Generally, I love Spanish language horror films. Amando de Ossorio with his Blind Dead films, Paul Naschy with his werewolf movies, Juan of the Dead, Guillermo del Toro's entire body of work, the list goes on and on. I think it's the random strangeness and commitment to a dark vision with a lot of style that I enjoy. So I was prepared to for a great experience with Mas Negro que la Noche, and was left sorely disappointed.
A remake of a seventies horror film of the same name, Mas Negro follows Greta (Zuria Vega), after she moves in to the palatial mansion left to her by her late aunt Ofelia (Lucia Guilmain). Greta is a bit of a party girl, and brings her friends Pilar, Maria and Victoria (Erendira Ibarra, Adriana Louvier and Ona Casamiquela) to live with her and enjoy her newfound wealth. Of course, the house holds a host of wicked secrets and unquiet spirits. And something seems to be affecting the minds and personalities of everyone who spends time there, and especially the four young women who have taken up residence.
If this sounds familiar to you, that's part of the problem. Mas Negro isn't exactly working to break new ground here. They're not really working all that hard at all, merely relying on the "beautiful people in jeopardy" formula to save their film. And the four female protagonists are indeed beautiful, and decent actors to boot, but this doesn't amount to enough for an enjoyable ghost story.
For starters, the plot unfolds very slowly, even more slowly than in a typical slow burn film. And there is an outsized portion of melodrama as well, whether it's relationship issues between the girls, or between the girls and their significant others, or between the girls and Aunt Ofelia's wicked cat. Usually in this type of film, there will be enough creepy goings on and atmosphere to keep the audience uncomfortable and guessing as the tension builds. Perhaps it's because these subtle scares are spaced too far apart, but the tension never gets going, and it's only boredom that builds. The house is decaying and gothic looking in sufficient measure to provide an appropriate backdrop for the goings on, but nothing much ever gets going.
As I said before, Vega and her costars are talented, and give naturalistic and effective performances. But what they are given to work with isn't substantial enough for that to matter. The same thing goes for the special effects, which though inconsistent, have moments of high quality. And while the camera work, lighting, set dressing, etc., all of the technical aspects of the film really, are very well done, the story doesn't compel us, and the characters, while well portrayed, don't elicit the slightest amount of sympathy. At best, this is a Rent It.