Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front: Some (probably most) viewers will find Para Elisa to be extremely disturbing, perhaps more than they’re willing to deal with to make it all the way through to the end. And while it did border on disturbing I never quite found it pushing over that edge, but managing to stay just to the left of it squarely in creepy and sadistic.
Para Elisa is about a college student named Ana who is about to graduate and wants to go on the celebratory trip but lacks the money. Her parents refuse to give it to her (1000 Euros does seem a lot to ask) and her former drug dealing boyfriend also declines to help. As such, Ana answers an ad for a nanny and goes to interview for the position, where she is immediately drugged and held by a woman and her daughter Elisa. Elisa is not a child but an adult, but obviously is not normal. At first it seems as though she may be mental handicapped but she speaks perfectly well and is cognizant of actions and consequences and it quickly becomes apparent that she is simply mentally unstable.
This movie makes no pretense about what it is, has no subtext, underlying meaning or message. It is simply what it is; a movie about a disturbed young woman who likes to dress up other people as dolls and play with them. The violence is quite visceral but not “flashy” like most American horror films, and in fact I don’t believe this movie could have been made to any degree of success in Hollywood. Most is kept off camera, with very well done directing which allows the viewer to imagine what is happening which is often infinitely more intense than the actual act. And therein lies the strength of Para Elisa, that even though we get to see the aftermath of the violence most of the actual events are left up to us to imagine with only the sounds off screen, allowing us to fill in the gaps. Beyond this and the camera work, Para Elisa has very little else to offer.
The acting is okay at best with only one exception. Ana, played by Ona Casamiquela, has very few lines outside the first 15 to 20 minutes of the movie, and sadly this may be for the better as she was somewhat unconvincing in her dialogue, but excellent in her emoting. The dialogue itself is not the best but passable as there is actually very little. All the dialogue outside the apartment in the beginning sounded like it had been recorded in a studio and dubbed over the original, giving a very strange sensation as their lip movements matched up but the voices sounded disembodied. It was as if I were watching a movie originally in Spanish that had then been dubbed in Spanish. As well, most of the out of apartment scenes felt forced, with a lot of underlying background that was obviously lost on the editing room floor, and contributed virtually nothing to the movie until the very end.
Ana Turpin (Elisa) is the only other bright spot in this movie. She plays Elisa very well, and captures the child-like confusion and sociopathic tendencies of her character superbly, interchanging between one and the other seamlessly within seconds multiple times. Ana Turpin shines in an otherwise mediocre horror movie, and deserves a great deal of credit for doing as well as she did with what she had to work with.
Despite all this the ending to Para Elisa is actually rather satisfying, in a cruel and sadistic way. This is something I’ve found to be lacking a lot lately in many movies and shows, a satisfying end. The ending is fairly obvious once you pass the one hour mark, but the manner of it is in perfect keeping with the movie and probably elicits the most visceral response.
2/5 (genre specific). Watch with care, and don’t expect a lot out of it. And try to ignore the music.