“What he did left his teacher speechless”
I didn’t know I wanted a horror parody in the style of “Celebrity Deathmatch” until about halfway through Samuel Ortí Martí‘s [Sam] pitch black skewering of the genre Pos eso [Possessed]. His and Rubén Ontiveros‘ script is littered with homage to The Day the Earth Stood Still in dialogue, The Omen in characters, The Exorcist in plot, Raiders of the Lost Ark in its cold open, and countless others—Alien, A Trip to the Moon, etc.—in visual flourishes. A fun pastiche of anything and everything in the recesses of their minds, the film never takes its foot off the pedal in its comedy or violence. And that’s where the old MTV show comes in because the fatalities here are a hilariously gruesome embracement of the Claymation medium that I haven’t seen since.
While we’re introduced to Father Lenin (Josema Yuste) on a relic hunting adventure for his materialistic/racist/sexist/pedophilic Bishop (Santiago Segura), the familial strife of the renowned flamenco superstar Trini (Anabel Alonso) who was forced to retire and raise her son Damien after the boy’s father was killed in a “domestic accident” soon arrives to provide dueling plot threads approaching convergence. Sam deftly transitions from one to the other initially through the lens of television while also utilizing its technology’s potential as a facilitator for exposition. Because while we learn of Lenin’s devotion to the church above the needs of his flock and ailing mother in real time when the latter comically calls to lament her desire for a grandchild after he’s accomplished a death-defying heist, Trini’s background is delivered as all celebrities hope: tabloid exposé.
It’s a fun progression from Lenin catching his breath on the phone to Mom in her convalescent home watching TV to the soapy true life program depicting Trini and her matador beau literally taking over our screen. An idyllic life is showcased with only a clueless agent (Álex Angulo‘s Manolo) and oddly malicious son Damien—skewering the dog with a smile—alluding to cracks in their pristine façade. Like these types of shows are wont, a switch to tragedy occurs. Spain hopes Trini will return to the spotlight and entertain with her earthquake-inducing dancing, but the life of a single mom with all eyes bearing down is too much. And suddenly, as the show reaches its end, we find ourselves at Trini’s to see her mother-in-law (Concha Goyanes) enjoying the same program herself. It’s some nice cinematic maneuvering.
From here we learn Damien has gotten worse as he’s aged while Father Lenin’s impatience with the selfish Bishop drives him to quit the cloth. Enter a tongue-less teacher, seedy prostitutes, and Cthulhu itself for a never-ending stream of laughs that I’ll admit do service a very specific demographic. While I had a blast, others might find the taboo-riddled, dark subject matter less than amusing. That’s their loss because scenes like a Stepford-esque psychologist (Carlos Areces) losing himself to Damien’s demonic possessor’s control and subsequently mowing down his family with an axe, scissors, corded phone, and hand blender are just the right amount of outrageous for me. Inevitably Trini will need Father Lenin to exit the drunken stupor his own tragedies cultivated so her son can be rid of an evil she can no longer pretend isn’t real.
Everything from church to celebrity to the general population’s misaligned priorities to our societal bloodlust gets exaggerated and consumed in the satire while our pop culture love for film references is satisfied on top. The culmination unfortunately leaves us with somewhat of a whimper when we’re transported to Hell for an anticlimactic battle royale, but the level of comic success otherwise more than makes up. Let’s be honest, a husband wearing his wife’s face to scare her mother will make up for a lot of things. So will screams as characters lose limbs to cute demon cherubs so only the cartoonish, bubbled end of bone is visible or a demon morphing its victim’s clay face into corkscrews and donuts to impress God. It’s easy to imagine each animator’s glee as they applied new splotches of blood.
So while there’s little original its pieces, the whole becomes unique in its sensibilities and creatively curated collage of well-worn material. We’ve often yelled “Is that the best you can do” at the screen when yet another possessed child turns his/her head around on a swivel, but it’s nice when the person in the movie experiencing it does the same. Throwaway roles like innocent young Gracita (Esperanza Elipe) eventually prove their worth too as Sam has ensured no one leaves without at least a punch line. Nothing’s wasted because those who can’t bring a joke can still get dismembered and/or eviscerated. And just like “Celebrity Deathmatch” we know they will. Once that first bit of silly, WTF violence came I dug in and awaited more. Sam made sure not to disappoint on his promise.