aka: Thesis, Snuff, Snuff-Movie
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Starring: Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduardo Noriega, Xabier Elorriaga, Miguel Picazo
My name is Angela. They’re going to kill me.
Angela is a young film school student who has chosen the topic of violence in media for her thesis. This brings her on a path to seek out the worst of the worst videotapes containing violence. She befriends another student at the school called Chema, an antisocial horror geek who has collected every tape with shocking content he has been able to get his hands on.
While they are watching mondo tapes, her professor is gets a videotape from the film library. Angela finds him dead in the viewing room the very next day and by instinct she steals the tape he was watching. It turns out to be a locally made snuff film and her discovery brings both her and Chema in danger of starring in the next film made by the killer behind the first tape.
Snuff films have always been a big myth within the horror genre. When you have witnessed everything fake, what would be the logical next step other than watching something real? Audiences have had their macabre bone teased for years with films like Snuff, Faces of Death and other films dealing with the subject. With the rise of the Internet though, the topic has kind of faded away since everything shocking and wrong in the world is now only a few google searches away from anyone with a computer.
Back in the early 90’s however, the world wasn’t quite the same. Videotapes had become increasingly more available and the option of copying tapes also became something every teenager could master. Tape trading became a common thing within the horror community, especially since censorship was still a major issue in a lot of countries around the world. And for those who wanted to seek out something more, trading became a way to find the goriest and most realistic looking films out there.
And that brings me to Tesis, a spanish horror / thriller that takes the topic of snuff films to the big screen a few years before a Hollywood film named 8mm would do the same thing. We experience the world of underground videotapes (can’t really call a snuff tape a movie) through the eyes of the young Angela, played by Ana Torrent. This world is new to her, she is not a horror fan but just develop a natural interest in the subject the more she becomes familiar with. It is a way of showing that morbid curiosity lies in everyone, which is undeniable if you look at how much morbid stuff is features in the news these days.
We are also experiencing the world through the eyes of the horror fan, which is embodied in the character Chema. He is not unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the gruesome stuff that his videotapes contain, but even so he is still a guy with a good heart and he quickly grows very fond of Angela. There’s also another important male character in the film, the handsome but frightening Bosco.
Sadly, a big part of the film is spent on Angela and Bosco and that’s the worst part of the film. It rather becomes a “is he evil or good” type of thriller instead of keeping focus on the main topic of the film. The film runs for nearly two hours and it would have been a much stronger film if they had cut it down by 10-15 minutes.
The creator of this film is Alejandro Amenabar and it looks like he took his inspiration from Dario Argento and John Carpenter while filming this. It’s shot very well and especially the snuff tapes are done very believable and brutal. It kind of sucks that he hasn’t done anything after this that have left a mark on the genre, but then again, he is still not an old man so perhaps he will do something impressive in the future.
Tesis is a very well made film about a topic that will always stay interesting for fans of brutal films. It is one of the better thrillers of the 90’s and it lacks a few adjustments in order to become great. Even though it has flaws, I still recommend checking it out.