The Wasteland, one of Netflix’s newest horror original films directed by David Casademunt, premiered earlier this week. The film, which is also titled “The Beast,” is a period piece that takes place in 19th century Spain. The film follows Diego (Asier Flores) and his two parents, Salvador (Roberto Álamo) and Lucia (Inma Cuesta), as they deal with the environment around them. Salvador is a man of few words and is firmly determined to do whatever it takes in order to make sure that Diego becomes a man.
Lucia is a much more gentle person who still wants the best for her son but won’t resort to using brute tactics. The family unit has managed to escape the violence that destroyed everything around them. They now live with the fear of the unknown in a desolate and decaying wasteland with very few resources. To make matters worse, Diego is afraid of an ominous figure: the Beast, who begins to haunt their home and slowly begins to put a strain on Diego’s relationships.
From seeing the trailer, it’s easy to assume that most of the horror in The Wasteland is brought on by the Beast but the cinematography does an incredible job in setting up a terrifying atmosphere. The Wasteland lets its audience know that the terrain they live in isn’t necessarily safe. Any time that Diego wants to go outside, either one of his parents has to accompany him and be heavily armed. The space around them is extremely silent and the vast emptiness only adds more to an already intense situation. Playing with the fear of the unknown that the family constantly has to deal with. The way in which their home and the environment around them are set up correlates well with the film’s title.
However, this doesn’t mean that the Beast itself doesn’t elevate the horror in The Wasteland. As the trailer would suggest, this is a creature that completely terrifies the family, especially Diego. That said, it takes a while for audiences to fully understand what the Beast looks like. Both the characters and viewers are kept in suspense about the creature, amping up the fear. The theme of the fear of the unknown once again comes up, which is something that the story fully takes advantage of to create its horror. With the film focusing heavily on Diego’s perspective, it isn’t hard to imagine how scary this monster could be, especially if he hasn’t even seen it. Tapping into childhood fears of monsters, on top of an already horrifying environment, is a prime example of where the horror in The Wasteland comes from. One of the more graphic and bloodier scenes in The Wasteland proves that the lack of the Beast’s physical presence is enough to cause fear amongst the characters and the film’s audience.
Most of The Wasteland focuses on Diego and his experience dealing with the Beast and Flores’ portrayal of Diego is captivating to watch. The majority of the scenes that show him dealing with the horrors that the Beast brings are full of intensity. For instance, there’s one particular scene in which Diego has nightmares about the Beast because of a story that his father told him. The story is one of the father’s tactics to get Diego to man up but it has the opposite effect. The look of fear on his face makes the audience aware of how intense the feeling of horror impacts him.
While The Wasteland puts most of its emphasis on the fear coming from the Beast itself and the atmosphere of where the family lives, fear can also be found as Diego sees his parents deal with the world around them. From early on, it’s established that Diego is very observant of his parents, which makes it hard for him to miss anything. As the film progresses, Diego realizes the true intentions of the Beast and what it does to its victims, which increases the level of intensity to an all-time high. Diego can only watch as the Beast begins to ruin his parents’ lives and not be able to do anything about it. Seeing a child dealing with something like this isn’t necessarily new but Flores manages to tap into just how terrifying this situation can be.
Unfortunately, The Wasteland suffers heavily from how time-consuming it can get at times. At a run time of 93 minutes, the film takes its time in establishing too much exposition in regards to the world they live in. It takes between 20 to 30 minutes for the moments of horror to really kick and make their impact on the story. It’s understandable that the setting needs to be established but much of that time could have been used to focus on elevating the horror that the film wants to convey to its audience.
There are also several moments that drag on extremely long and are then accompanied by jumpscares. These moments are too predictable, almost as if viewers can keep count of the seconds before something will make them jump. Additionally, the overall pacing of the film takes away any real impact that the moments of horror could have on the plot, its characters, or the setting. There are still moments of genuine fear and the relationship between the family is one to watch, but pacing definitely harms the level of impact that the film could have made.
The Wasteland proves to be a solid start to the horror genre but suffers from pacing issues. Looking back at the major discovery that Diego makes, I couldn’t help but think of films like The Babadook and A Monster Calls. While the three films fall under different genres, each focuses on a child dealing with a “beast” that terrifies them and their families. The terror Diego deals with comes from various angles and could easily be too much for a child to deal with. With that, The Wasteland joins a long list of Netflix original horror films that fans of the genre will certainly rewatch time and time again.
The Wasteland is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.