H6: Diary of a Serial Killer (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers isn't really all that shocked by this recent Spanish torture show...
Freed after a 25-year jail sentence for killing his girlfriend, Antonio Frau (Fernando Asaco) inherits an old motel from an aunt he never knew. Inspired by another killer, who kept record of his murders, Antonio decides to begin “cleansing” those who have lost the will to live (shades of Jigsaw). He retrofits his new lair with a torture room (shades of H.H. Holmes and Buffalo Bill) and leads his naive victims to it, where he purifies them through excruciating pain and blood-soaked torture, while at the same time, continuing his everyday life next to his new wife.
Thanks to a somewhat misleading quote from the fine folks at Bloody-Disgusting.com, a lot of people seem to be under the impression that H6 has something in common with Eli Roth's Hostel. Other than the lead character's penchant for torture, the two films are pretty much not a like at all. Hostel knew it was a B-movie, and was made to thrill and gross-out. H6 is under the impression that it's somehow classy. It's a B-movie masquerading as an art flick.
H6 is also surprisingly tame in its actual on-screen mayhem. The most gruesome gore is reduced to rushing blood splatter from just off screen. I'm thinking that the flick's infamous reputation has more to do with the disturbing depictions of rape and psychological torture (because believe it or not, there is such thing as psychological torture). Knowing the girl strapped to the table has been there for days on end without food is more disturbing than watching the killer dispose of her body parts. This is where the film manages to channel a little genuine terror, sticking it just above most B-horror releases.
The diary aspect is, unfortunately, the film's only real original addition to the genre. One could compare this gimmick to the story telling of voice-over driven character portraits like American Psycho, but here all the leads are given a diary voice-over. The problem is that this is the picture's most intriguing aspect, and it isn't quite explored to such an extreme fashion to be anything more than an intriguing gimmick. Rather than simply being a good-looking average scare show, H6 becomes a missed opportunity. Imagine if the story was told like Stephen King's Carrie, all in news clippings and interviews. It would've been great.
But the flick does look good, though sometimes a simple sequence will be over-edited, as if the editor were just bored with the angle. Director Martín Garrido Barón seems to have been watching a lot of recent Korean films, or at least the same films those filmmakers were watching, because the picture is extra decorative and downright Baroque at times (Are you sick of that term yet Editor Chris?). The set design is particularly pretty, and makes a nice contrast to the ugliness of the story. Not that that hasn't been done before, of course.
The most memorable aspect of the film, the one that will really creep out most viewers, is the fact that our killer is neither passionate nor anguished. Antonio is so creepily apathetic that he's actually a bit scary. This, again, isn't something we haven't seen on film before, but considering the majority of serial killer pictures take either the 'angry monster' or 'weepy momma's boy' route, it's good to know Barón was interested in making something that would make a lasting impression.
I first saw this flick on a DVDR sent from Tartan in order to type up a few E-Mail questions for the director. It was very hard to see what was happening. Now I can actually watch the film. The transfer runs hot and cold in quality, but most viewers should find it more than acceptable. The well-lit scenes look perfect, high detail, nice washed out colours, but the dark scenes are a different story. As you may've expected from the plot synopsis, a lot of the picture takes place in the dark rooms of the apartment building. The problem I have with the transfer is that it never gets truly black. The dark spaces take on the colour characteristics of the brighter colours around them, which are often reds and burgundies. The film is stylized enough for me to accept that perhaps this was done on purpose, but it comes across as a mastering mistake.
The film's score is mostly of a traditional classical nature, but there's a bit of pop thrown in for good measure, and the dueling DTS and Dolby Digital tracks both make for nice music. The surround channels are especially impressive with the fluttering of strings. Sound effects are pretty low-key, but there are some subtle directional effects that'll bring you into the story, and that chainsaw will rattle even the most steadfast nerves. The dialogue track is often curiously artificial sounding, with a bit too much reverb in scenes that don't require it. I'm sure some of the dialogue was recorded in post, but even cheap ADR sounds more realistic. It's odd, but not entirely distracting.
The whole business is rather bare-boned, including only a director/actor interview and an assortment of Tartan trailers. The interview runs a total of about 8 minutes, and doesn't offer much in the way of insight. It appears to have been filmed on set. Those that enjoyed the film will appreciate the inclusion, but most of us will end up skipping it down the road.
If you see only one portrait of a serial killer in you lifetime, make it Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. If you see two or three, make them H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer or Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer , both solid documentaries on the subject. If you're planning on seeing about 10 serial killer profiles, H6 should be on your list. It's not original, though it does verge on originality at times, and it's not as gory as the box art would have you believe, but it's very well made. If you have the stomach for some disturbing scenes of psychological torture, and pointless over editing, give the flick a chance. I've given H6 an above average score based on the fact that, for a young director's first film, it shows an impressive visual prowess.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 21st November 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Interview, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Martín Garrido Barón
Cast: Fernando Acaso, Angel Alarcon, Raquel Arenas, Ruperto Ares, María José Bausá
Length: 91 minutes
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