The Appeared review

The latest from the Edinburgh International Film Festival: how about a Spanish horror film with time travel? Carl explains all...

Things haven’t got off to a good start for me at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, after the less-than-impressive Warsaw Dark. The one thing I was hoping from The Appeared is that it would be at least half decent, if not scare-tastic. Because, after all, it’s a horror film. Well, kind of.

It has the basic horror elements, such as a big scary dude with a knife, flickering lights, and a frightening back story. But it also has a drama element to, mainly in the way that the entire film centres around a brother and sister finding out more about their father, before agreeing to pull the plug on the machines that keep him alive. A road trip to the old family home then? Why not.

So off they go on their 2000 mile long journey, staying at crappy hotels and eating in horrid diners, keeping themselves entertained. When they stop to do some business by the side of the road, a little girl appears to Pablo, and shows him something taped above the back wheel of the car. It’s a book, which details the brutal murder of a family at a hotel they will be passing soon.

Of course, it’s inevitable what happens here. They go to the hotel, and spend the night in the room next door. Then, at the same time in the morning as in the book, an audible thud next door wakes them up. Craziness ensues, as it turns out that the same events in the book, are happening next door right now. They decide to run away, but Pablo forgets the book, and goes back for it. Clearly a rookie mistake, as he almost gets killed by an invisible man. This leads to changes in the details in the Polaroids in the book, and starts him thinking; maybe he can change the past.

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Of course, saying anything more would ruin the rest of the film. And considering it’s actually a good movie, I don’t really want to do that. It starts off as this nice film about a family reconnecting, and it might be leading up the official death of their father, but it’s a nice connection to make. The sibling connection between the two main characters is really well played out, and in some ways it’s a shame that we have to take a trip down horror road for this film to continue.

Luckily the director, Paco Cabezas takes influence from the likes of Guillermo del Toro, especially from films like The Devil’s Backbone.

Another point in Cabezas’ favour is that this is his first feature film outing, some achievement considering how well directed it is. If it were only better acted then everything would be solid, but unfortunately that’s where the problem lies. Pablo is a main character who for the most part isn’t well played. It takes him half of the film to actually come up with a scared face, something that is quite clearly recognisable on Malena, his sister. Unfortunately sometimes she overacts, and we thus see her cry about 45 times in 90 minutes. So whether it’s over or under acted, the points where they meet in the middle are few, but spectacular.

A more deliberate choice is to have the pair split from each other towards the end of the film, to find out different things about the situation they are in. So while Pablo tries to save the family, Malena looks into the past, through records and newspapers to find out if she can learn anything more. There are some interesting twists and turns in the storyline, even right from the beginning, and they make a concise effort at not making this just a slasher flick.

Overall, it is a good effort, but with the obvious downfalls, and is hurt by one of the cheesiest endings I have ever witnessed. Still, it’s definitely worth a watch, and while it’s not a groundbreaking movie in any sense, it certainly has its moments. Paco Cabezas is a name to watch, too.


3 out of 5