Color, 1997, 124 mins. 31 secs.
Directed by Agustí Villaronga
Starring María Barranco, Terele Pávez, Ruth Gabriel, Ángel de Andrés López, Gustavo Salmerón, Simón Andreu
Cult Epics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Urban Vision (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)
Following a long break of nearly a decade, Spanish director Agustí Villaronga (In a Glass Cage, Moon Child) finally delivered his third theatrical feature with this atmospheric horror film that relies far more on suggestion and mood than his infamous debut. Sort of a precursor at times to the found footage format that would sweep the horror genre a couple of years later, it's a haunting and very spooky little film sandwiched somewhere between the classic era of Euro horror and the renaissance that made Spain a major player in the current millennium.
In the middle of the night, a terrified and naked Victor (Salmerón) flees through a cemetery at night before seeing some uncanny bubbling on stone surfaces and meeting a bloody end on a spiked fence. Cut to his ex, radio host Lara (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown's Barranco), who runs a call-in show devoted to addressing and sometimes debunking paranormal phenomena. A caller from the town of Jimena puts her on edge, as does a mysterious VHS tape she receives detailing Victor's attempts to contact souls from the beyond lurking beneath the surface of everyday reality. (There's also some brief footage of predatory animals in action, so be prepared.) Shaken by the news of Victor's demise, she decides to retrace his steps in Jimena where she encounters a strange assortment of people including sinister hotel owner Simón (The Blood Spattered Bride's Andreu) and the eccentric Dolores (Álex de la Iglesia regular Pávez), who lives with her reclusive daughter and owns the property where Victor died. With inexplicable faces turning up in walls and other baffling events turning up on a regular basis, it becomes clear that she may have stumbled into the discovery of her career and a possible end to her life.
Anyone reasonably versed in European genre film will probably think about Pupi Avati while watching this film as it shares the methodical pacing and sense of provincial dread found in films like Zeder and House with the Laughing Windows. However, it also has a more modernist sensibility with its theme of modern technology and communication being an extension of sorts from supernatural transmissions, though how that's ultimately handled may not sit well with all viewers. The film is loaded with ideas, some of which come to fruition more than others, with the path to its fairly wild potboiler ending taking a number of detours along the way.
Barely released theatrically in Spain by Sogepaq, 99.9 became a dupey fixture on the tape gray market for a while before it was given a barely watchable U.S. DVD release in 2004 (as 99.9: The Frequency of Terror) complete with burned-in subs and a fuzzy non-anamorphic transfer that would've been underwhelming even five years earlier. (Weirdly, it hasn't been on Spanish home video since the VHS days.) The Cult Epics Blu-ray and DVD combo release is such a tremendous improvement in every way it's ridiculous, looking pin-sharp and delivering a lot more entertainment here now that you can clearly see everything that's going on. The Spanish audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 or LPCM 2.0 stereo tracks with optional English subtitles; there isn't a dramatic difference between the two but to these ears the 2.0 has a bit more heft to it. The extras kick off with a 2018 video interview with Villaronga (10m10s) about the real-life origins of the story involving apparitions in walls and his approach to making horror and suspense films. (He actually only talks for a few minutes, with a lengthy film clip stuck in the middle.) A vintage making-of featurette (18m39s) is more substantial, with the cast and stars chatting at length about their approach to the project (Barranco is a big fan of In a Glass Cage!) along with a lot of behind-the-scenes footage. Also on hand is ace cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (The Others, Talk to Her), who covers his approach to the unrealistic color and lighting scheme used in the film. In a nice touch, you also get the entire score by Javier Navarette (Pan's Labyrinth) presented as a 47m12s video. Finally the disc rounds out with the trailers for In a Glass Cage and Moon Child; the first 250 orders directly from the label come with a soundtrack CD, which is also available on a less limited basis as part of a three-disc set.
Reviewed on October 9, 2021.