From talented directors Adrián Cardona, Rafa Dengrá, and David Muñoz comes a hilarious and fun-filled bloodbath of a film. International audiences might expect Spanish horror films to generally follow themes of the supernatural, or might anticipate an art house pedigree of films like The Orphanage or Pan’s Labyrinth. But “Brutal Relax” defies such expectations. With massively gory results.
The film follows socially awkward Mr. Olivares who, upon being released from an institution, is told by his anxious doctor to take a vacation and avoid getting agitated at all costs. So Olivares slaps on his Hawaiian tourist outfit and heads to a beach inhabited by classic beach bums, but their happy existence is short lived because, in the age-old tradition of “beach horror,” whenever there are young, attractive, and scantily-clad people enjoying themselves, they must suffer.
Arriving at the beach, Olivares bathes in mud and cranks up his Walkman (yes a Walkman). Soon after, an army of aquatic slime zombies rise from the sea and, unbeknownst to Olivares in his tuned out state, the dismemberment begins. What follows is a superbly directed fast-moving sequence of flesh ripping carnage that includes a skull penetrating Frisbee, all to music courtesy of Olivares’s Walkman.
When his batteries die, the mud covered Olivares finally pays attention to the chaos surrounding him and we see why his doctor was so nervous. A man can perhaps be an artist in anything; Olivares’s art, it turns out, is destruction, and in the carnage that follows he creates his masterpiece.
“Brutal Relax” relies heavily on slapstick visuals, the kinds of exaggerated violence and physical movement perfected by silent comedies. There is almost no dialogue except for the opening scene with the doctor and this provides a unique dynamic between the audience and its protagonist: it deters us from identifying with Olivares too strongly, not letting us get beyond that infectious smile of his and this distance puts us in a delightful place from which we can watch the amusing massacre.
Olivares then rises to challenge the army of aquatic slime zombies. One of the things that seems to make him a viable adversary is that with the mud caked all over him he looks inhuman and very much like the zombies themselves. This peculiar, slimy look helps dissociate him from the other beach goers and brings him to the same level of the monsters so he can destroy them. Once the massacre is over Olivares is literally washed clean and returns to his pre-beach form, all smiles. His rampage against the aquatic slime zombies is, essentially, cleansing. His doctor was wrong. Agitation is for Olivares very therapeutic.
On top of the more bodily style of comedy the film is a celebration of disgust. Before the violence even starts we get little hints of the repulsion that’s in store: we see several close-ups including one of a pimply woman slapping lotion on herself, and the mud puddle Olivares uses to apply his all-over mud mask appears to be the product of runoff from a garbage can.
The quirky aesthetics add to the overall comedic tone of the entire piece. If it gets recognized for nothing else, it should be praised for the job well done by the effects team in doing their best to disgust and amuse us by creating the perfect storm of gross comedy, including everything from an impaling cooler to a decapitating head kick. The film is a visceral carnival of disgust with its steady flow of internal organs and body fluids flying about.
“Brutal Relax” is an amazing fifteen minutes of horror fused with comedy and is a refreshing story within the sometimes boring zombie category. The hilarity doesn’t end with the credits so keep on watching.
— Jared Carney
Jared Carney is a student in Film Production at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. He is an emerging writer and director working towards making a feature film one day. Horror has always been of particular interest to him and many of his influences come from both the classic, and the more extreme horror films.