Bob McPhail 12:30 p.m., April 26
Review: La Cara Oculta
If you are one to flinch at the creaks and groans that emerge from your apartment's walls and floorboards, Andi Baiz’s La Cara Oculta (The Hidden Face) may not be the right movie for you. If the thought of a lover discovering their ex trapped living inside the walls of a lavish country manor piques your interest, read on.
The hidden vault in which Belén (Clara Lago) accidentally takes up temporary residence, was built by a Nazi engineer as his South American fortress of solitude should the authorities come looking for him. It’s a paranoiac’s dream retreat. The hermetically sealed tomb comes equipped with reinforced one-way glass, rancid provisions, and a flush toilet! Occupants can hear everything on the outside via a built-in speaker system; other than that, it’s utterly soundproof. The sequestered space overlooks the master bedroom and bath, offering tenants a view that's both scenic and at times kinky.
Adrián (Quim Gutiérrez) doesn't have a clue to the inner-workings of his rental estate. No sooner does the renown, and devilishly handsome, Philharmonic conductor lose one girlfriend, than another, Fabiana (Martina García), takes up residence. Belén was given a guided tour of the Aryan antechamber by the Nazi's widow, Emma (Alexandra Stewart of Day for Night fame), and decides to use it as a test of Adrián, whom she suspects has a wandering eye. After several rehearsals, Belén leaves Adrián a video message that she can no longer tolerate his infidelity and that she is leaving him. With that, she packs her pink suitcase and heads for the bunker to spy on his reaction.
Here is the “key” moment of disbelief the audience is asked to suspend. In her haste, Belén leaves the key that unlocks the stronghold on top of her bag. Rushing to get inside the hideaway before Adrián arrives, she whisks her purse off the nightstand causing the key to fall into an air-duct. The discovery of the key -- Belén’s replacement, Fabiana, just happens to notice it while jumping on the bed -- extrudes further coincidence.
Martina García asks the musical question, "Who's That Knocking at My Drain?"
Bernardo Ramirez (Juan Alfonso Baptista), a macho rep from the D.A.'s office whose sole character trait is his addiction to spritzing breath-spray, is sent to investigate Belén’s disappearance. The cursory lug mentally undresses Fabiana the first time they meet and later shows up at the bar she works at to hip her to the fact that Adrián is a suspect. Cops deserve better than this flimsy excuse for a lawman.
If you can get past the cardboard cop and haphazard patch of plotting, there’s much enjoyment to be found in this thriller forged from the great, glorious, and kilned-to-death Hitchcock mold. Once our “suspicion” is put to rest that Adrián is not a murderous milk-carrier, and that logic prevails when it comes to explaining the house’s ghostly behavior, the The Hidden Face proves to be one worth looking into. If nothing else, the comely cast works hard to earn this sexy thriller its R-rating.
La Cara Oculta opens today at AMC Mission Valley. Click for showtimes.
Reader Rating: Three Stars