“The Baby’s Room,” one of six films on Spain’s Films to Keep You Awake compilation, is an entertaining and worthwhile (if not entirely satisfying) film from director Álex de la Iglesia. I mention the director off the bat because the only other movie of his I’ve seen is the incoherent and tedious The Oxford Murders, so now I consider myself compensated for having sat through the latter movie.
In all honesty, the storyline in “The Baby’s Room” is not a model of coherence either. I’m still not quite sure how exactly everything happened that happened. (Ghosts? Demonic possession? Quantum physics? What?) Fortunately, though, it’s an entertaining enough journey that I didn’t feel like I enjoyed the movie less for not having had a cast-iron grip on every single plot detail.
Sports writer Juan, his wife Sonia, and their new baby – walking away with a hands-down victory in the Most Adorable Family in the Horror Canon competition – move into a very large, very old house that should be expensive but wasn’t because (a) it needs renovating, and (b) no one lives there for very long. I keep trying to find a house like this myself but have thus far been unsuccessful, so I guess people in horror movies are better at house-hunting on Craigslist than I am.
Soon, though, things start falling apart. Juan and Sonia hear voices from the baby’s room over the monitor, but there’s no one there. Juan buys a video baby monitor, sees a man actually sitting by the crib, and justly freaks out. He becomes more and more obsessed with burglars, then with the idea that the house might be haunted, until Sonia gives up and packs the baby off to her mother’s. This leaves Juan at the house with a wall full of baby video monitors – through which, in a wonderfully creepy set piece, he watches a man murder his wife and baby, in real time, while in the world outside the video camera Juan is alone in the house.
(While all this is going on, by the way, Juan is also having to cope with the demands of his day job. This is a rather wondrous departure from American horror movies, where hauntings seem to be largely a problem afflicting the independently wealthy.)
Half the fun of The Baby’s Room is trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. Is Juan seeing an old murder enacted by ghosts? Is it a recording of the murder stored somehow in the house’s very walls? Is it a portal to a parallel universe where Juan is actually seeing some sort of mirror-Juan with more than a few screws loose? Is Juan just cracking up and having hallucinations? You only actually find out the answer to one of those questions, in a Twilight Zone-ish ending that feels more satisfying than it objectively should; but if you resign yourself to going “Enh, sometimes things are ineffable,” it’s a fun ride anyway.
So what’s the verdict? Three stars. I think half the reason I enjoyed this as much as I did is that Juan and Sonia are so engaging. I’d probably have been a lot less forgiving of the film’s few weaknesses if it was framed around the typical, vaguely off-putting WASP couple beloved of most horror-movie directors, living a life of suspect affluence rudely interrupted by ghosts. (Disclosure: I watched part of 1999’s In Dreams yesterday before Annette Bening and Aidan Quinn so got on my last nerve that I had to turn it off.) I can deal with the occasional movie where even the people we’re supposed to sympathize with are pretty unpleasant, but not a steady diet of them; so the charming and unpretentious family in “The Baby’s Room” were a welcome breath of fresh air as well as just being enjoyable to watch.
Anyway, rants about unsympathetic main characters aside, “The Baby’s Room” is definitely worth the watch. I may have to check out the other five movies in the release.