The Horror Honeys: Tesis: Snuff said.

Tesis: Snuff said.

A Supernatural Honey Non-Genre review - by Suzanne

Tesis (1996)

This week, I went a little outside my subgenre to watch a film that has been sitting on my shelves for nearly a year. Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar (The Others) directs this Spanish thriller about violence in both the entertainment industry and media. 

Angela (Ana Torrent) is doing her thesis on audio-visual violence. She enlists the assistance of both her professor and another student, Chema (Fele Martinez), to provide her with some research materials. After finding her professor dead and stealing the video tape he was watching, she and Chema discover it’s a genuine snuff film and the girl in the video is a student who went missing a couple of years earlier. Angela starts digging a little too deeply and gets involved with another student, Bosco (Eduardo Noriega), who is, quite possibly, involved in a string of missing girls.

There is nothing supernatural here. This is a straight-up psychological thriller that truly highlights stereotypes and fucks with your brain a little.

Ana is a quiet, smart, pretty girl who listens to classical music and abhors violence so naturally, she approaches the weirdest guy in class for help because he must be into horror. Chema is skinny, unkempt and listens to metal (we all went to high school with this guy). His apartment is dressed in black paint, movie posters and dismembered mannequins. When Ana meets Bosco, handsome, charming and mysterious, he’s automatically labeled the bad guy. Yes, we be stereotypin’! However, there is so much misdirection you’re never entirely sure who is the villain, even though you know you know. You know?

Ladies who love horror will laugh when Ana first approaches Chema. She asks him if he can show her some movies with extreme violence. He brushes her off initially because she’s a GIRL so she can’t possibly like horror. Nerds… Eventually, he relents and invites her over because she’s pretty. He then shows her a film that is essentially Faces of Death. Lame.

Our three main actors milk their roles to the fullest, particularly Eduardo Noriega who does smoldering, sexy bad boy very well. Genre fans will know him from The Devil’s Backbone as the sneaky and conniving Jacinto. He’s so convincing that many times I stopped reading the subtitles and had no idea what he was saying, but I knew what he was saying. Muy caliente!

Tesis excels in its effective use of sound. There are moments of extreme quiet offset by intense screaming. The sound and reactions of the actors is what primarily builds the tension. There is very little in the way of gore. Other than quick cuts of the video, which is in black and white, there is virtually no blood or viscera. 

Where it really falls down for me is time. This fucker is 124 minutes! WAY too long, especially for this type of film. 20-30 minutes could easily be cut and this would be a tight movie. There is a lot of unnecessary filler and I found myself starting to watch the clock and toying with the idea of shutting it off. There are several moments when you think you’ve reached the end, but you haven’t and you start to die a little inside.

It’s a little dated. Being that it was the mid 90s, DVDs were just coming on the scene so, aside from the high waisted mom-jeans and oversized jackets, there is a plethora of VHS tapes, floppy discs and giant cameras! Sony must have been super stoked about the product placement.

There are a few plot points that had me perplexed. If you’re going to organize a snuff ring, using students, it seems the basement of the college video archives would be sort of the worst place to edit, as well as store all of your tapes and equipment, the door to this hideaway being right off the main door to the archives. Also, do colleges really keep large pornographic libraries? Maybe that’s just in Europe.
One plot point that doesn’t really get fleshed out is the morality of showing violent images to the public. Do people really want to see it and, if so, do you give them what they want? This was actually the heart of Ana’s thesis and comes around again at the very end when the local news decides to show the snuff film uncensored. Interesting considering what is available on the internet today and what is shown on the daily news. 

We all know the Spanish can create magnificent horror. This fell a little short of being both magnificent and horror, but I wouldn’t call it a failure by any means. 

The verdict: 3 betamax out of 5