H6: Diary of a Serial Killer (Diario de un asesino) (2005)
Dir. Martin Garrido Baron, Spain, 92 mins
Ah, Christmas. That time of year when everyone exchanges fabulous gifts to warm the heart and brighten the spirit. Hmm. Well, in the Davis household that may not be 100% true, because Santa decided to bring me a copy of the Spanish horror movie H6: Diary of a Serial Killer. And there was not a lot of joy or goodwill contained in that particular gift, even for someone who absolutely loves Spanish cinema. Maybe I was on the naughty list after all?
Anyway, festive ramblings aside, H6 follows the story of Antonio Frau who, as a young man, in a very voyeuristic opening, kills his girlfriend. It really looks like we are watching the whole thing unfold through a spyhole and it's a pretty uncomfortable first five minutes for sure. However, the main thread of the story takes place 25 years later, when Antonio is released back into the wider world from prison to discover he has inherited a run-down old guesthouse from a distant aunt. It's a pretty valuable piece of real estate, despite its decrepit state, but he has no intention of selling it on – oh no, his plans are entirely different. Inspired by a long-dead French serial killer who made a detailed diary of all his victims, Antonio decides to turn the guesthouse into his own paradise of murder and mayhem.
There's not really much of an explanation of his motive beyond that – something fairly unclear about cleansing the women of the street that inhabit the area around the guesthouse – and if there's a thing that holds this movie it's that real paucity of plot. Antonio is married, but there never seems to be any genuine threat of her finding out about his nefarious activities – he carries out most of his grisly misdeeds while she is working night shifts as a nurse – and it's only in the last half-hour that we even introduce a police character who might actually find him out. For the most part it's a slightly drifty tale of a lunatic loner who brings in the prostitutes of the area with grand promises before tying them down, raping them and then starving them before carving them to pieces with a chainsaw. There are plenty of sinister moments and, although it's not as graphic or as hard to watch as some of the entries we have watched over the last two years of the series, there's plenty of unpleasantness implied alongside what is seen.
What does go a long way towards redeeming the movie is the performances, which all around are very good. Fernando Acaso is brilliantly sinister in the lead role, and even the performances from is victims – of which we only really encounter three in any depth – are also very good, lifting them from the usual cardboard cut-outs we see in horror. The visuals are interesting, and the diary concept is nicely delivered – although was done better in Eric Stanze's hypnotic Scrapbook. The ending is also a little frustrating, which I am knocking off another mark for.
So, H6 is a movie with a somewhat familiar concept, and a somewhat slim plot, but it is certainly lifted up by some good direction and strong central performances. It's very watchable, and will keep you watching keenly for its 90 minute runtime, but it's hard to say it treads new ground or breaks down any cinematic boundaries. Ultimately, what this movie does is provide a good example of this particular subgenre, and is ultimately worth a look for those of you that enjoy serial killer movies.
RATING: 7/10. There was potential for this one to rank a bit higher, particularly if we had a better motive to our killer or a bit more threat of him actually getting caught, but there's certainly that sheen of quality to it in terms of production and acting that Spanish cinema so often has that makes it a worthwhile entry into the pantheon of serial killer movies. All told, it's a very solid 7/10 for this one.