The chapter “Narciso Ibañez-Serrador, Horrormeister” by Antonio Lazaro-Reboll is a detailed analysis of Ibañez-Serrador’s horror production specifically for television. The author focuses on two films by Serrador – La residencia / The Finishing School and ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? / Who Can Kill a Child? The author starts by highlighting a research gap in the current journalistic approaches to the works by Serrador by noting that the available literature offers a general overview of this filmmaker’s television career and cinematic output. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to fill this gap and address Serrador’s key role in the history of Spanish horror movies by highlighting how he created the right atmosphere for this film genre to become popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
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The author focuses on three major threads in this chapter. The first one discusses the relationship of Serrador’s horror genre production specifically for television and film or simply international horror traditions. The second thread focuses on how Serrador’s works became the guise through which critics would start addressing other issues surrounding the cultural status and together with the quality of Spanish television and cinema. This pretext led to critical notions including cultural esteem, respectability, quality TV and cinema, institutional policies, television and film criticism, and taste and distaste regarding industrial production. Finally, the chapter considers how Alfred Hitchcock, who is termed as the master of suspense par excellence, became a model through which Serrador would use to introduce himself to Spanish television and audiences. Lazaro-Reboll also explores how Hitchcock became the decisive yardstick through which critics reviewed Serrador’s works of film. The chapter ends with 22 notes, which the author uses to expound some of the issues mentioned in his writing.
One of the strengths of this chapter is how the author condenses information in the first paragraph to give the reader an overview of what to be expected. While the opening paragraph is not titled “abstract” as it should, it gives a concise summary of the entire chapter. As such, by going through this section, the reader could grasp the main ideas and thus decide whether to continue reading the rest of the chapter. Additionally, the author opens by indicating a gap in the current literature concerning Ibañez-Serrador’s works and specifically his contribution to the development and popularization of horror movies in Spanish cinema. In academic terms, this approach would be termed as identifying gaps in research. Lazaro-Reboll also gives a statement of purpose by stating clearly what he intends to do in the chapter. He says,
This chapter provides a detailed analysis of Ibañez-Serrador’s horror production made for television and his two forays into film, La residencia / The Finishing School and ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? and appraises how the director’s work legitimated a popular taste in horror which was formative for generations of Spanish television audiences (Lazaro-Reboll 97).
Additionally, the paper is divided into different sub-sections with each part labeled with a clear heading for the reader to follow through what the author is writing about. The chapter is also written in simple language that can be understood by a wide variety of audiences. Anyone interested in knowing the history of Spanish horror movies and the role that Ibañez-Serrador played in the popularization of this genre can read and understand this chapter. The author also uses numerous references to support his claims. This aspect improves the credibility of the arguments made and the general outlook of the chapter. Different horror movies are also referenced as proof of the author’s claims.
Another strength of this chapter is the correct presentation of ideas especially when analyzing the movie ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? / Who Can Kill a Child? Lazaro-Reboll gives a precise synopsis of the movie by highlighting major events that occurred. For instance, in the movie, children have become violent and killed all adults on the island. The author captures all the details surrounding this event. For instance, in one of the lines he says, “Tom witnesses a girl bludgeoning an old man to death and the macabre game the children play with the corpse” (Lazaro-Reboll 117). Anyone who has watched the movie will attest that this narration is a true account of the events happening in the film. The author also gives a detailed account of the scene where Tom kills children before he is shot by a Spanish policeman on boat patrol. Lazaro-Reboll explores the controversies created by this film after it was released and gives primary references on how Ibañez-Serrador responded to such criticisms. Therefore, the chapter is easy to read and being supported with numerous primary references, it comes out as credible writing.
The first noticeable weakness of this chapter is the extensive use of the Spanish language. For a start, the title is written in Spanish – “Narciso Ibañez-Serrador, Horrormeister: Historias Para No Dormir (1966-8), La residencia (1969) and ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (1976). Additionally, the subtopics are also written in Spanish. Therefore, a reader who does not understand this language might not understand fully the information that the author intends to put across.
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The main purpose of communication is to pass information, and if this goal is not achieved, communication cannot be said to have taken place. In this case, Lazaro-Reboll does not communicate clearly to his non-Spanish speaking audience. Second, while the author uses numerous references within the text, he does not provide a list of references at the end of the chapter. Therefore, if the reader wants to confirm a certain claim made in the text, it becomes difficult to trace the source that has been used to support such an argument. Third, the images used in chapter are in blurred black and white color, which is not appealing to the eyes. They may not add any meaning to the text, which negates the purpose of their usage in the first place.
In the chapter, Narciso Ibañez-Serrador, Horrormeister”, Antonio Lazaro-Reboll, the author, gives a detailed account of how Narciso Ibañez-Serrador contributed significantly to the development and popularization of horror movies in Spanish cinema. However, the journalistic approach towards this matter tend to generalize Serrador’s achievements, and thus the author seeks to fill this gap in the available literature. Two movies – La residencia and ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? are used to show how Serrador shaped the course of Spanish horror film industry. The chapter’s strengths lie in the usage of simple language and organization of different subsections to allow an uninterrupted flow of ideas. However, the author overuses the Spanish language, which might not be ideal for English-speaking audiences.
Lazaro-Reboll, Antonio. “Narciso Ibañez-Serrador, Horrormeister.” Spanish Horror Film. Edinburgh University Press, 2012, pp. 97-126.
Who Can Kill a Child? Directed by Narciso Ibañez-Serrador, performances by Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome, Penta Films, 1976.