Director: Juan Carlos Medina
Screenplay: Luiso Berdeijo, Juan Carlos Medina
Starring: Alex Brendemuhl, Thomas Lemarquis, Ilias Stothart, Mot Stothart
Running Time: 100 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
In 1931, at an orphanage in rural Spain, a group of children are kept away from prospective parents and are re-homed in prison-like cells, some wearing strait-jackets. The reason – they can feel no pain and hence are a great danger to both themselves and to other people.
Painless follows what happens to a few of these children throughout the following years and how they are treated by subsequent backers/invaders of the orphanage, including an escaped German Jewish doctor with his own theories to prove and subsequently a fascist army at the beginning of the war.
When the Nazis arrive they see potential in one of the children and rename him Berkano and use him to torture prisoners since he has no empathy for the pain they feel. Years later the Spanish fascists use him in a similar fashion. In fact they eventually bring him a young woman to use in whatever manner he sees fit as his reward for extracting information from the government’s political prisoners.
In the meantime, in the present day, a man called David is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he has cancer. His parents won’t help and soon reveal themselves not to be his real parents. Perhaps his own lineage is somehow tied to what happened in that dreaded orphanage all those years ago…
Painless is a sedately paced, but atmospheric dose of Spanish horror with splashes of dark fantasy. It’s nicely shot with some great locations, all underlined by a suitably menacing and melancholy score. The acting is top drawer and the story holds one’s interest, although I did find the flashback nature of the film a bit frustrating and confusing at times.
Horror fans who like a bit of grue with their ghostly goings on will also appreciate some of the nastier moments where the children inflict serious wounds on each other and on themselves as they experiment with the boundaries of their strange condition. The initial scene in some woods where one little girl sets her own arm on fire and then passes the fire onto her friend is a quite shocking opener to the film and stays in the memory for some time afterwards. Later on two kids play a game of pulling off each other’s fingernails during a lesson at the orphanage, all the while giggling to each other – another disturbing and memorable scene to be sure!
Painless has recently been released on DVD (and Blu-Ray), and is being distributed by Metrodome. The only extras on the review disc were two promotional trailers for other horror films coming out including The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears and Citadel.