Tesis (1996)
August 13, 2014 7:59 PM - Subscribe

Ángela, a film student researching for her thesis paper on violence in cinema, stumbles upon a snuff film featuring the murder of a former student at the university. Enlisting the help of classmate and violent-movie buff Chema, Angela begins an investigation into the crime that leads them to several suspects.

This 1996 Spanish flm was the low budget feature debut of Alejandro Amenábar, who would go on to make Open Your Eyes and The Others.

This is pick #9 for the MeFi Horror Club.
posted by DirtyOldTown (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FYI: Pick 10 was announced yesterday and it's One Hour Photo, starring Robin Williams. The thread where that one was announced is where we'll be discussing what comes next, as well as continuing to bat around ideas for October.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:02 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didnt watch the whole thing yet due to real life interfering, but I like it so far. Chema is enjoyable, he just eats ham with his fingers right out of the container which is more or less exactly what I would have done.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:06 AM on August 14, 2014

Wow, don't all talk at once.

I just got around to watching this again. I'd seen it before and liked it, but it was so long ago that I didn't really remember all the twists and turns, and who the killer actually was, etc.

While there were a few things I didn't like as much now as when I first saw it, I think it holds up pretty well. The character of Chema is hard to like, or rather, hard to believe at first, but he grows on you. I used to hang out with guys like that, and, although he's a bit of an extreme version of that type, he becomes pretty believable and even sympathetic. Kind of the same thing happens to Ángela, she starts out as very annoying, but gets more likeable.

And I guess that's kind of the point, the movie plays with your perceptions and expectations of the characters, so you don't know who you can trust and who you can't. You even think Bosco, who falls pretty easily into the smirking psychopath stereotype, might actually be innocent, at least at a few points. I'm impressed with how well those twists and turns and revelations work, while the movie is still quite mundane, low-key, and believable.

Which brings me to my next point. This is like a teen slasher movie with a near-zero body count. Only four of the people who are actually characters in the movie actually die, and of those, one death is from disease, one is a bad guy killed halfway accidentally by one of the protagonists, and one is, of course, the final girl killing off the main killer. Only one death is actually a murder by the antagonist, and that happens off-camera, and is not a main plot point. Almost all the misdeeds of the bad guys are in the past (although it's implied there are a lot of them, and possibly up until very recently).

I think that decision, while risky, helps keep the tension up and the focus on the characters and the psychological drama. Death is always felt hanging around, but it's not a Ten Little Indians style slasher/serial killer movie.

Also, that final sequence of all the people in the hospital watching the news is kind of obvious, but I think it really, really works, maybe because it's not played up more than it is, it's just a fact of life, not a huge scandal.

If there's anything I dislike, there's the implication that snuff movies are real and common. This might not be an implication that's obvious to non-Spanish-speakers, but the TV presenter at the end talks about it in the background, saying that it's the first case of snuff movies being made in Spain, but that the phenomenon is well-known in several other countries, including, I think, Finland and the US. I thought that was a bit unnecessary, and feeds a dumb urban legend for no particular reason. Although it's exactly what a tabloid TV show would say, I guess, regardless of whether it were true or not.

That's actually another thing going on, which is interesting if you've ever been in contact with the movie industry and film students outside of the US. The threat of the US film industry and US culture hangs over it, a behemoth ready to crush whatever local film industry might rear its head. Castro talks about it in his lecture, where he espouses the need to give audiences what they want as the only way to compete with Hollywood, essentially to become Hollywood to fight it. The "foreign rot" narrative from the tabloid TV show kind of denounces that, which is a common conservative line, but then gives the audience what they want anyway, of course. Chema talks about how the point of gore and mondo film is "to show as much as possible, to show everything".

