Review: FOR ELISA (2013){0}

Lots of horror movies start with a young woman accepting a mysterious offer and living to regret it in seriously unpleasant ways, and here’s an interesting new one from Spain known as For Elisa (aka Para Elisa and For Elise). Not many of the components offered here are all that unique or remarkable on their own (more on those in a minute), but it’s the combination of story points, suspense moments, and slightly familiar themes that make For Elisa such a strangely amusing horror import.

Ana (Ona Casamiquela) needs a job in a hurry, so she applies to work as a caretaker for a mentally-challenged teenager named, you guessed it, Elisa (Ana Turpin). Elisa might not be all that much trouble to work with, but Ana quickly realises that it’s the odd girl’s ridiculously overprotective and super-bossy mother who seems to create all the problems. And then, just as soon as the viewer realizes that Ana should probably get out of that house, loony old Diamantina (Luisa Gavasa) goes from overbearing to bizarre to plain old maniacal.

Suffice to say that crazy mama Diamantina wants Ana to stay on as Elise’s nanny… perhaps forever. (Mwahahaa.) Nanny, babysitter, slave or plaything; this is one messed-up mother/daughter duo. In addition to the simple but intense story, we’re also presented with a decent subplot about Ana’s curious boyfriend, but there’s a nice use of tone, location, and editing once the familiar stuff is out of the way and we’re knee-deep in Ana’s weirdest nightmare.

Clearly inspired in some fashion by Beethoven’s beloved composition (his “Für Elise” is also a major ingredient in the story), first-timer Juanra Fernandez’s film is a kidnapping thriller, a strange suspense piece, and a nice little dash of mentally-askew old-school Hammer horror weirdness. What starts out as a conventional (sometimes even predictable) piece of storytelling eventually gives way to an entertainingly twisted mash-up of Misery, The House of the Devil, and something old and creepy starring Bette Davis. For Elisa might not be the most memorable Spanish horror film to hit our shores lately, but it’s firm evidence that they still like to make cool, weird, creepy little genre flicks over there.


Scott Weinberg