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Film Review: The Glass Coffin @ Frightfest 2017


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The Glass Coffin, titled El Ataúd De Cristal in its native country Spain, is a claustrophobic horror from rising director Haritz Zubillaga. 


The film is an intense, graphic genre movie, that whilst having an intriguing and original plot doesn't live up to its full potential. It follows seasoned actress Amanda (Paola Bontempi) who, at the beginning of the film, enters a high-end limousine that is set to take her to an award ceremony celebrating her career.

However, after already becoming suspicious of the luxury vehicle and her silent chauffeur, Amanda finds herself a victim of a kidnapping and at the mercy of a mysterious voice who is sinisterly watching over her. Advised by the voice to ‘obey’, Amanda becomes entangled in a twisted tale of revenge as she desperately seeks to escape this mobile prison.

The film's only credited actor is Paola Bontempi, who of course plays Amanda, so a lot of The Glass Coffin’s success relies upon the quality of her performance. Luckily, Bontempi is great in the film and is able to carry the movie by portraying Amanda as a believable character considering her circumstances, but also a strong one. A lot of the emotion that the film evokes does so through Bontempi’s performance, as she is the only real face the audience can relate.

The Glass Coffin is also a beautifully shot film. The limousine that Amanda becomes trapped in is wonderfully lit with colour changes of the sinister neon lights being very well used to signify the coming and going of danger. The entire setting of the limo itself is a great, original idea for a horror flick. Zubigalla uses the confined space effectively to ramp up the tension, which seems ever present in the movie, as Amanda’s movement and options are severely limited.

However, many may feel that the film’s interesting setting is underutilised. As intense as the film feels in such a small environment, the kind of torture that Amanda is forced to face is limited down to one type; sexual. As disturbing and uncomfortable as that is, it’s also quite repetitive. The mysterious voice, whilst promising a variety of terrible things, in fact only seems to have one kind of violence in mind for the kidnapped Amanda. This is rather disappointing considering the originality of the film’s set up.

The film’s plot as well cannot sustain itself over the course of the very short hour and fifteen-minute runtime. The answers to the mystery of who has kidnapped Amanda and why are a bit underwhelming when they are eventually revealed. On top of that, a lot of the tension that had been built up as a result of this mystery is lost around half way through the film. In fact, the second half of the film is filled with exposition and heavy dialogue in which Amanda is simply being told why she is in the position she is. Whilst the story isn’t bad by any means, it is simply the way in which the details are given to the audience that is a let-down.

That being said, the film still has some surprises up its sleeve with a couple of interesting plot twists that keep you engaged for the most part. Overall The Glass Coffin is an intriguing and original horror movie. The great acting and great use of tension are enough to keep the film entertaining despite its disappointing plot.

The Glass Coffin screened as part of FrightFest 2017's schedule.

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