Amenábar made this movie relatively soon after dropping out of the very same faculty and university where it's set. Professor Jorge Castro is even supposedly based on a professor of the same name he had there, who wouldn't give him a passing grade because, according to the professor, Amenábar never showed up for his exams. It's easy to think that Amenábar is taking a stand against the "adopt the Hollywood techniques" and "give the audience what they want" position, but on the other hand, he's making this movie, which is a Hollywood-style psychological thriller/horror movie about extreme violence, where one of the main protagonists (maybe even a director stand-in) is a film nerd who loves that stuff. So, much like the characters in the movie, it's hard to tell where Amenábar stands on this, which is a neat trick in itself, I guess.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:19 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am sorry, club! It's been a hell of a week -- like it has literally been a week of hell -- for basically everyone, and pretty much hot garbage for me my own self. I...um...forgot. But I will correct this!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:47 AM on August 17, 2014

I got sidetracked with like 10 minutes left in the movie. I think it is great but am waiting to have 20 minutes alone so I can actually finish the darned thing.

If you want to blame someone, blame Tommy Wiseau, it took me all week to get through his dreadful movie for the cult film club and threw my whole schedule out of whack.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:00 AM on August 17, 2014

posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:29 PM on August 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Better late than never, I wrapped it up.

Rule number one, if you are investigating a series of gruesome murders and the power suddenly goes out, DO NOT check on your friend who you find mysteriously unconscious on the floor! How hard is that to understand?

I really liked this movie, but I kind of think the ending would have been better if they decided to pick up where the bad guys left off and just started making snuff films themselves. I mean they already had two violent murders on tape.

Also, I thought snuff films specifically pertained to porno followed by murder, but these movies seemed to be all about the abuse and murder.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:23 AM on August 19, 2014

No, the definition of snuff movies is a movie depicting an actual murder, where the making of the movie for distribution is the motive for the murder.

Wikipedia has a decent summary.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2014

So on the blue everyone is talking about the beheading of the journalist. Snuff film?

Also, I thought it was a fantasy that they showed the girl's killing on the news in the movie, but apparently CNN has the video of the beaheading on their website, so that kind of thing is just ok these days? (I didn't actually watch it, I am at work and that probably wouldn't be a good way to start my day, so I could be wrong)
posted by Literaryhero at 5:45 PM on August 19, 2014

The general, strict definition is that a snuff film is of a murder that's committed specifically for the purpose of making a movie and/or distributing that movie for profit. So a murderer who happens to document his crime, but would have killed someone otherwise doesn't count.

Videos of terrorists beheading people (and, more common here in Mexico, narcos beheading competitors or cops) are kind of in a grey area, because they're murders that are at least partially committed, or at least committed in that specific way, to create a video that, while not for profit exactly, at least has propaganda potential. But I don't think they fit the strictest of definitions.

Then again, people have applied the term "snuff film" to any video showing actual death, so I guess it depends.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:42 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I saw this last night. It's hilarious that Amenábar dropped out of that film college.

This is a fun little thriller. Not very organized thoughts:

- Very Hitchcockian, especially my favorite kind of Hitchcockian, where there's a couple who investigate together. Angela and Chema's friendship solid and well done. My SO and I talked about Blue Velvet being a kind of grimy funhouse mirror held up to this kind of Hitchcock stuff, but because of how it's set up, Laura Dern's character doesn't get to be very interesting, because she has to stay on the light side, and Isabella Rossellini on the dark side is just in peril.

- (Initially I called it like "De Palma but less trashy" but then I realized that was just Hitchcock.)

- The tease where Angela tries to watch the tape but turns the screen contrast down was pretty horrifying.

- The plot got twisty.. It didn't fall apart, which is kinda impressive, but it also crowded out some of the themes for awhile.

- The club scene has the most hilariously pathetic dance music I've ever heard, it was like a tiny flatulent Casio.

- It feels really well done for a first film.
posted by fleacircus at 12:21 PM on May 22, 2021

I found this film infuriating. At least my hunch was right though…turns out they were all a-holes the whole time!
posted by iamkimiam at 4:04 PM on January 29, 2022

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