Not every new movie that drops on Netflix becomes an instant hit, but The Paramedic, a Spanish psychological horror, has quickly landed in Top 10 most-watched films list on the streaming service, currently sitting at #4 on the US chart. It follows Ángel, the titular first responder who loses the ability to walk after his ambulance is in a collision and becomes reliant on his partner Vane to get by, with his bitterness and paranoia growing with each day until he can no longer contain it.
Most of the time when a movie involves a descent into paranoia, it develops gradually from some instigating moment, but the 15 minutes of the film prior to Ángel’s crippling paint him as a thoroughly unpleasant individual. He’s dismissive and belittling of Vane, spies on her phone, demands to know her every movement and suggests her inability to get pregnant is entirely her fault. His revolting actions also extend to his professional life, keeping a locked up collection of mementos from deadly accidents he has attended and pawning valuable items pilfered from people’s homes.
The only change to his personality that the anger over his predicament causes is no longer feeling the need to hide his sociopathic contempt for other people. He perceives everyone around him as out to get him in some way, as though their refusing to accede to his every demand is done out of spite. As his embitterment grows, his need to take out his frustrations on those closest to him intensifies, until his spying on Vane leads to him being convinced she’s having an affair, with predictable results.
Despite Ángel’s predicament, it’s impossible to feel any empathy for him, as the isolation he endures is entirely his own fault for his appalling personality. The only one you sympathize with is Vane, who for some reason sticks by this pathetic excuse for a human being long after anyone else would have given up.
The Paramedic is uncomfortable viewing, no doubt, but the gradual crescendoing of its insidious tone results in something utterly compelling. Foreign films often have trouble finding an audience in the US that English language offerings don’t, with the “one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles” usually proving too much for people to traverse, but this movie, in all its odious darkness, seems to have overcome that.