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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

The Phantom Of The Sauna *

Starring: Antonia San Juan, Nestor Goenaga, Martin Spinola, Pablo Liñares

Director: Luis Navarette

Country: Spain

Just when you thought Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera was the definitive musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s classic novel, a Spanish musical entitled The Phantom Of The Saunacomes along and proves that you were right all along!

When homeless sex-worker Javi (Goenaga) arrives at a sauna in Madrid, its owner (San Juan) and her son (Liñares) take him in, offering a room to sleep in and work within their establishment. There he meets many of its colourful customers, as well as the mysterious phantom (Spinola) that haunts its darkened corridors.

A musical in which none of its musical numbers actually advance its plot, this is a camp little oddity that fails on all counts to amuse or entertain. While there’s nothing wrong with characters breaking into song - we all love a good musical, right? - the songs here serve solely as introspective navel-gazing so that the characters can really wallow in their feelings. Subsequently all the songs are dour and downbeat, which is sadly quite boring.

Of course the result of relocating the plot of a classic horror from the Opera Garnier to a gay sauna was always going to be ridiculous, but there are elements that just go far too far. The very notion that there are rooms that staff have never entered is just absurd, because somewhere in those darkened halls is the home of the phantom and the lair of a sadistic Count! The phantom is masked, but this isn’t due to a problem with his face but instead thanks to a lost testicle… I mean the director is scraping the barrel to try and make this idea work. The jokes are crude and the script just bogged down with the kind of toilet-humour that the LGBT+ community haven’t found funny since 2004.

This is the kind of idea that feels like it was written on a napkin at 3am after bottles of wine and a gram. It’s utterly ridiculous, where even its best elements - a Greek chorus of drag queens, for example - are ruined by overuse. Once the novelty of its concept wears off, this is a badly executed and boring movie that tries desperately for camp but succeeds only in creating stupid.

UK Release: 28th November 2022 on VOD and DVD, released by TLA Releasing


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