In the 1930s, a group of Spanish children are found to have somehow contracted a disease which makes them unable to feel pain. For the safety of the general public, they are kept locked up. Intersecting with this story, a talented doctor, David (Alex Brendemuhl) is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and while enquiring about the possibility of a bone marrow transplant, goes on a search to find out the truth behind his heritage.
Having been someone who has attended both FrightFest and LFF in the past, I have to say that location aside, there are few similarities, and even less when it comes to the films themselves. Painless is the exception which proves the rule however, it feeling like a film which legitimises its place, at least somewhat, at LFF, but would likely feel more at home with the genre heads of FrightFest, being an initially intriguing mixture of Spanish history soul searching and horror which unfortunately turns into a massive pile of bobbins by the time the closing credits roll along.
The idea of what could be done with a bunch of kids who can’t feel pain is one which is explored pretty well through the first half of the film. Doctors performing experiments and the almost inevitable entrance of Nazis is not entirely original but certainly interesting stuff and is done so with visual trickery which, while a little too CG enhanced, still impresses. It is being icky and at times, strangely beautiful; an image towards the start of a child playing with fire a particular highlight here.
It’s a shame then that the other side of the narrative for the film is something which drags everything down with it. The quest of this doctor to find his heritage is not really all that interesting. The fact we have it here in the first place makes his quest’s conclusion somewhat inevitable in concept, but in execution the result is pure unadulterated batshit insanity; our own David Hall remarked that it looked like “a cut scene from Resident Evil 5″ which is pretty much what it is and somewhat betrays the more realist approach taken to the fantastical material previously.
This mystery also highlights some poor narrative choices. Not only are there many plot holes and general questions surrounding how people know certain bits of information, and just how certain things occur in the first place, there’s a general sense that as the film goes on, it gets more interested in shocking and less so in actually saying anything. Again this is something which makes the sure-to-be-infamous ending all the worse and certainly impacts on the quality of the film as a whole.
Painless is a real disappointment, taking a promising first act and devolving into a laughable and just very silly horror-drama which would work with some audiences but just didn’t click with me at all.