Various aspects of motherhood have been examined through the lens of horror since the ’50s because being a mom isn’t an easy job. The past couple of years have seen an uptick in this subgenre of sorts, with storytellers looking at how the concept of parenting is evolving across the economic spectrum. Unwelcome saw Hannah John-Kamen going up against goblins and rude Irish people in order to protect her newly born baby. In Huesera: The Bone Woman, Natalia Solián showcased the downside of conforming to patriarchal norms while being a queer woman. M3GAN imagined a future in which kids will probably be looked after by A.I.-driven “toys.” With Clock, Dianna Agron delved into the kind of pressure society places on a woman for not wanting to have a child. The amazing Noémie Merlant tackled the topic of postpartum depression in Baby Ruby. Alyssa Sutherland expressed her motherly frustrations through a demonic entity in Evil Dead Rise. And now, Tin & Tina seeks to explore the junction at which religion, adoption, sexism, and the act of being a mother collide.
Tin & Tina opens with Lola and Adolfo’s marriage. Right after they exit the church to be cheered on by their friends and families, Lola suffers a miscarriage, and the doctor says that she is never going to have a child again. The narrative jumps forward in time by six months, and we see Adolfo requesting Lola to look past the unfortunate event and make an attempt to regain some form of normalcy. He promises that he’ll do anything to make her happy, and when she asks him to take her back to their hometown, he refuses and essentially orders her to stay in his ancestral home. After a few days of deliberation, Adolfo and Lola decide to visit the nearby convent and see if they can adopt someone. While Adolfo gets busy negotiating the terms of the process with Sister Asunción, Lola finds herself entranced by the titular twin’s work on the organ. Although anyone will be scared after looking at the two spawns of Satan, Lola sees it as an opportunity to inject love into her life again, as well as that of Tin and Tina. All she gets, though, is pain, suffering, and death.
Based on his own short film, Rubin Stein is trying to talk about the dark (maybe the darkest) side of religion in Tin & Tina. Through Lola, Adolfo, Tin, and Tina, Stein shows that religious indoctrination can start at a very early age, so that it can be perceived as a very normal aspect of our lives. If the process is strict, nobody questions it. If the process isn’t all that dictatorial in nature, the evidence pointing toward the absence of an omnipotent being starts to add up, and one’s journey toward atheism begins. Now, although atheism involves holding oneself accountable instead of blaming things on the “almighty,” when the going gets tough, and the losses start to outnumber the wins, religion tends to creep back into one’s life. And, in this case, it’s represented by the twins. Stein’s influences (Orphan, The Omen, and The Shining) are obvious, but he manages to lend a sense of originality to his story through the conversations about faith and a woman’s role in a family. A lot of it can seem infuriating, especially all the sexist stuff that Adolfo says and does. But it’s important to look at it and realize that men in this day and age are still echoing sentiments from the ’80s, and hence, they should be avoided like the plague.
From the first frame to the last, Tin & Tina is a visual treat. Along with cinematographer Alejandro Espadero and editor Nacho Ruiz Capillas, Stein never leaves an opportunity to conjure an image that’ll be seared into your brain—and not in a good way. For example, there’s a parallel drawn between the food fight involving red jam and the aftermath of something truly horrendous that the kids do. That’s followed by a series of three match cuts to show Lola going from grieving to burying and then erasing the memory of a particularly traumatic moment. Stein uses a match cut, as Lola recovers from a weird game developed by the demonic twins, to relay the fact that even though the moment has technically passed, Lola is still stuck in it because she thinks she has made a mistake by adopting the kids. Stein also maintains a level of ambiguity and tension by never revealing too much information to the audience. He trusts the viewer’s observational skills to understand what he’s setting up. However, the payoff isn’t always explicit in nature, thereby forcing you to imagine the heinousness of the outcome. And although the concluding pseudo-oner is incredibly impressive, the “baptism” sequence is what made me shut my eyes because that’s how terrified I was.
The performances from the cast of Tin & Tina are a slam dunk. Fans of Money Heist must’ve immediately recognized Jaime Lorente. He perfectly straddles the line between being a “good husband” and the worst husband in existence. He throws every “nice guy” cliche at Lola in such an organic way that it should send shivers down the spine of everyone who encounters a version of Adolfo every day without even realizing it. Milena Smit is clearly channeling Mia Farrow, Shelley Duvall, and maybe even a little bit of Vera Farmiga. But, much like the subtlety of Rubin’s influences, Smit manages to make Lola a fully fleshed-out character who is going through a roller-coaster ride. Her anxieties, her exhaustion, and the gradual decline of her humanity are so palpable that you can’t help but scream at your small screen and tell her to abandon everything and restart her life by settling down in her hometown, just like she wants to. With all that said, the stars of the movie are Carlos González Morollón and Anastasia Russo. They are too good. Everything from the way they look to the way they smile is insanely eerie. At no point in the film does it seem like they’re putting on an act. Their actions always seem to stem from their unwavering, albeit skewed, belief in God. And if they can be this convincing at such a young age, I can’t wait to see them evolve as actors.
In conclusion, Tin & Tina is one of the best horror films of 2023. Despite being set in the 1980s, it speaks to the generations of people who are fighting patriarchy and rejecting all the rules and regulations that come with marriage. Due to the dwindling economy and volatile political atmosphere (something that’s hinted at in the movie as well), folks are starting to prioritize themselves instead of pushing the next generation into an uncertain future. Of course, those who are taking these decisions for their personal well-being are facing all kinds of pushback from regressive people who want everyone to suffer just like they have. However, if you watch all the aforementioned movies and then watch Tin & Tina, there’s a healthy chance that you’re going to permanently unsubscribe from the notion of marrying immature men and having kids with them. As a bonus gift, you’ll probably say goodbye to religion as well. And since all this is the need of the hour, I highly recommend watching the Rubin Stein feature film on Netflix and sharing your thoughts on it with us.