Anguish (1987)

anguish poster 1987 movie zelda rubinstein
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting post-modern script

Some questionable acting, pushes it a bit too far

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Anguish

Studio:  Luna Films

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  March 23, 1987 (Spain)/January 8, 1988 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


I hate it when I get blood on my face when ripping out eyes…

Mommy is the story of a man named John (Michael Lerner) who is controlled by his domineering mother (Zelda Rubinstein) who feels that John deserves more than his bosses are giving him.  Under her hypnotic control, John is a murderer…but John is about to branch out on his own.  Watching Mommy in a theater, a young girl named Linda (Clara Pastor) and her friend Patty (Isabel Garcia Lorca) are about to learn that some horror is real.

Written and directed by Bigas Luna, Anguish (Angustia) is a Spanish horror film.  Relatively well received, the movie has gained a small cult following over the years.


It’s the legend of Zelda

I remember Anguish on the shelf at my video store.  The prospect of a film starring Tangina from Poltergeist didn’t really grab me, and I passed up the film.  Later, I started to hear a bit of buzz about the film but found it rather difficult to find.  Finally just purchasing it, I saw Anguish, and it was…different.  This ambitious film tries to tackle a ton of themes, and it approaches it in an odd way.  Due to the type of film, a *****spoiler alert***** exists for the rest of the movie.


Every movie needs graphic eye surgery

Anguish is really a post-modern story.  The events in the film echo the events in the theater where the film is being shown, and in turn, the viewer watching Anguish itself.  At the end of the film, the switch is flipped again, and it is really a film within a film within a film (being watched by a viewer).  Though I felt the last twist was a little much, I do admire the film for doing something that horror wasn’t doing at the time Anguish was made and that it was trying something new and different.  It works for the most part, but it isn’t a perfect movie.

The acting is really where Anguish could have excelled.  John Lerner and Zelda Rubinstein are fine in their roles (they originally wanted Bette Davis) but since they are in a bad horror movie, they could have hammed it up more for the sake of Mommy.  The other actors aren’t as good so if you are supposed to believe it is reality, you have to wonder why the better actors are in the fake movie.  It is the second level of movie that kind of hurts the overall product.


The assassination of Michael Lerner

Visually the movie is both good and bad.  Mommy looks like a terrible movie and there are some nasty moments of gore in it.  It seems boring and plotless so I cannot see it having a big crowd as shown.  The movie has large sequences of hypnosis (which a warning is put at the beginning of the whole film to amp up the concept…which really didn’t need to be amped up).  Some of the parallels of Mommy and the movie theater where it is being shown are clever and well done.  The movie’s style does have a bit of that foreign almost Italy giallo-feel at moments.

Anguish works…sort of.  It is very brave in its approach, but it has been hurt a bit in all the recent rash of movies with twist endings (which makes it seem less original).  With the horrors of the shooting at The Dark Knight Rises, it is a bit hard to watch without thinking about that massacre which could be hard for some viewers.  While it reflects the tragedy in Colorado in some ways, the movie essentially looks at the idea of people imitating events in movies when reality for the mentally unstable blurs…which is a dangerous subject.  Anguish might be hard to find and hard to watch for some, but it is worth seeing if you do come across it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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