Anguish 1987


Directed by Bigas Luna Treasures

Midnight screenings make a triumphant return, with a 35mm presentation of Bigas Luna’s cult horror-comedy classic, about an ophthalmologist serial killer with a penchant for collecting eyeballs. Brace yourself for a ride like no other.

Aug 16

Hollywood Avondale

Spain In English
89 minutes 35mm / Colour

Director, Screenplay


Pepon Coromina


J. M. Civit


Tom Sabin

Production Designer

Felipe de Paco

Costume Designer

Consol Tura


J. M. Pagan


Zelda Rubinstein, Michael Lerner, Talia Paul, Angel Jove, Clara Pastor, Isabel Garcia Lorca


The midnight screening – once a staple of cinema going; a mecca for late-night naughtiness and witching hour antics – is now practically unheard of in New Zealand. This year, we’re bringing this sacred cinematic ritual roaring back into Aotearoa in lurid and gory style with this screening of the cult classic horror film from Spanish iconoclast Bigas Luna. With a 35mm print directly sourced from the Hollywood Avondale’s vault, Anguish will be like no other cinema experience you’ll have this year.  

A warning opens Anguish, that reads: “During the film you are about to see, you will be subject to subliminal messages and mild hypnosis. This will cause you no physical harm or lasting effect, but if for any reason you lose control or feel that your mind is leaving your body – leave the auditorium immediately.” Suffice to say, this perverse slasher has more on its mind than simple bloodletting (though there’s plenty of that, too). Coen brothers regular and beloved character actor Michael Lerner stars as a tortured ophthalmologist with a sadistic obsession for gathering eyeballs for his mother (Poltergeist series’ Zelda Rubinstein), who collects and displays them. Things take a turn for the demented when reality starts to blur between the fabric of the film, and the fabric of the audience’s reality. What is the truth, and who is watching whom after all?

Gruesome, frightening and totally bananas, Anguish deftly mixes comedy, eroticism and primal terror, drawing on giallo-style gore and splashes of colour, and going gleefully meta in its interrogation of voyeurism and the act of watching. Luna, a flamboyant stylist perhaps best known for his sweltering, erotic Jamón Jamón, is at his most outlandish and disturbing here, crafting a horror that evokes that other great auteur of style and suspense, Brian De Palma.  

One can see the influence of Anguish in the late-night, unnerving absurdism of Adult Swim horror-comedy, and like the best of that ilk, Anguish is a cult item in the truest sense – a film designed to exist on the fringes, catering to those bold and twisted enough to appreciate its go-for-broke dream logic and bizarro film-within-a-film twists and turns. Renowned for a mid-film narrative gearshift of tectonic proportions, whatever you may think Anguish is going to be as the movie flickers to life, prepare for something else entirely. And be warned: serial killers don’t just exist in the movies. In fact, they could be sitting right next to you. — Tom Augustine