There is nothing I find more terrifying than looking for a place to live. Real estate agents, potential frat guy neighbors, finding a place where I can reside in peace; the entire process is altogether unappealing and “To Let” knows it. The 4th film I have viewed from the Spanish collection “6 Films to Keep you Awake,” “To Let” is an exercise in residential terror.
Mario and his girlfriend Clara are looking for an apartment in a short period of time having sold their old place before they were ready to move. Finding an appealing advertisement for an affordable three bedroom, two bath, Mario begs Clara to visit the apartment with him on short notice. While she is unsure, she agrees despite its isolated location and the rain that begins when they arrive. The real estate agent is waiting for them and so despite their feelings of uncertainty they feel forced to at least take a tour of the apartment, whose building, they find out, is still undergoing serious renovations. The apartment is filthy and rundown and Mario and Clara wish to leave immediately, but things become most interesting when they realize some of their belongings are already in the apartment.
“To Let” immediately grabs the viewer's attention with its vacant hallways and flickering lights, but it also knows how to have fun. For example, the music sometimes sounds like the UFO noise found in sci-fi films of the 1950's, which sounds ridiculous, but adds another unnerving element to this tension based horror film.
Altogether it's a menagerie of horror elements. Director Jaume Balagueró, best known for the recently adapted “[Rec]” and the soon to be released “[Rec]2”, flexes his muscles by showing that he can ratchet up tension, follow it up with some gore, throw in some creepy neighbors, and keep your attention. The problems arise when seemingly supercilious characters are added, holding no other purpose than to deliver information. Also, I found the ending to be less satisfying than the beginning of the film. There are about two or three fake endings, a technique that always dilutes the actual finale.
The main actress who plays Clara looks like a pinched sea horse, whose face can carry the perfect expression of snobbery, terror, and disgust. Mario's character is forgettable. There are not many scenes where he stands out as the camera instead lingers on Clara's terrified face. It's not because he isn't also experiencing horrors within the apartment, but that Clara is in control of the situation more often than not. Nuria González gives a stellar performance as the realtor, while drawing comparisons as a less frightening Béatrice Dalle.
If you have been on board with the previous “6 films” than “To Let” is not to be missed. It's a little rougher around the edges and will appeal to those horror fans looking for a fast paced run to the butcher. If you haven't viewed any of the “6 films” yet and haven't found any of the stories yet appealing, “To Let” would be a good entry point into the collection. It has all the expected tropes of horror without feeling stale. Jaume Balagueró knows how to crisply frame a shot for a restless audience. Whether you're watching this as your first film in the series, or following some of the other films, “To Let” stands out from the rest in its unique style and quickly mounting of tension.