Fantastic Fest review: The Wait is a slow burn rural revenge thriller

The Wait - Images courtesy Film Factory
The Wait - Images courtesy Film Factory /

The Wait, written and directed by F. Javier Gutiérrez, may be a bit of a slow burn, but boy, oh boy, does it have some pretty startling images and petrifying sequences, including one of the most impressive transformation scenes I’ve seen in a while. Beyond some of the frights, however, The Wait is a meditative film about one man’s grief and how he deals with it. There’s also some commentary regarding class that’s handled rather deftly through hunting imagery.

The film stars Víctor Clavijo as Eladio. He’s hired to watch over hunting grounds in rural Spain owned by the wealthy Don Francisco (Pedro Casablanc). One of the film’s standouts is its setting. You can almost taste the dust and feel the isolation, especially once tragedy befalls Eladio and he loses those closest to him. He blames himself. That sense of loss, coupled with the secluded location, really wears on him, causing hellish nightmares and suicidal thoughts. Before any of this happens, though, the film spends its time establishing Eladio’s relationship with his wife and son, which makes the loss feel that much more profound. This film doesn’t rush to jump from one startling scene to the next. It’s heavy on characterization and better for it.

Clavijo really carries much of this film, and he turns in a heartfelt performance as his character undergoes such immense heartache. Much of the film is Eladio and Eladio alone, again reinforcing that sense of solitude, so without Clavijo’s impressive acting chops, this film really would have faltered. He’s often enough to carry it.

Despite some of the unhurried pacing, there’s plenty here that horror fans should enjoy. Past the halfway mark, there’s a transformation scene unlike anything I’ve seen in some time. Another hair-raising sequence involves a snake and Eladio’s wedding ring. Gutiérrez certainly knows how to build tension, while peppering the feature with some truly chilling images.

The Wait
The Wait – Images courtesy Film Factory /

The Wait is unlike some other revenge thrillers because it doesn’t necessarily prioritize a high body count, blood, and guts. Instead, it shows the impact loss can have on a single person, specifically the protagonist’s fragile mindset, to the point his sense of reality blurs and he encounters frightful images every waking hour. The rural location is as important as Clavijo’s performance in terms of reinforcing some of the themes Gutiérrez’s plays with here. That dry and desolate setting feels like a character, too. It’s a place where snakes hide in pipes, and there are certainly haves and haves nots. All of this builds to an ending that’s a potent and powerful statement on class and the very concept of hunting itself, making for quite the payoff.

Overall, Gutiérrez’s latest is a methodical revenge thriller with one heck of a heart-wrenching performance by Clavijo. Oh, and trust me, the ending is worth the wait.

The Wait recently had its North American debut at Fantastic Fest. It will soon make its Spanish premiere at Sitges Film Festival in October.

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