Every year at Film4 Frightfest there is a myriad of foreign oddities. Films with subtitles that range from the weird and wonderful to the downright bizarre. Yes, I’m mainly thinking of Tulpa when I speak of the downright bizarre. It’s always great to get a fresh perspective from around the world and see what talented, upcoming and, of course, well established directors approach horror films.

Valentin Javier Diment came up trumps with his 2011 award-winning film, The Memory of the Dead [La memoria del muerto], unfortunately, I’m not so sure his latest offering, The Rotten Link [El Eslabon podrido] is going to gain the same sort of praise and intrigue.

The ‘dramedy’ – a comedy / horror / drama hybrid – is set in a middle-of-nowhere enclave and centres on a village idiot Raulo, who lives with his senile, clairvoyant mother and his sister, Roberta, the village prostitute. An accident that kills his much-beloved sister tips him over the edge.

Valentin has been quoted in the run up to the release of the film stating he would describe it as a ‘tragic fable’ and certainly I understand what he may be trying to drive at here. Although, without splitting hairs, as a fable traditionally uses nature, animals and mystical creatures to convey a tale of morality, I would describe this film as a parable. A parable is a succinct and didactic story which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles, usually with a moral outcome. In short it is a universal truth, an analogy and it appears that ‘The rotten link’ is definitely attempting to illustrate some kind of truth or moral code – I’m just not exactly quite sure what that may be?

Moreover, some of the moral slants that I interpreted from the film may make audiences feel a little uncomfortable.

Simplistically it feels like female sexuality is the downfall of this forgotten town. Young Roberta is a prostitute and as the town population is so small she has slept with just about everyone except one man and of course, her brother. Her aged and dementia ridden mother warns her not to sleep with the last man as she will be ‘used up’ and of no use anymore which will lead to her death, most likely through murder as the town will have no use for her anymore. However when Roberta and Raulo’s mother passes they are left vulnerable. The last man in town hunts down and rapes Roberta, laughing in her face after. She assumes she is about to die and convalesces in bed for a month or so. When she doesn’t die, hope is restored until she makes the fatal mistake of sleeping with her brother Raulo – after it dawns on her, he is in fact the last man in town.

Of course incest and rape are deeply uncomfortable topics to broach but they feel even more awkward here as they seem superfluous.

It feels like there is some sort of moral questioning about sex, family, incest and prostitutions but I’m not really sure what Valentin is highlighting here. Instead it feels like wanton sex scenes used for salaciousness and shock factor – particularly between brother and sister – in what is otherwise a very slow burn and unyielding film.

Arguably it could be that the story or morality of the tale has been lost in translation through the use of subtitles but I was left confused, disappointed and with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The hybrid of drama, comedy and a nod towards horror with the blood-spattered finale make it a mish-mash misnomer which I think sadly will leave horror fans deeply unsatisfied.

Frightfest London review: The Rotten Link
1.0Overall Score
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About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.

  • Chris

    I am so glad to have found this review. My friends and I were discussing the film immediately after seeing it and saying all the things you have said here, yet we were somewhat troubled by the fact that we seemed to be the only ones not praising it as a masterpiece, and I use the word troubled here very seriously for reasons I’m sure don’t need explaining.
    I questioned Diment in the lobby about the rape scene and whether he felt it was perhaps unnecessarily gratuitous and graphic for a film with comedic undertones and frequent sexual scenes. He explained how he did not intend for the film to be at all comedic and that he felt the scene had to be that way because he wants the audience to feel Roberta’s pain as a woman suffering. I didn’t follow up my questioning as I would have liked to, discussing the lack of emotional repercussion portrayed after said scene and her frankly bewildering plot line of instead just initiating sex with her brother.
    I understand the director’s point, however still believe it was a misjudgment, and one that is very important to bring up and discuss.
    In short, thank you for this review, and genuine wishes for the best for Diment and his future projects, because these issues aside, I think the film showed great originality and artistic vision.

  • Diment

    II respect your point of view, but your critic spoil too much!!! I cant share in my facebook because of that. If not, maybe it can a good start for an interesting debate.