A tragedy occurs every time a great foreign film goes undiscovered. But every now and then, one slips through the cracks. This week Tartan Video released Martín Garrido Barón’s masterpiece H6: Diary of a Serial killer. This film truly has it all, and deserves to be placed proudly on the DVD shelf alongside some other genre giants including Hostel and Saw. This film has enough to keep every fan happy. I love it a when a film builds tension, and H6 has so much tension you can cut it with a chainsaw….literally!
This film has been described as cruel, sadistic, misogynistic, and sexist. All I can say is yes, yes, yes, and yes. However, the film is much more than the sum of its parts. It is a brilliant and detailed look at one mans’ decent into madness. This film is definitely not for the novice viewer. H6 touches on taboo’s that are still too extreme for most American audiences. When I think of foreign horror I usually think Japan, Korean Thailand, even France. With the exception of Nacho Cerdá, Spain is usually not on the top of my list. Martín Garrido Barón deserves to be amongst the most talented and promising foreign directors to date.
H6 takes us into the mind, and diary, of the soon to be notorious serial killer Antoine Frau. Antoine, who is imprisoned in the opening scenes for the passionate murder of his girlfriend, is released after a number of years. Antoine soon finds that he is the sole inheritor to his late aunt’s magnificent “guest house” in a seedy part of town. He quickly moves in and sets up his room for “cleansing” the local prostitutes. It happens that Antoine has a special bond with room 6 and sets it up for some wet work. Plastic lines the walls, and a large wooden table with restraints at each corner is situated in the center of the room. Let the cleansing begin!
Antoine decides to document his work, with a detailed diary and photographs. He models himself after the fastidious French serial killer Henri Landru, in the detailed accounts of each deed. He considers Landru a genius of sorts, and also hopes to live in infamy.
This film played out more like a psychological thriller as opposed to full on horror. Don’t be misled, there is still enough blood and guts to keep even the most savage gore-hound at bay. Often times I found myself reminiscent of Thomas Harris’ work (Hannibal, Silence of the lambs), as well as John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The deranged method in which things are explained, and exacted, had me thinking of numerous films, but H6 maintains its’ originality.
Not enough can be said about composition. I was completely mesmerized. The savageries with which the “cleansings” are carried out was enough, but add some off angle shots, and a score of classical music, and these scenes take on an artistic quality that has yet to be rivaled. Even the extreme torture scenes were beautifully shot, making the scene that much more impressive, and disturbing to watch. It is like a vicious car wreck, where you know you should look away, but you just can’t. You can tell that each and every shot in the film was meticulously thought out and planned before hand. The harsh lighting contrast and exaggerated colors, particularly red and yellow, add too the atmosphere and really keeps you on edge. The beauty of the film is really in the details, even something as simple as the wallpaper in a particular room, or a certain piece of furniture can add quite an effect.
Another nice thing about this film is the flow of the subtitles. Occasionally the subtitles in foreign films lose meaning in the translation. The subtitles had a nice smooth pace, and conveyed both the thought and emotion of each scene. Be advised some viewers will be deeply offended by the misogynistic actions of Antoine, and the lack of compassion toward females in particular. H6 is a highly intelligent film, and does not fall prey to typical Hollywood conventions. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in the recent trend of torture cinema, or the mind of a deranged, but scientific, madman. This movie will have a lasting impression on nearly anyone who views it. If you are watching this film with friends, they may look at you a little differently after it’s over.