Director: David Casademunt
Writer: David Casademunt
Starring: Imma Cueasta, Roberto Álamo, Asier Flores, Alejandra Howard
It’s taken almost ten years for David Casademunt to make The Wasteland. He came up with the idea and started writing the film in 2012, and it’s slowly moved into production since then. Finally, it was filmed last year and received its premiere before its global release on Netflix. The Wasteland is an insular horror that manifests mental illness as a monster.
During the 19th century, Spain was torn apart by wars and violence. Diego’s (Asier Flores) family have escaped the fighting by moving to a small, isolated house in the middle of nowhere. They find an injured man on a boat, who shoots himself after the family patch him up. Diego’s father (Roberto Álamo) takes it upon himself to return the corpse to the man’s family, leaving his son, Diego and his wife (Imma Cueasta) alone. A beast who Diego previously thought was just part of a story starts to torment the household in his father’s absence, with the terror growing slowly every day, and food starting to run low.
Diego and his family live in complete isolation from society and the film doesn’t take you too far beyond their borders of scarecrows at any point. The tone feels less like a period piece and more like a post-apocalyptic story, with the barren wasteland as the main setting. When Diego’s father leaves, it’s just Diego and his mother left, and it doesn’t take long for thing to start getting horrific. Diego’s mother is convinced that there is a beast haunting them, and while Diego can’t see it at first, he starts to fall into his mother’s delusions. Her paranoia and hopelessness at her husband’s disappearance is what fuels the monster that is attacking them.
David Casademunt has masterfully created an eerie and unsettling atmosphere. From the downbeat and washed-out visuals to the tension between Diego’s parents as they can’t agree on how to raise their son in the war torn world. Adding to the creepiness is the great score that screeches along throughout the story.
There are some gruesome and brutal effects in the film, most notably with the man who shoots himself. There’s nothing left to the imagination, and it looks genuinely real. On top of that there’s enough rabbit carcases to make your stomach churn. It’s not an all-out gross horror film, but when it goes there, it doesn’t do it shyly. The most horrific thing about the film is the noises the rabbits make when they are being beaten to death.
Not enough really happens in the story and it doesn’t do enough with the time it has. There’s a lot of Diego’s mother shooting at nothing, and while the atmosphere is great, it’s too tame in the long run to be truly scary. The film really drags on as it reaches its final act and doesn’t leave that much of an impression once it’s over.
The Wasteland is a decent film, but it’s very slow at points and the horror just doesn’t escalate to anything extreme. The atmosphere that David Casademunt is immense, but that’s not enough to make this an essential watch. It’s similar in tone to The Lighthouse, just not as unique or memorable.
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