The Spirit of the Beehive is the kind of film that Guillermo del Toro would direct. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it follows a pair of sisters (Ana and Isabel) who are bewildered by James Whale's Frankenstein. After the classic horror film is screened in the local town hall, the girls search for Dr. Frankenstein's creation. This is a coming-of-age story that uses a beekeeper and his apiary as allegories for Ana's curiosity and the stress that the war puts on her family. I was prepared to fall for this subtle abstraction, but it was too artsy for my liking.
Let me get one thing straight; I appreciate visual metaphors. I don't need everything spelled out for me, but Beehive is just too self-indulgent. The dialogue is sparse, the pace is stilted, and most of the imagery feels vague and random. Writer/director Victor Erise tries to entice the viewer with cryptic clues and eerie shadows, but I wasn't in the mood for a brain-teaser. The script doesn't have a hook. It's a damn shame because the premise is so compelling. Conceptually, this is a precursor to The Orphanage and The Devil's Backbone without the supernatural elements.
The Spirit of the Beehive contains one scene that could be construed as "horror-ish," but it's out of place. Maybe I'm dense, but I wasn't able to connect the dots with this flick's hazy story arc. All I got out of it was, "Frankenstein is a great movie." Speaking of which, Frankenstein is a great movie. Watch that instead.