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“Here it is real terror, without artifice” – Caye Casas Talks The Coffee Table

5 min read
The Coffee Table

Image: © Cinephobia Releasing

The Coffee Table is set to be the feel-bad horror hit of 2024 after shocking audiences across the world during its festival run. Genre fans at the likes of  Fantastic Fest and went through a rollercoaster of nail-biting anxiety and utter despair all centred around one humble household item.

Now, it's finally time for wider audiences in the UK to witness the sheer terror of The Coffee Table as it comes to digital streaming platforms next month. Before the darkest example of pitch-black humour comes to our screens, FILMHOUNDS sat down with director Caye Casas to discuss building tension, censorship, and how he cast one particular character in the shocking film.


The Coffee Table now has a UK release date. Can you tell me how you came up with the concept of the film?

I love genre films, but few films really scare me. So I asked myself, ‘What scares me most in life?' And the answer was not ghosts, monsters, or zombies. What scares me the most is real life, a cruel destiny, the bad luck that any of us can have and the terrible things that can happen to us in life. I believe that hell exists, and it is not a place with fire and the devil, hell is what we can live if destiny is cruel.

The film is so shocking and the audience is left with this unexploded bomb in the apartment just waiting for it to go off. What was important to you in crafting the tension of the film?

One of the most important things to generate that tension is that only the protagonist and the audience know that that bomb is going to explode. Only the protagonist and the audience know what has happened, and that makes the audience suffer equally if not more than the protagonist. People wonder ‘What will happen? When will it happen? How will it end?' and that generates tension and stress. Furthermore, what happens in this story is something that can happen to all of us in real life, and that is very important to suffer much more than what you suffer in a normal horror movie. Here it is real terror, without artifice.

Despite this, the comedy of The Coffee Table works so well among its horrific moments. How did you manage to balance these elements without one overshadowing the other?

Black comedy is ‘the brand of the house' here. There is always black comedy in my stories. Although The Coffee Table is a great tragedy, I found moments for black comedy to emerge. It's like in life. Sometimes you go to a funeral, you're sad, but you find some comical situation or one that makes you laugh. And if you think about it, in my film, the darkest humorous dialogues, if you take them out of context, are normal dialogues. The typical conversations you have when you go to visit a newborn baby in this context become unbearably dark, and black humour is born.

The cast is truly tremendous in this, particularly David Pareja as Jesus. How did they get involved with the project?

I wrote this character to be played by David Pareja. I know him from my previous film Killing God. We became friends, and I knew that he was the perfect person to create this father who was so miserable that he lived the worst day of his life. When he read the script he saw that it had been written for him, and although he had a very bad time during filming and got sick, David was very comfortable with the dialogues and the character since he saw that it was tailor-made for him.

David Pareja as Jesus in The Coffee Table
Image: © Cinephobia Releasing

The young baby used at the start of the film – how did you convince someone to let their newborn star in the film after reading the script?

[Laughs] That was not easy at all because no one wanted to give me their baby. But a friend of one of the girls on the artistic team had just become a mother so I spoke to her and explained that I needed a baby for my film. I gave her the script and warned her that what was happening was very, very, very strong. She likes horror movies and she really loved The Coffee Table because while she was reading the script she had such a hard time, but at the same time she laughed from time to time. In the end, she wanted the baby to be part of the film. I was lucky to find a horror fan mom.

What have audience reactions been like for you as this film played festivals?

The reaction of the people is incredible. I've been to many horror festivals, but I've never seen such powerful reactions watching a movie. People live an unforgettable experience – they are surprised, they are horrified, and they cannot believe what they are seeing. And they have a really bad time, of course. Horror fans want to have a bad time—they want you to scare them—and you can't let them down. With my film, they get a huge surprise, especially if they don't know what the story is about. I have been to many countries, and people's faces at the end of the session are something to take photos of and frame. That's what it's about, right?

In an age where censorship in cinema is a conversation we seem to be having a lot, The Coffee Table is such a bold film. Do you think we can expect to see more shocking films in its wake that challenge our limits?

This is a film without censorship or self-censorship. It is 100% censorship-free. And that is because it is an independent film, made from the stomach, with very little money and without subsidies. I agree that there is a lot of censorship and self-censorship in art in general, and I think we live in a time where politically incorrect things are frowned upon. But I am an outsider among outsiders. For the industry of my country, I am invisible, in that I never receive public aid like the majority of Spanish films. So I do what I want, I make those films that the big production companies, industries or platforms do not know. The only good thing about making independent films in Spain is freedom. I am a person who hates all types of censorship and I like to take maximum risks – it is art!

Lastly, what is next for you? The Coffee Table sets a high bar for you to follow.

I'm trying to put together three or four projects, but I need more money. The Coffee Table is a film shot in 10 days at a friend's house and with almost no money, but I need to eat and get paid for my work, so I need to do a film with more resources. Just a week ago I finished the script for another horror movie, and the few people who have read it say that it surpasses The Coffee Table in everything. Now I just hope that someone wants to invest money in my stories. I know that horror fans will suffer it with great pleasure.

The Coffee Table will be released on digital streaming platforms in the UK on 20th May courtesy of Second Sight Films.