‘El Cuco’: A claustrophobic thriller in the heart of the Black Forest


‘El Cuco’ is Mar Targarona’s latest proposal as a director after having produced ‘The Orphanage’, ‘Julia’s Eyes’ and ‘El Páramo’ and having directed other titles such as ‘The Photographer of Mauthausen’ and ‘Two’. With a script by Roger Danès and Alfred Pérez Fargas, regular collaborators of Targarona, she presents us A fantastic thriller in which a couple trying to save their relationship becomes involved in the sinister plans of a retired couple.

The film presents us from its beginning to cuckoo bird as a representation of the story that we will see below. Not only the animal, which lays its eggs in other people’s nests and whose young leave the rest to receive all the care, a metaphor already seen in other films such as ‘Vivarium’, but also to the cuckoo clock, originating from the Black Forest (place where the film is set) and which represents the passage of time as an unstoppable compass in the lives of the characters. With this premise we begin to intuit the themes of the film: the passage of time, change and the invasion of the nest.

'The Cuckoo'

In this case more than an invasion it begins as an exchange, in which Marc and Anna (played by the wonderful Jorge Suquet and Belén Cuesta), who are expecting a baby, offer their apartment in Barcelona to the retired couple Hans and Olga (Rainer Reiners and Hildegard Schroedter). In exchange, they will be able to enjoy their impressive house in the heart of the Black Forest in Germany to spend a few days of rest before the birth of the baby, also trying to give their relationship a boost.

Scary, but not dark

The film is presented more as a thriller than as a horror title itself, although it does have certain moments that are intended to scare the viewer. What is notable is the decision that Targarona makes to completely illuminate most of the rooms in which the events take place, fleeing from dark corridors and ghostly shadows to give way to something more realistic. Despite having a completely supernatural plot point, it almost manages to make us believe that what we see could actually happen.

'The Cuckoo'

‘El Cuco’ therefore presents a home invasion, but also another much more intimate one: that of the body itself. It is a film that does not resort to ‘body horror’, but nevertheless manages to be even more uncomfortable by making us empathize with its protagonists. You can’t help but wonder: What if this happened to me?

A somewhat forced plot

The film presents us with an interesting idea from the first moment and it is the suspense and the desire to discover the mystery that hooks us until the end, although it is true that You can see the seams in the script on quite a few occasions.. The dialogues are perhaps too necessary for the understanding of the plot, making certain ‘plot twists’ that are intended to surprise us obvious.

'The Cuckoo'

Despite these flaws, the plot works largely because of the very clear motivation of its antagonists and the horror that both Suquet and Cuesta know how to express, especially highlighting the actress’s performancewhich will distress all pregnant women who go to the cinema to see it.

Therefore, the distribution It is another of the great points in favor of ‘El Cuco’: both protagonists convincingly present us with a role that is not easy to play and the evolution of their characters is taken care of in detail. The German actors, Reiners and Schroedter, know how to save the excessively exaggerated personality of its characters, and she also offers us her best moments in the last third of the film. We also have Chacha Huang in the role of Lili, adopted daughter of Hans and Olga, a somewhat disconcerting character but that also manages to surprise us as the film progresses.

Despite the evolution of these characters, the final act Maybe it goes on too long and loses some steam, so the last scenes don’t have the same impact on us. Even so, in this section we appreciate Targarona’s intention to offer something different from what we usually see in these films and to commit to his proposal until the last second without getting carried away by the cliché.

‘The Cuckoo’ is a story of sacrifices, a struggle between old age and eternal youth, with motherhood as opposition to the unstoppable passage of time. A simple but entertaining thriller that stands out mainly for How horrible the idea is that it could come true.


The best: Horror manages to be realistic because we empathize with the characters.

Worst: Some points are very predictable and the dialogue is sometimes forced.

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