Spanish director Jaume Balguero has grown quite well known within recent years due to his popular series [REC] which as we all know was remade within the Hollywood system as Quarantine. The director has been riding a new wave of Spanish horror along with films such as The Abandoned and The Orphanage which have found life in the DVD market place and on television. Fragile is actually a slightly older film from director Balguero and came before his phenomenal success with [REC] but will soon find a new lease on life due to that popularity and due its release as part of the Fangoria Fright Fest lineup of straight to DVD horror titles. After having viewed the title, I find it a shame that we have had to wait this long to actually see this film in the form of a wide release. I found myself quite taken back by how great this little title was. Granted, there are horror conventions and standards that it adheres to and in that sense there is no way it could ever be considered 100% original but for all intents and purposes this is a classic case of horror done right and still keeping with tradition. In the same way that The Orphanage didn’t truly break entirely new ground with its delivery, Fragile is simply a good old fashioned ghost story with several chilling moments along the way. Mystery and horror are the tools of the trade as Jaume Balguero delivers a dark and atmospheric horror movie that takes its time in establishing itself so that it can thoroughly get inside of our collective minds.
Amy is an American nurse who has a past that she would rather forget, which is why she has taken a job in the UK that will have her looking over a group of sick children as the hospital is slowly evacuated over time. However, this hospital has dark secrets and unknown to Amy at the time children have recently had their bones break without any given reason. When Amy finally arrives she meets young Maggie who is the black sheep of all the children. Amy finds the young girl interesting and the two begin a quick friendship which allows Maggie to tell her about about Charlotte. Charlotte at first appears to be Maggie’s invisible friend, but Amy quickly hears stories about Charlotte that have been floating around for years. Charlotte is a mystery other than the fact that she is a "mechanical girl" and according to Maggie when she gets mad… bad things start to happen. Will Amy be able to figure out this mystery before its too late or will this strange epidemic of broken bones continue on until there are no children left?
There are a number of things that I really enjoyed about Fragile, but what stands out most for me is the pacing. I am a great fan of deliberate pacing in horror cinema and when we actually have to time to establish and enjoy characters, it creates legitimate tensions later on when we know all of the scary moments are coming. It is an underused device and I think Fragile does a good job in establishing these characters and keeping the film intelligent throughout. The film does not come out and spell everything out for us. The character of Amy played by Calista Flockhart has a dark past that the movie never goes into detail about, but we know that it is there. It is a small McGuffin in her character’s development but it gives life to that character and creates all kinds of interesting dynamics for her character. The relationship she develops with Maggie comes from her own feeling of being ostracized that she has had to endure to the mistakes she has made in her past life. That same ostracized feeling is felt by Maggie due to her continued discussions on this character of Charlotte. These added flourishes of character and intrigue are what made the movie for me, because I actually felt for these people by the conclusion of the film and Balguero does a great job in keeping us riled up as the movie heads along.
Flockhart, who I will always have a crush on because of her role in Ally McBeal, is actually really good here. She brings a certain level of tension to the film, as her performance is slightly tweaked by this mysterious past that her character has. You can feel it in nearly every scene and in every choice that she makes as a character. There is only one scene in the movie that ever gives us any real indication of just what happened in her previous life and in it the character of Amy has a breakdown of sorts and in my opinion Flockhart absolutely nails it. She brings a touch of class to an already established feature and I couldn’t help but enjoy her performance. At this point I realize that I may be overselling the movie. Take with you the realization that there is a certain amount of formula within Fragile. It starts with a big scare before the credits, then we establish characters and we end with bigger scares. How many times have you seen that movie? If there is a downside to Fragile, this is it. However, if you have enjoyed films such as The Devil’s Backbone and The Orphanage, then I recommend checking out Fragile. It carries with it that same taste of character depth and love for good old fashioned "scares" that seems to have faded within our society of blood and guts horror movies. I highly recommend it, as I want to see more discussion on both this film and Jaume Balguero who may very well be the next big name in horror if he keeps delivering like this! You can read more about Fangorial Fright Fest at the Fangoria website http://www.fangoria.com.