Directed by: Albert Pintó. Starring: Begoña Vargas, Iván Marcos, Bea Segura. Runtime: 1h 44 min.
Right from the beginning, 32 Malasaña Street opens the floodgates for audience members to criticize character decisions as a small boy in an apartment complex loses a marble that goes to the door of Apartment 3B. This apartment, we learn, is haunted; as the marble magically goes into the creepy apartment and he follows it as it rolls beside a woman in a rocking chair. This all begs the question: Kid, why not just get a new marble?
It’s a creepy tone-setter, regardless, as the film then skips to 1976 as we meet the Olmedo family. They are the unlucky bunch moving into Apartment 3B as they have left their small village to make a better life for themselves in Madrid. Each character feels distinct in their own right, though we learn quickly that each character goes into specific roles – like the eldest daughter Amparo (Begoña Vargas) being the main character, or the youngest son Rafael (Iván Renedo) very much being the most vulnerable character here. As well, they bring their grandfather, Fermín (José Luis de Madariaga), who has trouble breathing, and you better believe he’s utilized for some creepy moments.
The film is also well-acted by everyone involved, as I really liked Vargas as Amparo, as well as the parents, with Iván Marcos as the patriarch Manolo and Bea Segura as the matriarch Candela. The haunting itself is fine, too, as there are some legitimately good sequences, but so much of this film is frustrating when the scare set-ups are lazy and not super scary. For example, when the parents embrace for a kiss and the score heightens because the realtor randomly pops up when they separate. Or, for another instance, when Rafa turns off his light to go to sleep and he sees a glow-in-the-dark rosary. The creepy score sets in, though it’s confusing because there’s nothing creepy about a glow-in-the-dark rosary, as Rafa flicks the light on and off, until the mom pops up in the hallway for a “scare.”
Underwhelming moments and set-ups like these feel more frustrating because director Albert Pintó shows us he’s more than capable at creating suspense leading up to a scare, just with using simple noises like a note being passed across a clothesline in the son Pepe’s (Sergio Castellanos) sub-plot, and especially an interactive puppet show on TV that is a truly great sequence. There’s also a game of “I Spy” that gives the Hide and Clap aspect of The Conjuring a run for its money. There is nothing exactly groundbreaking in how Pintó shows us these scares, but it shows he’s capable of putting us on edge; which, again, makes it more frustrating when he goes back to half-assed scares that don’t feel earned.
And with Pintó not being able to create anything groundbreaking, 32 Malasaña Street isn’t able to separate itself from the pack of better haunting movies. It all either feels just fine for a lot of it or falls flat, as a hodgepodge mixture of better films, though there are three or four very solid horror sequences that make me want to say it’s worth the watch, even if it’s not great. The ending, though, is what really underwhelms here. The explanation of why the ghost is haunting them and why the ghost is so mad feels like a twist that comes out of left field, and one that doesn’t really vibe with the rest of the film.
This film is now streaming on Shudder in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.