We all know that horror has been the best genre to highlight the issues women face, and it has served as the best place for women to achieve some kind of catharsis by defeating all manner of demons, poltergeists, and ghosts. But when it comes to fighting those supernatural entities professionally, that position has been held by a group of men called Ghostbusters since 1984. Paul Feig tried to upend the status quo. However, even before it hit theaters, the film was embroiled in all sorts of controversies, as the franchise’s self-proclaimed regressive fans began treating it in a misogynistic manner. And when the film flopped, the filmmakers blamed its failure on the bad press, while the public blamed the all-female cast. Naturally, the talk of the actual quality of the film was put to the side, and all efforts to give Lorraine Warren of “The Conjuring” some company in the ghostbusting business were halted. Fortunately, after all these years, things are starting to look bright in terms of diversity with “Phenomena”.
The horror comedy is based on real life paranormal investigators called the Hepta Group, founded by a priest named Padre Pilon. It opens in 1998 in Madrid, where Pilón learns of something supernatural that happens in an antique shop that is located inside an apartment building. As usual, he calls his trio of ghost-hunting heroines, Sagrario, Gloria, and Paz, so they can discuss how they want to approach the case, while a budding parapsychologist, Pablo, follows them to learn more about his work. Unfortunately, only Sanctum shows up, forcing Pilon to cancel the meeting and visit the antiques shop on his own. That’s where he encounters something demonic, and the experience sends him into a coma. This causes Tabernacle, Gloria and Paz to finally come together and see what is going on in the antique store. Contrary to their expectations, the store’s owners, Enrique and Marisa, greet them with enthusiasm, as the trio’s work is legendary. However, all the excitement and laughter goes down the drain as soon as they begin to realize that Ghostbusters is neither fun nor game.
When talking about horror comedies, I’ve always been of the opinion that horror has to be horrible and comedy has to be funny. The cardinal mistake that all horror comedies make is that they overdose on comedy and forget about horror. This imbalance is only accentuated by the nature of comedy, which is usually slapstick, and horror, which for some reason is also slapstick. In “Fenómenos”, the characters written by Marta Buchaca and Fernando Navarro are exaggerated and animated. The situation they find themselves in becomes increasingly absurd. But none of them stop to make fun of anything because the writers know that would dilute the seriousness of the case. And that’s where the horror aspect of the film comes from. Buchacha and Navarro create ample space for Carlos Therón to exercise his directorial muscles and generate an atmosphere of fear and tension. As he does so, the writers add layer upon layer of subtext about child abuse, witch hunts, the inability to let go of the past, guilt, family responsibilities, and more. Because? At the end of the day, if the audience can’t cheer for the characters, they won’t laugh when you want them to laugh and they won’t freak out when you want them to freak out.
There’s an increasing sense of tension and scale, despite the finiteness of the location, in “Phenomena.” It starts out as your standard fake ghost sighting mission. It then veers off into “humans are the real monsters” territory. And the vibe at the end can only be called “biblical.” However, because of Theron’s writing and directing chops, you never feel any kind of whiplash every time there’s a change in tone, because he gives the audience these breathers, which also serve as breaks for the characters in middle of the deceptively long takes. Therón’s understanding of staging and blocking is also fantastic, allowing the viewer to become immersed in the physical space that the characters inhabit. I don’t know if that’s something every movie should do. But if his horror-comedy is set in a unique place, he must make sure his audience feels like he’s trapped there with the characters and has nowhere to escape. While the overall production design, lighting, costume design, practical effects, and visual effects are pretty good, they run into some issues when the set goes dark. I think if I had watched this theatrically instead of my small screen, I would have been a little more forgiving, especially since this movie deserves the big screen treatment.
In terms of acting, Belén Rueda as Sagrario is clearly the leader of the group, constantly oozing confidence. But there’s a vulnerable side to her that she hides from herself until she can’t. And the fact that her push and pull is tearing her apart inside her, especially after seeing Padre Pilon on her deathbed, is fully palpable in her performance. Toni Acosta’s Gloria is the star of the group, and she clearly has something to do with her ability to read everyone’s minds. Her arrogance is a bit contagious, so probably when she dumps her body to save her friends, you realize that her harsh exterior hides her unwavering love for her friends. . Although Paz de Gracia Olayo is always in the background, silently recording the protagonists of the show, I think she is the backbone. When the moment of truth arrives, and everyone is knocked down, she will be the first to rise up and drag everyone down with her. On top of all that, the things these three women (all over 50) did in that third act made me willingly drop my jaw. Óscar Ortuño is as adorable as Pablo. Iván Massagué and Lorena López are hilarious together, but Massagué also manages to be incredibly terrifying. Look Ibarguren is unrecognizable with all that makeup and causes nightmares. As for the rest of the cast, they are all great, even if they are on screen for 2 minutes.
At the end of “Phenomena”, when Sagrario, Paz and Gloria have gone to their respective homes to recuperate, a small preview says that the trio’s escapades are not over. If I can be honest, that got me more excited than most MCU movies and just as excited as the “” movies. What I’m trying to say is that I rarely get excited about sequel sneak peeks in this era of remakes, reboots, sequels, spin-offs, legacy sequels, and cinematic crossovers. I’m really tired. So if a movie, which is not based on an existing IP or based on any kind of nostalgia has piqued my interest in such a way that I want ten more adventures with Sanctum, Peace and Glory I think that’s a big win But here’s a big disclaimer Disclaimer: We all know how Netflix works. They need a huge number of views to register a movie or show as a hit, or else they will shelve any and all future plans. Judging by the lack of hype and fanfare on I won’t be counting on the streaming platform to give me a sequel anytime soon, if someone can buy the rights and start a franchise based on this fictional version of the Hepta Group, that’s going to be amazing. With all that being said, please watch “Phenomena”, form your own opinion and let us know your thoughts on the film.