind… give her the chance to work out her “irrational” fears and be the woman he still loves once more. But once at the house… weird things start happening… things that only she and their 10 year old daughter Rosa (played by Miriam Cepa) ever seem to experience. Crap…. you just know that’s gonna be a problem.
So what’s Blanca up to? Why she’s still a wee bit…. ummm… confused… by her sudden return to the “Land of the Conscious”. She’s got no clue exactly what transpired at the convent school, and has no clue as to the whereabouts of her beloved Sergio. All she does know is that she’s got to return to the house where all that horror happened and find out what happened to him. She spends much of the rest of the movie looking…. creeping ominously around Francesca’s new abode and freaking her out. At least she gets Father Miguel to stop burying himself in his work and start asking all those questions the church would rather not answer. Given his connections to another debacle that when wrong, he’s not exactly on their list of favorite people. You see… he actually helped them cover-up the mental torture and suicide of a prostitute that had displayed divine healing powers worthy of Sainthood. The church could never accept the possibility of a prostitute/Saint and when the No-Do documentary film proved her touch of the divine was indeed very real, it was decided to bury the truth and deny her miracles. It’s a betrayal that Father Miguel has had to live with ever since…. even though it haunts him.
From this point forward, I kept expecting Francesca’s hubby Pedro to turn out to be having an affair with our psychologist Jean… you know, driven to it by her incessantly crazy obsessive behavior… but thankfully our film never goes that easy route. Instead, Father Miguel shows up and basically decides to make amends for his sins by rebelling against the cover-up by his superiors and saving her and her family from the evil spirit still haunting the house.
It’s “Spoiler Alert” time…. as we really can’t go much further without giving away the two big plot “secrets” of the film… so don’t say Neko didn’t warn ya…..
First off… and I’m thinking you’ll hit on it early too, just like I did…. Francesca’s daughter Rosa turns out to be the ghost of that dead baby from all those years ago…. or a figment of Francesca’s disturbed imagination. Only Francesca ever sees her, she never seems to need to go to school or anything, and Father Miguel is freaked out the moment he “meets” her. Yeah… he got that super secret exorcist thing that also lets him “see dead people”….. It’s the main reason he knows something is wrong at the house, especially when he figures out that Rosa is now actually the evil spirit in disguise trying to trick Francesca. Damn…. that just sucks.
Ahhhh…. and the ghosts of the three little girls? How did they end up trapped in the house? For that we can blame the church… who figured that by sacrificing them as martyrs they would break the link between the evil spirit and the material world. Problem is… they forgot that true Martyrs have to be willing to die for their cause… you can’t just slit the throats of innocent children ignorant of the fate planned for them. Murdering them just trapped their spirits in the old house and left them as tools of the more powerful evil spirit that still had it’s link to the house.
Figured out yet how this one is going to go? Yeah… Father Miguel’s got some serious karma to balance and he’s the perfect guy to die if that’s what it’ll take to end this all. Not before we get Francesca and Pedro’s marriage… the baggage about little Rosa’s death… and all the stuff about the church’s involvement in those deaths some sixty years before, of course. All in all we have that obligatory special effects laden ending with lots of ghostly lights…. explosions… a huge fire to consume the house utterly…. and our survivors running for their lives.
So… all in all… what did I end up with for an experience here? Hmmm? Not bad overall, I suppose. But hardly anything novel or new. The whole “Sixth Sense” style subplot with Rosa was disappointing and it’s been done waaaay to many other times to work effectively here. I did like the underlying story idea of the documentary newsreels though… it took a very real historical idea and made good use of it in a creative way. Acting and cinematography were good as well, with a plot that, while not terrifically inventive in and of itself, was at least coherent and understandable. Given that a mediocre 3 “Meows” out of 5 sounds fair. Not great… but certainly not terrible either.
The DVD… under about 20 different names…. is available in most Regions and ought to be easy to find once you decipher the title you need to be looking for. Here in the US it goes by the name “The Haunting” and should be found for about 12-15$ US. Worth a look for ghost story fans who might like the “Spanish” flavored historical elements of the story…. but not a hugely scary or amazing film if you had to work much harder to find a copy.
Our Trailer follows… enjoy the creepiness!!