Errementari (2018): Absurdly Dark Creature Feature from Spain
Horror from the Basque Region of Spain
Available on Netflix Japan, Hulu
Also known as “Errementari: El herrero y el diablo”
Is Errementari a Horror Movie?
Most critics seem to consider Errementari as more of a dark comedy than straight horror film, and I tend agree. Despite the “monster movie” vibe, there are some funny bits to the film, like how the writers poke fun of Catholicism through the dopey priest character, how the characters make fun of Sartael’s (the demon’s) OCD, and even the premise of the circles of Hell when they come up in dialogue.
Maybe that’s why I liked Errementari: Good dark comedy is hard to find, and my favorite movie is a dark comedy/horror film. I’m talking Evil Dead 2, baby.
But anyway, even more than it being a horror and/or dark comedy, the thing that drew me to Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil was that it’s adapted from a folk tale.
I really like folk tale horror movie adaptations.
And actually, I’ve been watching a lot of these lately.
International Horror Movies from Folk Tales
I’ve been on an international horror movie kick. So far, I have covered English, Australian, Canadian, Korean, Thai, and Malaysian horror movies. You can read any of my reviews of them by clicking the links. Of them, my favorites so far were the two Thai films, The Maid and Inhuman Kiss, both of which were original, and the latter of which is also a folk-tale-turned-horror-movie.
It seems to be a trend among a lot of the horror movies that emerge from outside the Hollywood sphere of influence. And I like that. These cultures have special stories to share, new ways to frighten me. I’m all in.
Netflix Horror from the Basque Country
In this article, I’m going to talk about why I liked the characters, show you why the cinematography was A-1, discuss the sound effects, and fawn over the intricate makeup and costume design.
And, given that Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil is a period piece, I’ll even explain the meaning of the Carlist War.
Errementari: Characters and Story 6/10
First of all, points for originality. I’ve never seen a movie quite like this.
Secondly – let me just get this out of the way – the climactic scenes are completely ridiculous. There’s a lot of goofiness in Errementari. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it. Not that I’ll be writing about the climactic scenes in detail: I plan on keeping spoilers to a minimum.
At any rate, a good horror movie keeps you guessing, and Errementari is no different.
It’s interesting because first you think the blacksmith is a good guy (or at least someone you want to root for) because he tricked a demon (a term I’ll be using interchangeably with ‘devil,’ by the way). And the demon is obviously a bad guy.
Then, that’s reinforced, because when the townsfolk go into his property, he just tries to chase them away. Not that he has any particular qualms with death – when one of the dudes gets his face stuck in one of the blacksmith’s bear traps, he doesn’t seem particularly distraught about it.
To top it all off, the man’s got crosses sticking up all over his yard. I mean, only the good guys have crosses in horror movies. Right? Right??
And by the way, the blacksmith’s yard is really fucking dangerous. It’s a twisting maze full of bear traps and crosses. What could possibly go wrong?
Anyway, so you’re all ready to accept that maybe he’s a good guy, but then, the little girl (Usue, played by Uma Bracaglia) stumbles across a boy, a prisoner hanging in a cage who begs to be let out. Maybe the blacksmith is not such a great guy after all.
I love being left to guess! It’s a sign of good horror writing that the story isn’t predictable. And you know what? I won’t tell you any more. I don’t want to spoil the story.
I will say that I like Usue, too. She’s simultaneously naive and jaded. She doesn’t believe in Hell, but then when she sees the Devil, she doesn’t disbelieve her eyes either. And, when the Devil cries, she has sympathy for him. I like that kind of complex character.
Unfortunately, the truth is that most of the characters in the film are kind of simple – not in an uncomplicated sense, but in a one-dimensional kind of way. But despite this weakness on the part of the scriptwriters, the characters managed to pull me in.
I really appreciate the cinematography in Errementari. The shots, angles, colors, and editing were all incredible!
Take a look at this series of shots, all from a span of under a minute in a short scene in which Usue sneaks into the blacksmith’s yard to get her decapitated doll’s head back:
These pictures are so visually appealing. The way the blacksmith is walking between the crosses, how nicely centered Usue is as she opens the gate, and even how even the bridge is. Usue is so small that we almost miss her hiding under there.
What’s cool about that is how the camera was pointed up at Usue just a moment ago, so that she effectively goes from seeming really really big to becoming very small in her hiding place under the Blacksmith’s bridge.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sound is so important in horror movies.
The sound department did a great job! (aside from the english dubbing team, but dubs are always trash)
The sound team got very creative. There’s this one scene, after Usue stumbles across the boy in the cage, where the blacksmith falls asleep in there and so she goes to grab the keys to the cage to try and set the boy free.
You can hear the blacksmith echoing snores from the next room. The echoes sound ominous and they give you that extra sense of anxiety when she’s sneaking around. Terrifying!
I also kind of noticed how the Sartael’s pained screams sounded a bit like the Evil Dead monsters. Not sure how I feel about that. I love the Evil Dead series, but I have mixed feelings about hearing it in another film.
Maybe it was a rip-off, or maybe it was just coincidence.
There were some other stupid sounds; I hate it when a lot of movies go overdrive on the punching SFX, and this film was no different. Punches don’t really make a big sound in real life. Maybe it’s just me, but they made big “boom” noises that I thought were a bit tacky.
And by the way, the soundtrack was decent as well. It was composed by Pascal Gaigne. I’ll embed a track from his soundcloud at the bottom of this post. It’s good music!
Makeup and Special Effects: 9/10
They say the devil is in the details, but here I think it’s better to say that the details are in the devil. Errementari’s depiction of the Devil is exhaustive and intricate.
Amazing work. And ya need it in a movie like this. Cesar Alonzo is better known for having done makeup and effects in one of the Mission Impossible movies, and in a Jack Black film. But his work in Errementari really shines.
Errementari Movie History Explained
The First Carlist War
In Errementari, which takes place in the Basque region, the characters reference the First Carlist War.
The whole thing seems to be a fight over the government.
The Carlists wanted this dude Carlos to be the king, but the liberals wanted Isabella to be the queen. They also wanted to have a constitution.
The liberals won, by the way.
As a matter of fact, that’s a gross oversimplification. I poked around Youtube to try and find a video about the Carlist Wars that was not too dry or painful to watch. What I found was this: (the Carlist wars start at 2:10)
And as you can see, the uniforms match up:
Below is a painting of the Carlist grenadier, infantryman, marine, and artilleryman military uniforms. As you can see, when it comes to the Spanish civil war uniforms, costume designer Nerea Torrijos really nailed it!
By the way, the costumes aren’t the only interesting part of that screenshot. Read the caption as well. Did it mystify you? I had to Google that. It actually took a bit of research, but luckily, I have the results right here for you.
Who is Tomás de Zumalacárregui, and why is he trying to get into Bilbao?
Fun fact: Tomás, or “Uncle Tomás” (not to be confused with Uncle Tom, which is a totally different thing, yikes) is credited with inventing the Spanish omelette during the siege of Bilbao. The troops were low on food so he whipped up what he had and they loved him for it.
Uncle Tomás was a general on the Carlist side, which means the troops we see at the beginning of the movie are the liberals.
In the end, this movie was completely ridiculous. It’s absurd, but it’s also entertaining as hell!
Thank you for reading this article I put together for you. I hope you enjoyed it. If you liked it, why don’t you bookmark the page and check back in the future? I’ll be writing more horror movie reviews for sure.
Below, you’ll find the soundcloud embed from the movie sountrack’s composer, the official movie trailer, and links to other horror movie review articles I’ve written.
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