Off-Season Reviews: H6: Diary of a Serial Killer (2006)

Our next foray into torture porn comes from the world’s capital of blind, dead ghouls, Spain. Martin Garrido Baron’s H6: Diary of a Serial Killer is billed as Spain’s answer to Hostel, only it throws a healthy dose of the early Saw franchise into the mix. The psychopath here, Antonio Frau (Fernando Acaso), starts off by murdering society’s undesirables; adding a skewed sense of morality into the proceedings.

Constantly reviewing questionable films puts me in frequent contact with horrible scenes. H6 takes the cake though, by actually starting the film off in such a way that a (less bored) audience would probably turn it off immediately. Antonio and a girlfriend meet in an abandoned building, where they argue about her alleged infidelity, she gets beaten, and strangled to death. Which would be the perfect opening to a “diary of a serial killer” if it didn’t look like a cheap theatrical production.

The lighting, the (sole) camera angle, the horrid amateurish performance from the (unnamed) girlfriend, all scream low rent. So low, in fact, that you’ll probably miss that director Garrido Baron tried to go all artistic by filming it in one take.

Whereas Hostel has Elite Hunting making millions off of humanity’s inhumanity, H6 has Antonio, who’s been fascinated by France’s “Bluebeard,” Henri Landru, since reading about him as a youth. Antonio’s perplexed by why Landru kept such detailed records of who he had killed, and what he took from them. Antonio ponders why Landru would keep such a record, and then decides to keep his own diary to… uh, yeah.

Maybe his reasoning has been lost in translation, but Antonio follows his criticizing Landru for keeping a written record of his wrongdoing with an enthusiastic praising of his own confessions. So maybe he’s excited that future scholars won’t wonder why he kept a diary?

Doubly foolish, as a cursory glance at any online search of Henri Landru explains that Landru kept records of the women he was corresponding with (i.e. his victims) in order to keep them matched up with the various pseudonyms he was using in the want ads. So his wasn’t so much a willful confession as an unforeseen byproduct of his methods.

Autobiographical confusion isn’t this films only problem. For a film that obviously takes such pleasure in the mutilation of bodies (it shows both the chainsaw death of Antonio’s first victim, as well as 10 minutes of him disposing of her corpse), it goes to great lengths to neuter the sex act. When Antonio rapes his victim we move into a bizarre soft-core porn area, one where buttoned pants rubbing over underwear constitutes “sex.” Strange by itself, inexplicable when you consider the pubes shot that precedes it.

(Perhaps Spain has some kind of weird censorship laws where pubes are okay, but implied sex is illegal. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it, as I’m much too lazy, and this film too uninteresting, to investigate further.)

Fortunately, the film has the torture going for it. Kudos to Special Effects artist Reyes Abades for his amazing work. Antonio leaves his victims tied to a table for days, and their gradual dehydration/emaciation is striking. Inspired touches such as using the stubble growing on one girl’s underarms to note the passage of time.

This attention to detail isn’t lost on the set design either, as the “torture room” in Antonio’s hotel is blanketed in plastic tarps for easy cleaning after the chainsaw comes out. One brilliant little detail is how he’s laid a tarp over the tile floor! The only mistake is, as he keeps his victims alive so long, and the room’s clearly not soundproofed, why doesn’t his wife hear any of the girls’ screams?

H6 concludes with a witty ending that plays upon the film’s earlier Henri Landru piece. Witty, if not a bit of a mixed bag. The send-off is clever, and ties up most of the loose ends, but is dragged down by a dated mid-90s anti-hero slant. A slant that could’ve conceivably worked, had the film’s police force been developed at all. Playing out like a twist ending without the twist.

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