Here’s a movie you did not see coming: a genre-savvy horror comedy set in the 19th century, in an isolated Basque village, starring an old man, a little girl, and possibly a literal demon from hell. What more do you want?
Shot entirely in Basque, the movie starts by telling us of a frightening blacksmith (Kandido Uranga) who allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his life being spared in the war, killed his own wife, and now preys on the unlucky who trespass on his land. The villagers shunned him, but are quick to take up arms when a government official shows up with claims that the blacksmith may be hiding a stash of gold stolen during the war.
From the not-unsympathetic way the blacksmith is portrayed, even from the first scenes, it won’t come as a surprise that there’s more to his story than meets the eye, and a little orphan called Usue (Uma Bracaglia) is our surrogate as she sneaks into his workshop and discovers what really goes on in the furnace at night.
With a scattershot plot that isn’t afraid to turn the story on its head every few minutes, Errementari is at its best when it leans into the ridiculousness of it all, which it does with gusto; it uses comedy to defuse tension and to subvert our expectations of what we think is going to happen next. It’s not above using a generous dose of slapstick, and Eneko Sagardoy, as the demon Sartael, steals every scene he’s in thanks precisely to his willingness to jump head first into the dark humor of the situation.
This is the first feature of director Paul Urkijo, and indeed 2018 is turning out to be a good year for first-features (A Quiet Place and Hereditary both fall into this category); he succeeds in getting the most production value out of a limited budget. It does feel a tad too long, due mostly to a backloaded third act, but otherwise the action keeps a brisk pace and the twists and turns of the story will keep you guessing. One thing’s for certain: you won’t soon see anything quite like this.