CAPSULE: THE PROMISE [LA PROMESA] (2004)

DIRECTED BY: Héctor Carré

FEATURING: , Santaigo Barón, Ana Fernández, Juan Margallo, Evaristo Calvo

PLOT :  A devout nanny’s religious convictions are tested when a clairvoyant child implores
her to murder his father.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The events in La Promisa unfold in a weird way, making the story bizarre.  The nature of these events, however, is no different from those in any occult film; the film is as conventionally produced as any horror movie.  While the story is definitely out there, the overall viewing experience is not quite weird enough to be certified as such.

COMMENTS:  Solid performances and Santiago de Compostela locations compliment this creepy, offbeat occult tale.  Gregoria (Maura) is a modest housewife leading a life of quite desperation.  Her marriage is suffocating, her husband (Margallo) is an ogre and her spirit is repressed.  When her husband’s abuse takes its toll, Gregoria seeks refuge in the ecclesiastical.  Finding solace in religious fervor, she plunges into the deep end of delusional thinking.  Or does she?  Taken to episodes of brief catatonia, Gregoriia becomes accident prone and paranoid.  Every shadow hides a demon and every accident is a sign of manifest evil.  Her chosen solution is to pray incessantly.

When a bizarre tragedy leads her to a chance encounter with a dying soothsayer, the doomed man implores Gregoria to fulfill a prophecy at a mysterious church in a remote mountain village.  Supernatural voices drive Gregoria to murder her husband, after which she flees to the strange hamlet.  There, on a fog enshrouded mountain estate, she takes a job as caretaker to a telepathic boy named Daniel (Barón).

Haunted by voices and fearing that she is losing her mind, Gregoria is drawn into a divine good versus evil enigma. Her snowballing predicament becomes centered around a secret passage, a well that presents a nasty fall hazard, the ghost of her husband, and her young ward’s murderous psychic manipulations.  But the answer and her fate are inexplicably intertwined.  The key to it all lies grounded in the sinister old church that she is destined to visit.  The clairvoyant Daniel will use any means necessary to entice her there to fulfill The Promise.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an offbeat, mostly effective story of madness that combines a psychological study, a supernatural yarn and a tale of domestic violence to surprisingly rounded effect.”–Jonathan Holland, Variety (contemporaneous)

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