The Movie Waffler Screamfest LA 2023 Review - THE WAIT | The Movie Waffler

Screamfest LA 2023 Review - THE WAIT

The Wait review
A gameskeeper's life is shattered when he accepts money to compromise his morals.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: F. Javier Gutierrez

Starring: Victor Clavijo, Ruth Diaz, Manuel Moron, Luis Callejo

The Wait poster

After being lured to Hollywood to helm the unremarkable legacy horror sequel Rings, writer/director F. Javier Gutiérrez is back on Spanish soil, the sun-baked soil of Andalusia to be precise, for his third feature, The Wait. It's a film of two halves, the first a Coen Bros-esque thriller about a good man damned by bad decisions, the second an EC Comics style supernatural thriller in which the same man is haunted for his misdeeds.

In the early 1970s, Eladio (Victor Clavijo) is hired by the wealthy Don Francisco (Pedro Casablanc) to look after the hunting grounds on the Don's sprawling ranch. Alll goes well, but Eladio is clearly underpaid, with his wife Marcia (Ruth Diaz) complaining that he can't provide a decent meal for their 13-year-old son Floren (Moisés Ruiz).

The Wait review

When Francisco's sleazy associate Don Carlos (Manuel Morón) suggests that the ranch increase its shooting posts from 10 to 13, Eladio initially refuses to go along with the idea, explaining to Carlos how adding three more posts would greatly increase the chance of a hunter getting caught in a crossfire. Eladio even rejects Carlos's offer of a considerable sum of money to keep it between themselves, but when Carlos pays a visit to Marcia, Eladio is guilt-tripped into going along with the dangerous plan.

Eladio's fears prove well founded. Someone is indeed caught in the crossfire, but not just anyone – Eladio's own son, killed immediately when a stray bullet goes straight through his eye-socket. Things get worse when no longer able to live with herself, Marcia takes her own life. This leads Eladio to retreat into alcohol, moping around his property until in a drunken stupor he decides to commit an act of violence.

The Wait review

At this point the stage is set for a potentially great sweaty blend of the western and noir genres. But the film switches gears, introducing a supernatural element as some sort of malevolent force seems to be haunting Eladio. His dog turns aggressive, previously lost family items mysteriously reappear, and Eladio is cursed with vivid nightmares. One of these dreams features what might be the best creature transformation effects since An American Werewolf in London, but it's wildly out of place in an otherwise stoic film.

The biggest problem The Wait faces is that its protagonist is so broken by the point that he begins to be menaced by paranormal forces that such hauntings are a little redundant. Eladio has experienced the worst thing that could possibly happen to a husband and father, so there's really nowhere deeper for him to sink. Such a character might have made for a successful anti-hero in the revenge thriller that The Wait initially teases, but the protagonist of a horror movie needs to have something to lose.

The Wait review

On a technical level The Wait is an impressive undertaking all round. The acting, especially by Clavijo, is beguiling, and Gutiérrez and cinematographer Miguel A. Mora make great use of the lonely expanse of the Andalusian countryside to cement their protagonist's emotional and physical isolation. But it's mostly hitting beats we've seen before in countless segments of horror anthologies, and its final reveal is doled out in clunky fashion with a character explaining the plot to Eladio (and the audience). By the final act of The Wait your patience may prove ironically tested.

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