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”FRAGILE”

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What’s it about?

At her new job in a rundown children’s hospital, a nurse desperately tries to keep her patients safe from a plague of random, mysterious attacks.

Directed by  Jaume Balagueró

During my many years of watching, and sometimes dissecting horror films, I’ve noticed that it’s pretty easy to say a film is an “Atmospheric Thriller” and quite another for it to really be one. Many deeply rooted horror film fans do, every so often, enjoy a moody and realistic thriller that is convincing, refreshingly honest and which unfolds with surprises, shocks and precision. In Hollywood, it is very hard to find a film with those qualities much less those aspirations. So, occasionally, fans need to sometimes think (and look beyond borders) outside the box and check out films by Directors from other countries to try and participate in unique and sublime horror fare.

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In the case of renowned Spanish Horror Filmmaker Jaume Balaguero (Darkness, REC, REC 2, The Nameless), his 2005 psychological thriller,“Fragile,” it is easy to say that it truly and easily has atmosphere, disposition and eagerness, which elevates  it above very routine entries in this genre. First and foremost it is an eerie “ghost story” which takes place in the United Kingdom, on the Isle of Wight.

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Calista Flockhart (Supergirl, Ally Mcbeal) impeccably and admirably portrays a newly transferred night nurse, that has come to supervise and care for children at a weathered Institution, which is about to close down permanently. Richard Roxburgh (Van Helsing, Hound of the Baskervilles) proficiently plays head Doctor Robert Marcus, of the vast and dark facility, who takes her on, not without some reservations and unwelcome aloofness.

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Balaguero directed earlier efforts like “Rec 2,” which is considered another genre gem, a film that is fast moving and relentless. Preceding Rec 2, was Rec, which was just as intense. And these two films, if watched back to back, would make you feel as if you have run a 5K marathon. On the other hand, Fragile actually unfolds slowly, and languidly sets up characters in the form of directionless orderlies, nurses and the numerous ill children, with whom we all learn to care for from all of the nurturing interaction of Flockhart’s character, named Amy. One scene in particular, a young girl, staying in the Hospital, named Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), sees and hears an intimidating phantom named “Charlotte” endlessly roaming and haunting the chilling hospital.

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Balaguero supplies loud noises, letter blocks moving by themselves, electrical blackouts, failing elevators and we witness just about everyone staying clear of the abandoned second floor. Apparently, It has a terrible history and secret, that only Flockhart can (or is determined to) get to the bottom of. She is resolute to help Maggie and find out who this apparition “Charlotte” really is. Even if it may cost her her job, her sanity and friendship with Roxburgh’s attentive Dr. Marcus.

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The films boosts fluid and immersive photography, from Xavi Gimenez (Penny Dreadful, Red Lights) and he incorporates a true and effective amount of moody lighting, which intensifies the danger and inclination of the Hospital. Shadowy hallways abound in succeed in un-nerving the viewer as well as catching them off guard as the cinematography deepens the dread expediency of the film. The music score by Roque Banos (Sexy Beast, The Machinist) comes across strong but uncharacteristically bombastic at times. It is, though, appropriate in setting up Balaguero’s steadyfast and dependable tension.

There are some scares that we do see coming, but it doesn’t take away from the dread and evolvement of the story, co -written by Jordi Galceran (Dictado, The Method). It is quite reminiscent of Peter Medak’s seminal haunted house opus, “The Changeling,” in some ways but with a more wicked and dangerous antagonist. Apparently, the locale and setting being in a hospital instead. To note, Balaguero manages to incite some admiration in the beautiful setting, in the UK, with cloudy and rainy palettes as well as inserting some nice natural landscapes to show some disparities in the theme and story, which is a nice touch.

Another like minded Spanish film “The Orphanage,” from director J.A Bayona (The impossible) also comes  to mind, with similar thematic structure and story. The movie, ultimately is in good company here. In closing, “Fragile” is a neat  little supernatural flick which has an intriguing twist, has chocks loads of suspense and a commendable lead performance from Calista Flockhart, who in this film, shows some unique and welcome range, depsite the genre she picked to star in this go round. Check it out, gang. Recommended!

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