I was first tipped off to “Anguish” a couple years back while I was on the hunt for a few 80’s horror flicks that I hadn’t seen. I generally don’t go for movies of this nature but I thought I’d go out on a limb and track it down. Despite my serious efforts I was unable to obtain a copy and there it sat on my Netflix queue for the years that followed. Thanks to Blue Underground this wonderfully original shocker is finally available on DVD and we at Cinema Suicide couldn’t be happier. Though I’ve been aware of director Bigas Lunas’ varied body of work over the last several years (check out his brilliant interactive artwork “Microcosms”) I had yet to actually sit down and watch one of his films. Let me tell you something, I was missing out.
“Anguish” begins by telling the tale of Alice (Zelda Rubenstein), the over protective and often psychotic mother to the middle aged John (Michael Lerner). John has the misfortune of being mostly blind and on his way to being completely blind but thanks to Alice, John may not be disabled for long. Alice is under the impression that if John can collect enough eyeballs then he may be cured. The obsessive and controlling Alice begins hypnotizing John and somehow (it’s never really explained) controlling him psychically. John’s rampage eventually leads him to a movie theater where he enters to continue his collection. The camera pulls back and reveals that all along we had been part of the audience and that the tale of Alice and John was only a movie titled “The Mommy”. It would appear that “The Mommy” has begun having a very disturbing effect on some of the moviegoers… and one of them may be taking the movie a little too seriously.
It’s safe to say that the 80s did more for horror than anything before it and gave us some of the best films of the genre. As the decade wound down horror was looking pretty bleak. With that in mind I suppose it’s easy to understand why a movie like “Anguish” would have been tragically overlooked. The film’s plot is often complicated and pretty low on gore compared to it’s contemporaries. Though the film was made in America by a Spanish director, Lunas takes cues from the Italian greats with the camera work and his direction. Despite it’s cast of B list actors, the performances are first rate and often unnerving. As the audience in the theater begins to feel unsettled by what’s happening on the screen we too begin to feel uneasy. OK, maybe “Anguish” doesn’t always make sense, but 20 years later it remains an effective thriller that was certainly ahead of it’s time.