A bad dad and his hapless family head for a cabin in the snowy woods with all the usual consequences in "The Path."

A bad dad and his hapless family head for a cabin in the snowy woods with all the usual consequences in “The Path,” an unconvincing chiller that works pretty well over its first hour before declining into anything-goes psycho fare in its final reels. Co-scripted by high-profile Spanish helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the pic nicely sets up its simple situation but fails to establish anything past that, undone by an avalanche of cliches and a grating central perf by Gustavo Salmeron. Despite Fresnadillo’s name and the high demand for genre fare, prospects will be limited to tube pickups.

Soft-spoken chess player Raul (Salmeron) heads for a mountain village with wife Ana (Irene Visedo) and son Nico (Ricardo Trenor) for Christmas to try to patch things up following an unspecified nasty incident. Once there, they meet gruff, sexy odd-job man Samuel (Ariel Castro), with whom Ana, to Raul’s chagrin, seems to be flirting.

There’s clearly something amiss in a family where the communication between father and son is practically nonexistent. Early scenes depicting Raul’s overwhelming jealousy of Samuel generate a promisingly awkward air, with a couple of finely engineered, if deja vu, jolts thrown in.

More bad things happen, but the script is too elementary to devise anything new. The overabundant stock motifs include a disconcerting-looking marionette that Raul buys for Nico, which becomes the boy’s imaginary friend; the tragically innocent puppy that Samuel purchases; and closeups of a suckling pig being butchered.

Salmeron relishes the role of self-controlled psycho, delivering his lines with deliberate artificiality to signal Raul’s confused psychological state, but the perf regularly slides into risibility, for instance when he offers the opinion that a meal “has an excellent appearance.” In a film short on well-drawn characters, Salmeron never comes remotely close to generating audience understanding for Raul. Visedo is a fine actress, underemployed in Spanish films, but the fact that her Ana is giving an obvious nut-job like Raul a second chance undermines her credibility from the start.

Tech credits are strictly low-budget.

The Path

Spain

Production

A Film Factory Entertainment release of a Green Star Films, Era Visual, Totem, Tornasol Films, Castafiore Films production in association with TV Canarias. (International sales: Film Factory, Barcelona.) Produced by Ximo Perez, Pepon Sigler, Victoria Alberca. Directed by Miguel Angel Toledo. Screenplay, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Toledo.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Miguel Llorens; editor, Miguel Angel Villa; music, Josep Vicent; art director, Pepon Sigler; sound (Dolby Digital), Daniel Soriano. Reviewed at Malaga Film festival (Zonazine), April 21, 2012. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Gustavo Salmeron, Irene Visedo, Ricardo Trenor, Ariel Castro, Joan Prades, Raquel Escribano.

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