H6: Diary of a Serial Killer (UK - DVD R2)
Our reviewer Scott McKenzie endures another horror release from Tartan...
Following his release from prison for murdering his girlfriend, Antonio Frau inherits an old guesthouse from a relative he never knew. The guesthouse was well known to prostitutes and other less desirable members of the community and when they are drawn into his life, Frau takes it upon himself to ‘purify’ them. At the same time, he maintains a respectable front to his new wife, who is having an affair with a doctor at the hospital where she works.
H6: Diary of a Serial Killer is the debut feature of young director Martín Garrido Barón. He is a successful painter and it shows in the visual composition of the movie. He makes effective use of shadow and colour to reflect the tone of the film and feelings of the characters. However, that is where the good points begin and end because H6 is not an enjoyable film for many reasons.
Written as a denunciation of the Spanish legal system with religious overtones, the reality of H6 is far less grand. I don’t want to pass judgement on the director’s sexual preferences and maybe it’s a common occurrence in Spanish film that I haven’t picked up on before, but there’s a hell of a lot of shots of women’s lingerie-clad crotches in H6. It happens so often that it became monotonous and every successive occurrence was even more unnecessary than the last. These shots may also be a metaphor for the main themes of the film or the anti-hero’s feelings towards the women he kills, but I struggled to find a deeper meaning here.
Given that we have a story about a murderer who runs a guesthouse comparisons with Psycho are inevitable, but the only real way the films are similar is in the changing narrative structure. Hitchcock’s film switches the narrative focus from Janet Leigh to Anthony Perkins at the half-way point but H6 switches between Frau, his wife and finally the policeman who is tracking him. This is jarring because there is no genuinely identifiable protagonist. If the policeman had been introduced earlier in the film it would have given someone for the audience to sympathise with but instead we have to choose between the murderer and his wife—neither are very likeable characters.
Advertised as an extreme horror movie with ‘The Spanish answer to Hostel’ plastered over the DVD cover, the audience will no doubt expect plenty of gore and inventive deaths. It will come as a disappointment to anyone sold on this quote to be presented with a story involving a man who straps prostitutes to a table, rapes them from time to time then takes a chainsaw to them. Much more screen time is devoted to the rape scenes than to the murders and while it makes for a difficult watch at times, the balance should have been switched the other way to satisfy the horror fans this is surely pitched at. After all, a few seconds of off-screen chainsaw action isn’t much of a pay-off following several minutes of talking and sexual violation.
Very little explanation is offered for the Frau’s psychotic motivations apart from the predictably bad childhood, and the tone of the movie completely changes in the last few minutes. A neat way to tie everything together is delivered but it’s far too convenient and it makes the killer out to be some kind of evil genius who knew what would happen all along. As well as making a social comment on the justice system, the media are implicated as well but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before in far better movies.
I’ve reviewed a few Tartan releases recently and I’m pleased to say that for once they have delivered a disc with a half-decent picture quality. In a film where one of the good things—scratch that—the only good thing is the visuals, the combination of colour and shadow stands up well. There are fewer scratches and areas of dirt in the picture than I’ve become used to so all in all, the video quality is pretty good.
We get the usual selection of Stereo, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks and as usual I chose the DTS track. The use of classical music in murder scenes is well represented and it has the required impact, however clichéd, of complementing the action on-screen. Dialogue is clear and the typical horror movie sound effects are strong. It’s become common for Tartan to produce decent audio tracks for movies of incredibly varying quality and the DVD release of H6 is no exception.
The ‘Press Conference’ featurette shows the director and cast at—surprise, surprise—a press conference in Spain. It starts off with them getting their pictures taken by photographers and their conversations are not accompanied by subtitles but thankfully by the time they sit down to answer questions from the press, the subtitles appear. The sound quality of the featurette is very bad, with the dialogue barely audible at times.
The three interviews with the director, star and a supporting actor are woefully bad, with none of them offering any information that can’t be obtained by watching the film, and they are so short as to be completely useless. The lighting in the first two interviews is very harsh and does not make for a pleasant viewing experience. The teaser and theatrical trailers pad out the set of extras a bit more but in all honesty, Tartan might as well not have bothered.
H6: Diary of a Serial Killer is a movie that would love to be thought of as comparable to Hostel, Psycho and maybe even Seven but because of a lack of narrative focus and the director’s penchant for ladies’ naughty bits, it’s a mess that should be avoided. As ever, Tartan have done well with the audio track and seem to be getting their act together with video quality but the extras are pointless and there’s nothing on the disc that could make me recommend this title.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 12th February 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Extras: Press Conference, Interviews, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Martín Garrido Barón
Cast: Fernando Acaso, María José Bausá, Raquel Arenas, Elena Seguí
Length: 92 minutes
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