An intoxicating mix of horror, mystery, fantasy and even science fiction, Painless is one of those films that will not come even close to getting the audience it deserves.

Which is a crying shame, as there is a truly fascinating tale being played out here, complete with enough shocks and jolts to keep a genre crowd on their toes.

Told in episodic manner, jumping from the 1930s to the 60s to present day, the film is set in Spain, throwing us headlong into the bizarre story of a small village whose children, for some reason or another, seem impervious to pain.

Naturally the locals are suspicious of these kids, so they decide the best thing to do is ship them off to a mountaintop castle, shove them in straight-jackets, plonk them in isolated cells and carry out tests on them for the rest of their lives.

Jumping forward to the present, we meet David (Alex Brendemuhl), but only briefly before he is involved in a horrific car crash – an accident that claims the life of his wife (but not their unborn son).

While undergoing a series of checks in hospital though, David is flagged as having extremely serious medical conditions of his own – issues that need urgent treatment.

And that is where the journey starts – could Brendemuhl’s character have a connection to those mountaintop children? What exactly happened to the kids at the castle? And what, if anything, could be done to save his own life?

Painless grips from early on and never lets go, with a series of fabulously-staged sequences (highlighted by a superbly-executed car crash) reeling the audience in.

Director Juan Carlos Medina keeps a very tight rein on affairs, cannily avoiding the film sliding into ‘creepy kid’ cliché – which it could easily have done.

In fact, Medina does an excellent job of adding layers of emotion, making you feel for these children – without ever skimping on the nastiness.

Performances are strong across the board – from Brendemuhl through to the array of child actors that produce dazzling work (such as Mot Stothart and Liah O’Prey).

The film is also beautifully shot, with some stunning locations helping the mood tremendously.

Painless has a terrific pace – never once coming across as rushed, but on the flipside never boring or dragging.

Sinister, moving and thrilling at the same time, this slice of Catalan cinema comes highly recommended.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.