Spoilers will buy you some new marbles.

Terror is arguably one of the most flexible genres of film. Change the culture, set it somewhere in the past and the context adds a new set of circumstances to help the filmmakers set the environment and limit the possibilities. I think the horror haunted house sub-genre can benefit from a refreshing change of scenario. It works even better if once you have all that going for it, you also try to step out of the usual horror story formula.

(Credit: Shudder)

Malasaña 32 (2020) was Albert Pintó and written by Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, David Orea and Salvador S. Molina. It is set in Madrid, Spain of 1976. The Olmedo family is moving to their new and first home in the big city after a life of living in the countryside. Manolo (Iván Marcos) has married Candela (Bea Segura). They have one young kid Rafael (Iván Renedo) and Candela’s two teenage children from a previous marriage, Amparo (Begoña Vargas) and Pepe (Sergio Castellanos). They are also bringing along Candela’s ailing father, Fermín (José Luis de Madariaga).

I love a lot of the careful aspects of this film. The fashion and the music are really taken from Spain the late 70’s. I can even recognize the songs from back then that made it all the way to South America. That nostalgic element is nice to bring some cadence to the movie, as well as set some very needed limitants. No cellphones. The family just moved, so it’s established early that they don’t have a phone line installed yet. Wealth is not overabundant, so the Olmedos have sold their farm and other belongings to buy their apartment. They’re physically stuck with their house.

The horror story starts with the very young and the very sick, of course. Something in the house starts talking to Rafael. The grandfather can sense something coming from the other apartment. Young Amparo starts getting haunted by something, and once weird things start to happen, she starts getting blamed for being careless. Shy Pepe, who is trying to use vocalization exercises to get rid of a stammer, but soon starts exchanging notes with the unknown female silhouette from a room opposite his window. A lot of these weird events have been done on other films. They’re a mixed bag but for the most part they’re well executed. Although the film does rely on jumpscares.

The film does lose me on the reveal though. Falling on the true and tried formula of exposition, one of the characters learn the story of what’s happening to race back. I’m going to spoil that reveal a little. It’s not something I do, but I do have to denounce it’s got a lot of transphobic elements on it. The filmmakers try to make a stand by giving their main point of view character, Amparo, say some words of empathy but it’s too little too late. The story did not needed to add that in as some sort of twist.

Recommended with reservations. I like the context, loved the depiction of the 70’s esthetics without going overboard, but the reveal is problematic. You can make the case for a movie made some decades past, but not one today even if you set it in that era. The nostalgic elements are well done but once we move past them, the horror elements are well known and even overused. Some of the characters are developed enough to keep the audience interested and concerned for them. Keep it on your watchlist for later.

That will do for now.