Underground Film Journal

Posted In » Online Cinema

Short Horror Movie: Scream Queen

By Mike Everleth ⋅ March 17, 2009

Horror movies, doughnuts and the nature of reality get a twisted workout in Carlos Atanes‘ latest freak-out, Scream Queen. You can watch the film in its entirety above. It runs about 12 minutes long and ranks with the best of the Spanish surrealist’s short films.

The premise is deceptively simple: A horror movie journalist and author seeks out the world’s greatest living scream queen. She also happens to be the most reclusive and is protected by a group of overseers in a dilapidated old movie theater, the kind of decrepit pit you might expect an actual horror flick to be filmed.

The journalist in the film is played by an actual film journalist, Jose Manuel Serrano Cueto, who puts in a fine acting job. His character must work his way through the scream queen’s entourage of creepy degenerates, including her overly aggressive lawyer, the theater’s delusional manager and her controlling manager. As in most of Atanes’ other films, a glass of milk comes into play. Normally that glass is reserved for a quick scene of one of the actresses drinking it. But here, the milk becomes a major object as the journalist is ordered to bring it to his interview subject before she will answer any questions.

Woman rolls out dough with a roller

The bulk of the film centers on this procession of the milk to the scream queen. Atanes keeps his camera tight and, in the first half of the film, it rarely veers off of close-ups of the character’s faces, which, most of the time, includes the lawyer’s snarling grimace barking orders in the journalist’s ear. This tightness with the lens combined with the darkness of the theater leads to an impossibly anxious and claustrophobic atmosphere. Like the best of Atanes’ films, Scream Queen creates a solid, concrete groundwork on which he builds his alternate reality.

Meanwhile, the scream queen howls in the background demanding food. She is nearby yet so far away. Eventually we do get to meet the scream queen and, as portrayed by a demonic Aranxta Pena, she is a frightening figure indeed. She is not the typical scream queen: The timid girl who must rise to the occasion to defeat the serial killer. Instead, Pena is a high priestess straight from the bowels of Hell, a taunting, vicious harpie who growls sweet nothings into the journalist’s ear while revealing the film’s final terror.

Scream Queen has nothing one would expect from a traditional genre film and is a horror movie only in an abstract sense: Simple, puzzling and totally demented.

For more on Carlos Atanes, please visit his official site.