Two young brothers drive their mother crazy in Bedtime Story (El Cuento), a Spanish horror short from cowriters/codirectors Lucas Paulino and Ángel Torres, but that’s nothing compared with what the night ahead holds for the trio. This atmospheric slice of supernatural fear fare is gripping from the beginning, and boasts an eerie, unsettling atmosphere of dread that builds to a chilling climax.
Dani (Ismael Palacios) teases his younger brother Lucas (Alberto Sánchez) at the dinner table while their exasperated mother (Nerea Barros) performs kitchen chores. Dani tells Lucas that the woman (Miguel Gabin) staring at them from her window across the street is a witch, and when the boys push their mom over the edge, she angrily sends them to bed.
When their mother acquiesces to Lucas’ request for a bedtime story, the camera focuses on Dani, who is in the top bunk above the other two family members. Palacios gives a fine performance here, with his character at first feigning sleep and then slowly going from curious to terrified. During this sequence, we hear his mom — Barros’ voice acting here is pitch perfect — telling Lucas a story about two ungrateful sons that goes into dark, unexpected territory . . . and things get worse for the family from there.
Paulino and Torres create a creepy, claustrophobic little world inside the family’s apartment, and combine psychological and supernatural terror masterfully. They are aided by super performances from Barros and her two young co-stars, along with fine cinematography from Paco Femenia. The sound design from José Luis Canalejo and score by Fede Pájaro for Bedtime Story are outstanding, including some unnerving noises that sound somewhere between screeching string instruments and the wail of a human voice.
Bedtime Story opens up the possibilities of a terrifying world both inside and beyond the family’s apartment, and it seems that viewers will be treated to just that, as Sam Raimi’s production company is reportedly now at work on developing a feature length expansion of the short.
Bedtime Story screens as part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, which runs online from December 11–27, 2020. For more information about the festival, visit https://www.ahith.com/.(4.5 / 5)