It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent slasher and I was also shamelessly tempted by this one because I’m still in the hermit phase of covid living during which I use movies and TV as travelogues. So a Spanish production set in Venice during the Carnival (bringing back my memories of the exact same place and time, good and bad) was an easy pick for me.
Venciafrenia, directed by Álex de la Iglesia, follows a group of young Spanish partygoers on a trip to Venice before Isa (Ingrid García Jonsson) gets married. Everyone’s excited, rambunctious, annoying, obnoxious and very, very drunk and very, very loud (much like us lousy Brits on holiday) to the quiet chagrin of the locals around them, a topical issue in real life these last few years as Venice has been besieged by so many tourists that the city is practically crumbling in punishment. The group crashes a party they previously turned down and booze it up big time in a palatial nightclub setting, and all is well until the next morning, amid hangovers, the Isa discovers her brother is missing…
First off: The Venetian setting is perfect for a slasher, not least because it’s never been done before (at least not to my surface-level knowledge). Masks, costumes, and busy crowds make for some pretty chilling slasher kills to an audience of camera-wielding tourists mistaking genuine slaughter for street theatre, and the maze-like layout of Venice’s bridges, canals and alleyways give the proceedings that extra-disorienting slant to up the tension. Thrown in, too, are some nods to giallo tropes: the campy opening title sequence, mysterious yet colourful locals, and a showdown in a grand theatre.
There’s very little of note that’s negative; perhaps aside from Isa, the other characters aren’t as fully fleshed out, but the script sings in other ways: there are some bright sparks of insight in some dialogue about relationships in an early bar scene, and plenty of humour is derived from skewering both the transgressive irritableness of tourists and the crotchety locals who have that ‘lives above a bar yet complains about the noise’ energy.
At just under 100 minutes, the film flew by; pacing was not an issue and I never felt bored. The very ending might be divisive in its anticlimactic nature, seeming slightly tacked-on after what felt like a bigger, grander scene in the aforementioned theatre (which, imo, should have been the setting for the finale). A welcome entry in the slasher genre (and a fine way to see parts of Venice).