Warning – probably contains very slight spoilers that would irritate someone as sensitive as I am to them (despite the fact I’ve tried to eradicate them where possible and don’t want to spoil it for anyone).
Glaring plot-holes abound in this moderately entertaining but not-quite-horrific-enough-to-be-called-a-horror movie. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, this was always going to be better than your average heebie-jeebie unsettler – but first time Director J. A. Bayona doesn’t seem to have read his own script through properly, as several scratch-your-head issues aren’t cleared up come the credits.
I watched those gasbags on Newsnight Review going on about how this was a meditation on maternal and paternal fears and discussing how it really gave them the jitters. Apparently the idea of being separated from your child is a concept Mark Kermode, an Evening Standard editor and the host bloke who’s not as good as Kirsty Wark can’t stomach. Well I haven’t got any kids, so I actually felt the adopted parents of Simon were bloody lucky to have got shot of the little swine. He looked exactly like Fred Savage from The Wonder Years – and the similarity was completely distracting for the casual viewer. I can’t imagine what it must have been like having to look after the poor sod with that hanging around his neck.
The plotting problems kick in late on in the picture, which is annoying, as up to then everything’s set up for a cracking finale. Creeping unease and nasty indications of what’s to come crop up when Tomas – a nasty little bag-headed ghost – shows up intermittently and a very upsetting incident occurs in town – of which I’ll say no more. But we could’ve done with more of that-type-of-thing. It left unshiftable skids on my Y fronts.
And so to the glaring plot-holes. I’m going resolutely spoiler-free with this review so I’ll not be specific but – when the climax starts unravelling – if you’re an active observer rather than the sort of cinema-goer who swallows everything they see like so much sugared, overpriced popcorn, you’ll be turning to others and saying ‘Now hang on a minute…’ as three or four clear errors aren’t addressed in favour of a schmaltzy (if slightly morbid) ending.
Interestingly, Kermode was asked by a listener to Simon Mayo’s radio show about one of these inconsistencies (the wallpaper one) and his response was along the lines of ‘I’ll email the enquirer to tell them, but I shan’t say as it’ll ruin the film for others’. Well, Kermode: I don’t believe you can explain it as it doesn’t make any sense. Feel free to mail WWM and tell me why I’m wrong.
Still – worth seeing. And apologies if my tentative dance around plot details has spilled into spoiler territory. I’m glad I don’t do this for a living, it’s like working on a knife edge between being a cultural observer and a spoilsport shitbag.