The digital-video revolution was supposed to make filmmaking as cheap and easy as writing a poem, and by now we were supposed to be overwhelmed with stunning DIY movie art made by teenage geniuses and their wizened elders. Instead, at the moment, the filmmakers who use video best are the ones with the experience (and money) to make the medium look as good as film, while lower-fidelity video projects tend to be pale, festival-bound copies of wan indie fare. And then there's the burgeoning class of slumming entrepreneurs, who make movies on video strictly to show what they could do if they had access to the good tools.
As blueprints for movies go, the Argentinean horror exercise Rooms For Tourists is fairly impressive. Twenty-five-year-old director Adrián García Bogliano and most of his crew are students at the National University Of La Plata, but they're already veterans of the splatter genre, having made more than a dozen shorts and features over the past decade. Rooms For Tourists' black-and-white DV looks murky, but the shots are well-composed and crisply edited, the amateur cast performs with verve, and the plot—about five young women who get stuck overnight in a small town, where they're stalked by their masked hosts—has an uncomplicated, classical horror structure.
Bogliano and company also know how to bring the squeam. Rooms For Tourists opens with images of dead babies and clobbered dogs, and its most terrifying scene has a naked woman being cut in half with a handsaw, with ultra-realistic ripped-flesh effects. Whether Bogliano is being misogynistic or commenting on misogyny is hard to determine. After an hour or so of watching women run through dark halls and catch ax-blades, the audience learns that they're all on their way from the city to the boonies to have abortions, and the religious townsfolk who've waylaid them are looking to exact some holy revenge. It'd be great if Rooms For Tourists had a clearer point, or something significant to say about the human condition, but even in spite of its low budget, cruddy look, and modest aspirations, the movie is art of a kind. Bogliano's preoccupation with mangled bodies and bad choices recalls the brain-bending hyper-modernist horror of Takashi Miike—and he started in video, too.