Director: Juanfer Andrés
Cast: Macarena Gómez, Nadia de Santiago, Luis Tosar
Watch Shrew’s Nest online in the UK: Shudder UK
Today’s horror cinema sees women often taking the lead role but as the victim, the Final Girl, or the hero who rises up to defeat the evil forces oppressing them. Not often do you now get films such as De Palma’s Sisters or Carrie or J. Lee Thompson’s Happy Birthday To Me, films which seek to show the destructive power of psychologically wounded women, those who are victims and villains.
Shrew’s Nest, then, is quite the standout in the contemporary horror climate, a story very much featured on women with one increasingly becoming detached from reality before finally snapping. The key to this film managing to pull this off is in its performance and character work.
Macarena Gómez is absolutely pitch perfect as Montse, a woman who seems to be at her wits’ end at the start of the film. She goes through phases of vulnerability, violence and deep emotional trauma in a role which a less talented actress would undoubtedly falter with. She is protagonist, antagonist, victim and villain and the fact that by the end of the film you’re unsure as to whether to pity or fear her is one hell of an accomplishment.
It also helps that director/ co-writer Juanfer Andrés and co-writer Sofía Cuenca know that she is, by far, the most interesting character at their disposal. Nadia de Santiago is perfectly decent as La Nina, Montse’s younger sister and in most other horrors she would be the central character, the wholly nice girl who is beset by trouble with her sister – but instead, the floor is primarily given to Montse, and this pays dividends. While some of the plotting perhaps goes in directions you’d expect, this doesn’t detract from how invested you become.
The content that propels the degradation of Montse’s mental state, her Misery-like taking of a man in distress, is essentially window dressing; just watching her fall apart and discuss things with an imaginary figure is upsetting yet fascinating. Even the film’s rather striking effects work, which often would strike up cheers from horror festival audiences, further puts your face in the fire of her personal torment and what it makes her do.
Shrew’s Nest is an easily recommendable slice of Spanish horror cinema, which keeps you engaged and rather smacks you on the head with its ending. With a fantastic lead performance, it squeezes tension out of character and writing more than straight scares. If you like intelligent horror, make space for this.
Shrew’s Nest is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
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