Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Tin and Tina’ on Netflix, a Spanish Horror Flick About Disturbing Orphan Twins Who Are Religious to a Glaring Fault
Tin and Tina (now on Netflix) is a Spanish horror film about little orphan fraternal twins who love God so much they seem capable of doing anything to show it. Anything! That includes – well, I won’t give it away, but the words “Spanish horror film” should give you enough of an inkling that this could be a pretty grim outing, maybe the grimmest since, I dunno, The Pope’s Exorcist? Let’s find out.
The Gist: Let’s get one thing straight: We meet Adolfo (Jaime Lorente) and Lola (Milena Smit) on their wedding day, and “Lola” isn’t her full name. Per the adjudicator of the wedding, her real name is Maria de los Dolores, which translates roughly to “Maria of the Pains.” And that’s “pains” as in “suffering” and “ouch” and “ugh dammit” and all the things associated with such things. And her dolores start right away, possibly when she looks up at Jesus on the cross during the ceremony, but definitely after. They’re behind the church doors freshly married and everyone’s waiting outside for them to emerge, and this is when we learn she’s pregnant with twins. They walk out to their family and friends and they don’t cheer. They gasp. A streak of blood from her abdomen stains her wedding dress. Cut to the hospital: She awakens and looks up and above the bed is Jesus looking down from his damn cross again, but from this angle, he’s upside-down, which I think is what you call a sign. A harbinger. Or, in the vernacular of storytelling, foreshadowing. The nurse and Adolfo come in and the news is terrible. She miscarried and it did enough damage that she’ll never bear children. Jesus strikes again!
Six months go by, and we know this because Adolfo says “It’s been six months” when he comes into the room where Lola is depressed and taking prescription drugs. You can’t help but empathize. It’s awful. Her dreams of raising a family are smashed and she feels lost and there’s only one thing dumbass movies can do in this serious situation, and that’s offer a solution that’s dubious from the get-go: Go down to the local convent and adopt whatever’s available. Adolfo and Lola meet with Sr. Asuncion (Teresa Rabal), who goes everywhere in her damn bare feet. She takes in all the local unwanted children, and she suggests twins who were abandoned at the convent door at a few weeks old. They’re Tin (Carolos G. Morollon) and Tina (Anastasia Russo), fraternals with albinism – and godawful bangs and bowl cuts. I mean, it’s 1981, but that’s no excuse for making children look so hideous. Adolfo thinks they’re a little too odd but Lola asserts that they’re just kids and need love. Lola is a good person.
But! Lola is also not religious. Does that make her less than a good person? This movie might be saying that, but it also might not, because I’m not sure this movie knows what it wants to be saying. Anyway, whether she lost her faith in the wake of her misfortune or never really had it isn’t certain. It’s just crucial for this movie that she be quite the skeptic these days, which clashes mightily with the two children she just adopted from a convent where they learned the bible, the bible and the bible, in that specific order, and not much else. They hang up crucifixes everywhere, gift her a rosary and Adolfo a crown of thorns (OK then!), make sure they say grace before meals, go on about “the exterminating angel,” practically beg for punishment when they sin, etc. Frankly shoulda called Ned Flanders for this pair. They’ve never seen a TV and the family dog, Kuki, must smell something bad about them, because he just barks at them. Remember, THEY’RE JUST CHILDREN. They can’t help that they’re creepy and off-putting. And sometimes very sweet and happy, except when Tina suffocates Tin with a plastic bag so he can “see God,” and even then, that’s just one of their quirks I guess? Then one fateful night, they decide the dog needs to be dissected and, well, no spoilers. But I hope Adolfo and Lola kept the receipt!
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Let’s see, it brings to mind Goodnight Mommy, The Shining, Dead Ringers, Twins – am I forgetting any creepy-twins movies? – crossed with Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodly and/or Homer the Heretic.
Performance Worth Watching: I dunno, I feel like Smit could stir up some complex feelings about motherhood in a movie that didn’t keep asking her to be a ridiculous person resistant to common-sense measures.
Memorable Dialogue: “They’re… special children.” – Sr. Asuncion engages in understatement; the ellipsis pause is her own
Sex and Skin: None. THOU SHALT NOT FORNICATE.
Our Take: Hey, they’re just kids. And they’re just following the bible. Nothing wrong with that! Unless you’re the family dog or the school bully. But the real problem here is the nonbeliever in our midst, Lola. Or is it? Who knows! Tin and Tina is either effing with us or doesn’t have its shit together, or maybe both. One way it effs with us is with monthslong narrative leaps, which are fine in storytelling terms, but they illustrate how Adolfo and Lola simply maintain their adopted children’s hideous haircuts instead of getting out the scissors and rendering them presentable. Tin and Tina are absurdly overconceptualized as it is, and their creepy-ass fashion and mannerisms push the film from psychological horror-drama right into the middle of Campville.
But let’s stay focused here: I was talking about religion. Writer/director Rubin Stein might be criticizing rigid Catholic fundamentalism, or embracing it, who can tell; more likely, it’s just a springboard for a series of silly, predictable scenes and plot developments, ranging from miracles to blasphemy to rigid interpretations of scripture, with plenty of cliched creepy-sibling interplay that inspires more derogatory snickers than chills. Stein seems to have put the cart before the horse and crafted the plot and its ballpeen-to-the-skull “themes” before the characters, because the latter consistently function at the service of the former, and are also ceaselessly annoying. The screenplay traps Lola in a faith limbo, lets her out during a pretty wild finale – including a lengthy single-take steadicam shot that surely required significant choreography and preparation – then traps her back in it during a real eyeroller of a denouement. There’s some serious visual filmmaking happening here, but you can’t take any of this material seriously. And therein, as they say, lies the rub.
Our Call: Christ on the cross, Tin and Tina is a dumb movie. SKIP IT.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.