CELLULOID SCREAMS – Review: Painless

Spanish horror is renowned for its brilliance and Painless is no exception. Although not scary in a jumpy way, the film is dark and disturbing enough to chill you to the bone.

We are presented with two storylines that alternate as if reading two different books, one chapter at a time. The first follows a present-day doctor, David, trying to get to the root of his parents strange behaviour after he asks them for life-saving bone marrow. The second is snippets from an asylum during the Spanish civil war where several children are being unfairly detained simply due to their incapacity to feel physical pain. It focuses on one child in particular, Benigno, who is cleverer than the others and spends his time trying to impress his crush Inés. The two stories come together in a single defining moment and the repercussions are overwhelming for David and his foreseeable future.

This film felt the most legitimate of the lot from Celluloid Screams but it’s hard to say exactly why. Perhaps it was due to its obvious visual professionalism or the fact it had one of the most intricate and impressive plots in all of the festival. It is a film you could confidently show your friends and family and expect them to like it, even if they’re not enthusiastic horror fans. It would definitely appeal to a wider audience than most of the films screened but still stands strong in its own genre. There are some grim scenes but there are also some heart-breaking ones too and you can’t help but feel like this film has it all.

The glaring problem with this film, however, is that the flashback scenes are way more interesting than the present day ones. You find yourself zoning out and waiting impatiently to get back to Benigno and Inés. It also takes a while to get started and the ending seems ever so slightly rushed. That being said it is still one of the stand-out films of the festival and deserves high praise and critical acclaim.