January 30, 2019

A Brief Review of To Let (2006)

Peliculas para no dormir para entrar a vivir spanish movie poster

Reviewing horror movies is difficult, and I can't pretend to be any good at it. One of the biggest challenges involves writing a review that communicates anything of value without ruining the film for those who haven't seen it yet. I see several horror films that I do not bother to review because I cannot figure out how to do this. The one I am going to tell you about here fits squarely into this category, but it was such a pleasant surprise and probably one you've never heard of that I can't resist trying.

First things first, To Let (original title: Para entrar a vivir) is a Spanish language film with subtitles. I know that this will be enough to lead many people to skip it, and I think that's unfortunate. I watch lots of foreign horror, and I often enjoy it far more than the domestic stuff. I find that many of these films are scarier and do a more effective job at creating an unsettling atmosphere. I think that probably has to do with my lack of familiarity with the cultures surrounding them. Having said that, I do have to be sufficiently awake and in the right mood to watch something with subtitles.

Assuming you can get past the idea of watching a foreign language film with subtitles, there is another barrier here to consider. According to IMDb, To Let is a "TV movie." I assume this means it was made for TV and never aired in theaters. Many people would rule it out for this reason. If you are familiar with the made-for-TV crap that airs on SyFy, you will probably agree that it is hard to blame them. All I can say is that I thought this was much better than that sort of thing.

I ran across To Let by accident while perusing the horror options available through my cable's on demand service. I think it might have been associated with Starz, but I am not sure. The cover image screamed low-budget, and the description was so vague that I had no idea what it would be about. I figured I'd watch it for 10 minutes and turn it off if I didn't like it.

Unfortunately, To Let is a prefect example of a film that is almost impossible to review without ruining it. Why? There is a big twist, but it does not come at the end of the film like most do. It comes rather early, and it is what stands out to me as being the coolest thing about the film. Just when I found myself thinking it was going to follow the same story I'd seen it at least 50 other horror films, it went in a very different direction. As a result, I was left feeling unsettled and tense, which is a good thing in a horror film. Best of all, the rest of the film provided just enough to maintain this feeling throughout much of it.

If I had read plot summaries and/or reviews of To Let before seeing it, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did. The early twist would not have been effective, and much of the tension would have been lost. I thought the acting was solid for a low-budget film, and the set was creepy enough to be effective even if I was not thrilled with the lighting. The blood and gore were not overdone and were more realistic than what one encounters in many of the American made-for-TV flicks.

On the negative side, I will acknowledge that To Let loses a bit of steam toward the end. Once one figures out what is going on and settles into the story, some of it starts to seem a bit derivative. The characters make some of the stupid decisions that are so familiar in horror films, and I'll admit that there were a few places where I found myself yelling something along the lines of, "Oh, come on!" Still, none of this ruined it for me. I did go in with very low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I suppose it is inevitable that To Let will be compared to [Rec] since Jaume Balagueró directed them both. With [Rec] being considered by some to be one of the greatest Spanish language horror films ever, To Let will not fare well. This is clearly not on the same level as [Rec]. Even though I thought [Rec] was somewhat overrated, I am not going to deny that it was a better film.

It looks like To Let was made as part of a collection of horror films to air on TV ("6 Films to Keep You Awake"). Instead of comparing it to [Rec] a more appropriate comparison might be something like the Showtime Masters of Horror series. Having seen all of those, I thought To Let was better than most.