This is what Jesús and María — a couple with a strained marriage and a new-born son — quickly discover in The Coffee Table (or La Mesita del Comedor). The salesman (played by Eduardo Antuña in an effortlessly farcical performance) assures them that the table will bring them happiness, and that its glass is unbreakable. Despite María’s aversion to the object, Jesús is already sold. But when he trips over the table before a dinner party — shattering the glass and decapitating his baby with it in the process — a symbol of petty defiance transforms into a spiralling, irreversible nightmare.

That’s The Coffee Table. And the simplicity of its narrative arc is undeniably its biggest strength, allowing the script’s jet-black humour to work its absurd wizardry. The issue is, while Antuña, alongside David Pareja and Estefanía de los Santos, carry this tragicomedy with their ludicrous, heartbreaking performances, it feels like Casas is dragging out what could have been a pitch-perfect short film to reach the 90-minute mark. Yes, it could be argued those minutes are all needed to build tension and torture the audience as much as the characters. Yet, with a lack of dark twists beyond the plot’s premise, it starts to feel like an awfully long wait to reach the story’s inevitable (yet still morbidly satisfying) end.

The Coffee Table may be a flawed experiment, but it still showcases the bottomless depth of the horror genre — anything from a coffee table, to a button (Drag Me to Hell), a mattress (Death Bed: The Bed That Eats) or even a Plymouth Fury (Christine) can be reimagined into plot devices to horrify us. Is that ridiculous? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be celebrated. Because if we can make a picture about a coffee table, the possibilities are truly endless.

David Pareja
Estefanía de los Santos
Eduardo Antuña

Caye Casas

Caye Casas
Cristina Borobia

20 May 2024

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.