Grainy and amateurish, shot on a Spanish shoestring, “Justino” nonetheless has such a mixture of endearing humanity, humor and outrageous situations that it beguiles the viewer. This quirky but charming little opus by two unknown directors is a real find, and if carefully handled could garner ducats aplenty in select release. Told with refreshing economy and simplicity, this sleeper drew big kudos at the Sitges fest, and walked away with two awards, including best film.
The tongue-in-cheek yarn concerns a puntillero (the man who finishes off the dying bull in the ring with a stab in the neck) who, at 62, is retired from the corrida. Being a widower who lives with his grown son, he becomes the quintessential superannuated man, drinking with his picturesque, somewhat disreputable cronies at the local bar.
Plot then takes a sudden twist when, in a moment of peeve, he stabs his son and daughter-in-law and stuffs them into the freezer. Justino’s career as a serial killer flowers forth. After polishing off a bothersome beggar, and a landlady who complains about the noise of a party he is throwing for his cronies , he decides to give himself up. But the police in the squad car only laugh, and it is their last laugh. Pic ends in a mass murder in an old-age home, but instead of Justino being blamed, the police shoot someone else as the culprit.
Pic being in black-and-white, the blood is never very striking, and the murders are schematized so as to be non-violent. Saturnino Garcia, who was named best actor at Sitges, is a virtually unknown bit actor and puts in a wonderful performance as the deadpan killer who is nevertheless endearing. Carlos Lucas, another unknown, is superb as Justino’s ragged companion.