The Spanish psychological horror called The Wasteland, had its world release in 2021 under the title, The Beast. The film directed by David Casademunt was released on Netflix in 2022. From the outset, you know it is not going to be a comfortable watch.
The Wasteland is that kind of film where horrors originate from fear and trepidation that is deep-rooted inside your subconscious, rather than embodying it. You cannot help but admire the production design, which contributes to the morose and gloomy atmospherics and creates a world that is devoid of any colors or brightness. The setting of a barren land and a dilapidated house, makes you restless and uneasy. When I say that the house was in a dilapidated condition, I do not mean that it was in a bad architectural shape. The house was fully functional, but it gave that rotten and decayed feeling. It felt as if the place had been abraded from all the warmth of the world.
Balter Gallart, the production designer, and the art director, Marc Pau, have ironically created a metaphysical fear through material reality. It is similar to the fear that the whole world felt during the pandemic.
‘The Wasteland’ Synopsis
Salvador (Roberto Alamo) lives with his wife, Lucia (Inma Cuesta) and his young boy, Diego (Asier Flores), in an isolated and desolate cottage. Salvador has strict rules, and not following them could have serious implications. There are boundaries beyond which nobody can go. Diego is inquisitive most of the time and often asks his parents about why he cannot go beyond the borders. Salvador tells him that a beast resides beyond the log pillars that he has put to mark the safe limits. Salvador wants his son to be ready for the challenges. He has a typical masculine of doing that. Lucia argues with her husband to take a more tender approach. She often cuts him in between when she feels that the life lessons are becoming too real and horrific for the innocent child.
An unforeseen visitor comes floating on a boat through the nearby water body. This bloodied visitor lies unconscious, and Salvador takes him into his shelter to treat his wounds. His body healed in quick time, but his mind was still scarred, and he had completely lost the will to live. He shoots himself, and Salvador feels morally obliged to go and find his family and give them the news. Lucia and Diego are left to fend for themselves. They believe that Salvador will be back in a couple of days, but things do not go as they had planned.
Was the Beast Real?
The Wasteland is a slow burn and the director, David Casademunt, wants us to feel the transition where a woman who always had a nonchalant attitude, even if it was only on the ulterior, starts becoming more and more perturbed internally every passing day. The wait gets the better of her. Diego sees this change happening. He believes in his mother but, deep down, knows that she is becoming her own enemy. His mother’s vulnerabilities push him into a state of dilemma. One moment his sense prevails, but the other moment his prudence is swept away by the affection and love he holds for his mother.
Lucia ends up firing multiple rounds from her shotgun as she sees a beast lurking around. Diego never sees it in the starting. He was dubious about the fact that his mother is actually seeing something or all of it is just a figment of imagination created by her unstable mind.
The beast that the family saw was actually a personification of the fear and anxiety that an individual had. Diego never saw it in the starting because he did not give in to the anxiety, whereas Lucia had, due to Salvador not returning on time. But slowly, Diego too started feeling the presence of a supernatural creature only because he believed in his mother. He was still at an age where he could be coerced into believing something. And this was no stranger; it was his own mother who was influencing him. So her actions eventually create that apprehension in his mind.
‘The Wasteland’ Ending Explained: Is The Beast Still Alive?
According to the lore discussed in the film, Salvador’s sister also saw this beast, due to which she committed suicide. Diego feared the same for his mother. But it is also revealed that the sister was abused by her parents. Salvador’s sister was perpetually depressed. It is hinted that it was her mental state that led her to commit suicide and not a monster.
Diego experiences a feeling of consternation, seeing the condition of his mother depreciate every passing day. He sees her walking towards death. He is helpless and also unprepared to face the world all by himself.
In the end scene, we see him standing alone in the river and immersing his mother’s dead body. It’s a harrowing sight to see a young child doing that. From the reflection of his gleaming eyes, we see the beast still standing near Diego. He looks at his hands to find similar scars like his father had. Maybe Salvador always saw the beast but knew that he could not give in to the fear and let it take over his life. Diego, following the footprints of his father, goes back to his house.
Today, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis called Covid-19, and I couldn’t help but relate The Wasteland to contemporary times. The fear of an enemy that could not be seen, the anticipation of the unknown, the claustrophobia of not being able to move out, the uncertainty of life itself were a few aspects that the film had in common with the present times.
The sight of a child orphaned by a calamity took me back to those several newspaper articles which described the plight of the children whose parents didn’t survive the wrath of Covid-19. Imagine a child who is neither too small to forget the horrors nor too big to deal with them. It led me into thinking about the psychology of a child who was born during quarantine. What impact does it have on you when you have always lived in closed walls, and you believe that this is what life looks like because you have never seen what lies outside.
The film starts on a promising note but eventually loses its grip. But still, it leaves you with a lot to ponder upon.
The Wasteland (or The Beast) is a 2021 Spanish Psychological Horror film directed by David Casademunt. It is streaming on Netflix.