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La Cabina

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Posted 17th May 2009 at 05:02 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

From the pages of the sadly defunct DVDisgo and the happily active DVDresurrections

La Cabina

This amazing short film was directed by Antonio Mercero for Spanish television in 1972. It's a wonderful example of efficient, lean horror story telling which squeezes in plenty of thrills and shocks in its 40 minute running time.

Essentially a European riff on a Twilight Zone style format, the film begins with a team of workmen installing a new public phone box. Later a man drops his boy off at the nearby bus stop and then pauses to make a call...

But the phone doesn't work and when he tries to exit he finds himself trapped. The filmmaker makes a lot out of the claustrophobic setting in these opening scenes, the box is glass on all four sides leaving our victim exposed and embarrassed as a crowd gathers to witness the odd spectacle. Small children taunt him, offering him peanuts and calling him a monkey. Several people offer to help including the police, the local strongman and a handyman with a bag of tools.

Soon, the telephone crew appears to take the box with our hero inside, loading it onto a flatbed truck as the amused crowd laugh and wave goodbye to the hapless prisoner.

The film up to this point is presented as a lightweight comedy, with plenty of physical comedy and pratfalls as the crowd attempt, and fail, to break the man out of the phone box. However, once the booth is fixed to the truck, the tone shifts subtly into one of increasing dread.

First, the man witnesses another guy successfully leaving a similar booth, causing a look of anguish to cross his face. The film is very clever in this regard, working almost in a silent movie style. The trapped man can only mouth words and use exaggerated gestures to communicate.

The truck drives past a funeral in which a young woman can be seen in a glass sided coffin increasing our sense of unease. As the truck pulls up to a junction alongside another lorry transporting another hapless man-in-a-box our guy can barely keep a grip as we finally have our suspicions confirmed and realize that everything is wrong and something sinister is afoot...

Who has kidnapped him? Where are they going? What terrible fate is about to befall him?

The film is a triumph, telling a simple story with an excellent central performance from the lead that has to deliver a huge range of emotions through body language without turning the whole film into an embarrassing pantomime. The above par photography sets this apart from the usual TV movie fare and the varied score, which ranges from playful for the comedic opening to apocalyptic during the twisted finale, all help to create a thrill ride with a shocking ending that will stay with you for a good while afterwards.

Here's the film. No subs but it's very visual storytelling so it's shouldn't pose much of a problem.

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