It is often said that the horror of exorcism was done to death. But every now and then a new project pops up that re-energizes the classic subgenre and expands the years of terror it instilled. Recently, Shudder’s The Cleansing Hour brought a modern twist to the trope, and HBO Europe’s new 30 Coins series continues that mini-resurgence with a fantastically supernatural fantasy centered around dark religious secrets and the redemption of a disgraced priest and haunted. Horror director Álex de la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, The Last Circus) directs the series and achieves with it a best career outing. 30 Coins often looks more like a big budget horror movie than a TV show in terms of aesthetic and production values. And it’s not just superb; Iglesia and co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría put together an X-Files-esque offering of weekly supernatural shenanigans that deftly blend into something much bigger and darker as the show unfolds. The horror begins when Paco (Miguel Ángel Silvestre), the mayor of a little Spanish town named Pedraza, is called away from his own inauguration. What could be so important? Well, that would be stepping into spoiler territory, but let’s just say it’s something supernatural. It’s here that we meet Elena (Megan Montaner), the friendly town vet who witnesses Pedraza’s first horror. Due to Paco’s concerns that the city will go viral for all the wrong reasons (and the questionable veracity of this strange event), we are introduced to the new local priest, Manuel Vergara (Eduard Fernández). This is just the start of a series of horrific events that plague Pedraza and are linked to Vergara’s mysterious and dangerous past.Much of the strength of 30 pieces comes from this trio of leads. Fernández does a brilliant job of balancing the pulpy archetype he gave with a level of gravity and courage to melt it down. Silvestre is utterly credible as an ambitious politician more concerned with being eligible than saving the world. But the beating heart of 30 Coins is Montaner. Elena is the embodiment of grief and loss, anchored by the determination and resilience that come with it. Her struggles with her own faith, her burgeoning horror of what she faces, and her struggle to be believed form the emotional core of the series. Despite such a set of tracks, 30 Coins also works as an ensemble piece and is peppered with impressive performance from the supporting cast. Easily the best thing about the series is that, aside from the horror, it does work. also as an Indiana Jones- style artifact quest. Instead of giant boulders and Nazis, the heroes are in a race against monsters, ghouls, and ghosts to find the titular coins, which could be the very ones Judas betrayed Jesus for. This theological and historical conundrum adds intricate, lore-rich layers to the dark horror, reframing it as an adult adventure series that also features a lot of death, bloodshed, and brutal torture. This combination is key to what has kept this reviewer addicted as Elena, Vergara, and Paco fall deeper into a dangerous rabbit hole in search of the parts.
It helps Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría get a grip on their world and its rules, no matter how fantastic they are. Their skillful interpretation of the more bizarre parts of the story makes it much easier to sink into what might otherwise have become a melodramatic or bloated exploration of religious fervor and the horrors of fanaticism. Instead, the couple creates a simplified, spooky story that is as much about the guilt and evil of humans as it is about macabre monsters. Walking that tightrope between the real and the imaginary is often what separates a good horror story from a great story, and luckily 30 plays definitely falls into the latter category. Even in the rare episode where the Monster aspect of the week might lose you, there’s the biggest mystery to be solved. Luring you into the larger spectrum of coin conspiracy and supernatural means there is always more to invest than the oft-inspired and spooky creatures our heroes come up against. Speaking of which, we have some great on-screen creations here, with the full-length pilot episode featuring some particularly gruesome beasts straight out of a Francis Bacon painting that will surely haunt your nightmares long after the credits roll. .