99.9 (1997)
By: Liam Ronan on May 17, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Urban Vision/Ciudad (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (Non-anamorphic). Spanish 2.0. English Subtitles. 110 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Augustin Villaronga
Starring: Maria Barranco, Terele Pavez, Angel de Andres Lopez, Ruth Gabriel, Simón Andreu
Screenplay: Lourdes Iglesias, Jesus Regueria, Augustin Villaronga
Country: Spain
AKA: 99.9 - La Frecuencia del Terror
Given the disturbing nature of his earlier In A Glass Cage, it's no surprise that Augustin Villaronga's sublime 99.9 manages to get deep under your skin from the very start.

Radio host Lara (Pedro Almodovar regular Maria Barranco) receives word that her former lover has been found naked and gruesomely impaled on cemetery railings in a village somewhere deep in the Spanish countryside. When she learns that he was conducting experiments in contacting the souls of the dead, she sets out to investigate the circumstances surrounding his strange death.

Hostile villagers try to convince her to leave, but despite this Lara discovers an old farmhouse where the research was carried out - a ruin where a massacre once took place and the walls are daubed with what appear to be the screaming faces of the dead. As the mystery deepens, Lara starts to fear for her life. Was her lover the victim of something supernatural, or was he murdered by human hands?

Drenched in atmosphere and saturated with a deep sense of impending doom similar to Pupi Avati's The House With The Laughing Windows, 99.9 is a taut, suspenseful thriller that cleverly never firmly answers all of the questions it poses. The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe of The Others fame succeeds in turning the beautiful sierras of Jaen, Andalusia into a haunted, hostile landscape of tumbledown villas and decomposing farmhouses. The acting is particularly strong and helps Villaronga to craft an utterly convincing slice of rural Hispanic gothica. And when the violence comes, it arrives with a nasty, sadistic streak a mile wide, which is always a good thing.

Useless trivia: The film's title refers to a radio station frequency, but according to the director it also represents the (inverted) number of the beast.
Unfortunately, the transfer appears to have been taken from a VHS master and is speckled with faults, although these quickly fall away as the film unfolds. I soon found myself ignoring this disappointing aspect once the quality of the filmmaking kicked in, but I can only hope that a future release gives this movie the treatment it really deserves.
Not specified, but it appears to be a strong Stereo Spanish language track. There's no overly discernible hiss despite large portions of the film taking place in near total silence. The non-removable English subtitles are also clearly defined.
Extra Features
A brief Making Of in Spanish without English subtitles, a selection of trailers and web links.
The Verdict
99.9 is a chilling exercise in dread and atmosphere that takes its time in setting you up for a vicious finale, but is never anything less than utterly absorbing. Watch it with the lights out.
Movie Score
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