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All of Them Witches

Dolores (Susana Zabaleta) is a pretty but brittle housewife who returns home one afternoon to hear a killer on the loose in her apartment block. A young woman from the floor below is murdered, and the incident triggers a spate of harrowing incidents -- some real, some imagined -- that prey upon Dolores' paranoia.

Dolores (Susana Zabaleta) is a pretty but brittle housewife who returns home one afternoon to hear a killer on the loose in her apartment block. A young woman from the floor below is murdered, and the incident triggers a spate of harrowing incidents — some real, some imagined — that prey upon Dolores’ paranoia.

When her husband, Andres (Alejandro Tommasi), moans the dead neighbor’s name during a nightmare, Dolores’ fears worsen.

She follows a trail from the neighbor’s apartment to the abode of one Madame Endor (Delia Casanova), who doesn’t help by telling Dolores she’s in danger.

Andres then sends her to a shrink (Ricardo Blume), whose skepticism gradually turns to concern that satanic forces are at play.

Story trots on along conventional lines, with plenty of hocus-pocus but scant regard paid to characters’ motivations. Perhaps that’s intentional: Essentially, “All of Them Witches” is an exercise in style, and Gruener (who’s shot the slickest Mexican rock videos of the ’90s) shows style in abundance.

The helmer has a penchant for in-your-face symbolism, artfully constructed.

Pic derives its tension chiefly from images — goldfish dying out of water, packs of snarling dogs roaming the city streets at night.

Gruener also indulges in vivid color and dress schemes: Dolores is first seen in a faux schoolgirl outfit; by the end she’s entirely clothed in red. The overall effect recalls Neil Jordan’s horror fairy tale “The Company of Wolves.”

Yet style works against substance at first. The sense of Dolores’ paranoia is so keen from the start — many extreme closeups and angled shots — that it’s hard to care about her plight.

Audience p.o.v. becomes that of a scientist inspecting an injured butterfly under a magnifying glass. Still, Dolores’ eventual encounter with the devil’s envoy is genuinely gripping.

Making her screen debut, Zabaleta imbues Dolores with the right fragility, and lets an occasional playfulness poke through, adding needed charm to the proceedings.

Supporting players are fine within the rather cartoonish confines of their roles.

Tech credits are pro by any standard. Also impressive, given the $ 500,000 budget, is Jose Luis Aguilar’s design: Endor’s cavern boasts the wonderfully improbable roots of a giant tree, while the shrink’s futuristic, water-themed consulting room looks like a neurotic yuppie’s vision of paradise.

All of Them Witches

(SOBRENATURAL) (Mexican -- fantasy-thriller -- Color)

  • Production: A Videocine release (in Mexico) of a Televicine production. Executive producers, Ivan Lipkies, Dulce Kuri. Directed by Daniel Gruener. Screenplay, Gruener, Gabriel Gonzalez.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Rodrigo Prieto; editor, Jorge Aguilera; music, Gabriel Gonzalez; production design, Jose Luis Aguilar; art direction, Maria de los Angeles Martinez; sound (Dolby), Miguel Sandoval. Reviewed at Televicine screening room, Mexico City, June 3, 1996. Running time: 100 MIN.
  • With: Dolores ... Susana Zabaleta Andres ... Alejandro Tommasi Madame Endor ... Delia Casanova Dr. Riojas ... Ricardo Blume Freshman director Daniel Gruener has fashioned a modish tale of paranoia and the supernatural with "All of Them Witches," a pic whose technical dazzle makes up for a flimsy plot. Like other recent pics by young Mexican helmers -- Roberto Sneider's "Two Crimes," Guillermo del Toro's "Cronos"--"Sobrenatural" should serve well as a calling card in Hollywood. Part homage to "Rosemary's Baby," pic may be too flashy to endear itself to fest directors. But it should garner decent B.O. at home, where it opens this month.
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