When Joel Schumacher made 8mm, with Nicolas Cage, in 1998, it was considered controversial. A thriller about snuff movies cut the boundaries of decency so fine that audiences turned away. Maybe they did so because it wasn't any good.

Alejandro Amenabar's debut, written when he was a student, came out two years before 8mm and won a stack of Goya Awards in Spain, including Best Film. Unlike Schumacher, he does not set his thriller in seedy dens of vice. He sets it in a university.

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Angela (Ana Torrent) is researching audiovisual violence at the School of Mass Communications in Madrid. She makes friends with Chema (Fele Martinez), a fanatic horror movie buff, who lives in a shrine to gore fantasy and doesn't have a social life, because of his collection of banned tapes. By chance, one evening, she discovers her tutor dead in a viewing theatre. She leaves him where she found him and takes the video he had been watching from the machine and brings it to Chema. What they see is a girl student, who had disappeared a year before, tied to a chair, being beaten up and killed by a man in a black balaclava.

This is the start of something frightening. Angela's life is in danger. She can't trust anyone, not even Chema. Amenabar's script is as clever as it is taut. He controls the fear, twisting this way and that, never putting a foot wrong. For a first movie, Tesis has an astounding confidence. The performances of Torrent and Martinez are focused and electric.

Amenabar directed, wrote the screenplay and composed the score. A year later, he would make Open Your Eyes, which Cameron Crowe has resurrected as Vanilla Sky, with Tom Cruise. In 2001, he directed, wrote the screenplay and composed the score for The Others. He is the most exciting new talent working in Europe today. He was born in Chile.

Reviewed on: 22 Dec 2001
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A student, researching violence in film for a thesis, discovers an active cell of snuff moviemakers.
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Director: Alejandro Amenabar

Writer: Alejandro Amenabar

Starring: Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduardo Noriega, Nieves Herranz, Rosa Campillo, Miguel Picazo, Javier Elorriaga

Year: 1996

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain

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