(A.k.a. PARA LISA)

Ana (Ona Casamiquela) is a rather obnoxious student who appears to have got by in life so far with the aid of her rich parents.

As her term at college approaches its end, she learns of a post-graduation trip to Madeira and is desperate to join the party. There's one snag: she doesn't have the 1,000 Euros asking price. So, as per usual, she calls her mummy for help. Only this time mother is not so obliging and tells Ana to find a job. Ana responds by telling her mother to "fuck off" as she ends the call.

Next stop is Alex (Jesus Caba), the drug-dealing boyfriend that Ana's keen to dump due to his penchant for chasing other ladies. He's trying to get back in her good books so, while he doesn't have the cash to loan her, he does point out an advert for a babysitting job which has been pasted to a lamppost on the college grounds.

Ana rings the number shown and an interview is duly arranged.

She makes the journey across town and eventually finds the house that's offering the job. Upon entering, a transient tries to prevent her but she kicks him away. That's a bad move, but not as bad as accepting a cup of tea from the old lady who greets her inside the house.

Diamantina (Luisa Gavasa) is indeed a strange fish. She talks of being a once-famous pianist who played the Royal Albert Hall, while plying Ana with tea and revealing that her daughter Elisa needs attention while she returns to teaching piano. Elisa, we're told, is "special" - she likes to sit in the house all day every day and play with the dolls that surround her.

When Ana attempts to touch one of said dolls she's swiftly berated by Diamantina. Perhaps most people would leave at this juncture. But Ana must really want to party in Madeira, as she stays and is introduced to Elisa (Ana Turpin) a short while later. Ah, this is where it all goes tits up for Ana ... and unfortunately for her, the drugs Diamantina snuck into the tea begin to take effect: when Ana next awakes, she's tied to a chair in Elisa's bedroom...

Alex gets concerned about Ana's whereabouts surprisingly quickly. Before the evening is over, he's already visited the police twice - who refuse to mount a search until she's been missing for 48 hours - and called on Ana's best pal Ursula (Sheila Ponce) for clues. This latter task must be difficult for Alex, as he fucking Ursula behind Ana's back until a week ago.

With no help forthcoming from the authorities and only a telephone number to work from, Alex sets about trying to find Ana. Meanwhile, she struggles to survive in Elisa's self-contained world of deadly game-playing...

FOR ELISA is stylishly shot, slickly edited and well scored. The lighting and cinematography are top notch, as is the set design. But such technical merit counts for little when you're up against a film with as many problems as this one.

First of all, the premise is not original. The most apparent comparison is THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. But along the way, scenes are pilfered from MISERY, HALLOWEEN, DOLLS and many more. Then you have the script: it's bloody terrible. Characters spell out entire situations just in case their audience is too dumb to determine things for themselves.

And then, most significantly, there are the characters. The villains aren't developed. Ana is introduced as a spoilt rich bitch who likes to party, take drugs and flirt with her girlfriend: we hate her within the first five minutes. Alex and Ursula are no better. So, who is there to root for?

FOR ELISA can't mask its creative shortcomings with slick visual flourishes, despite its best efforts.

Matchbox Pictures' UK DVD presents the film uncut and in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Warm colours, stable blacks and pin-point detail dictate that this is a strong transfer.

Spanish audio is available in both 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both are adequate; the channel separation on the latter could've been better employed, I suppose. English subtitles are burned-in and sometimes appear a little blurry. They're always readable, but sometimes you have to focus a little more than perhaps you should.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a static scene selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

As for bonus features, the only one we get is the film's original 91-second trailer.

FOR ELISA exists as proof that even the Spanish, who've pretty much led the way so far this Century in terms of the genre - the likes of [REC], THE ORPHANAGE and JULIA'S EYES refer - can get it wrong sometimes. Clichéd and clumsily written, there is a lot of style and a few set-piece scenes of distinction but otherwise this is a film that will play best to those with very little experience of the contemporary horror scene.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Matchbox Films
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review