The idea goes that bedtime stories are supposed to lull us to sleep with feelings of fancy and wonder. Likewise, the feeling is that we are never safer from harm than when we are nestled warm in our own beds. The truth though, is that within those bedtime stories are traces of violence and dread…and sometimes our own beds are closer to danger than we fully realize.

SHREW’S NEST is the tale of two sisters. The older of the two is agoraphobic, and can never leave the family flat. The younger has just turned eighteen-years-old as the story begins, and is becoming more and more curious about the outside world. However, her older sister isn’t about to let her venture further from the nest without a fight…for reasons that seem primarily her own.

Into this fraying relationship drops Carlos – the women’s upstairs neighbour. Claiming to have fallen down some stairs, he pounds on their flat door in a panic. When the older sister drags him into the flat, she offers to treat his badly broken leg. However, when her younger sister checks in on Carlos, something doesn’t seem right. It seems as though her sister is treating Carlos for her benefit, not his…and no matter how virtuous a life her sister lives, she always seems to have the demeanour of a sinner.

This film hangs on some glorious performances by two extremely talented actresses. As the elder sister, Macarena Gómez seems haunted and weathered beyond her years. She is 40-going-on-75 in this story, and absolutely embodies the soul of a woman afraid of what’s outside her front door. She is both emotionally and physically frozen by the world that awaits her just steps away from her stoop, and has chosen instead to burrow deeper into the shrew’s nest she has built inside her front door.

The yin to her yang is Nadia de Santiago as the younger sister. She has clearly had enough of being kept within the nest and wants to venture out into the wild. What’s more, we can see that she is of the age where she won’t stand to be mothered by someone who isn’t her mother. There is defiance behind those bright eyes, and in many ways Carlos seems to be a vehicle for that defiance. But Does she have the fortitude of her older sister?

SHREW’S NEST is macabre. It’s a film awash in high-key tones, which leave us all the more disturbed when we see them get splattered blood-red. It reminds one of the darkness interwoven into our faery tales; like how a Queen wanted Snow White’s heart ripped out, and Cinderella’s sisters hacked at their own feet to make them fit the glass slipper. It understands just how much something beautiful can come from something grisly.

Deep in the film’s marrow is a sense of Catholic guilt, and a desire to atone. What we’re given is a story where sin begets more sin, and every horrible act just leads to another horrible act. It leaves us begging for an end to the tragic tale, but gutted by the fact that the end may only be a new beginning.

We can close the book on a bedtime story like this, but it doesn’t end. It keeps being told…and retold…and retold…