Out of the blue, one day you could hear Alberto Núñez Feijóo drop Chicho Ibañez Serrador‘s name in a speech and refer to the writer’s horror stories and dystopias as helping you sleep like a baby. Another such ‘Orwellian’ slip-up by him – saying a lot about his literary and cultural roots – could one day actually be perfectly true in some parallel reality. And this connects our Spain of the 21st century with that other Spain in black and white that the mastermind of the classic show ‘Un, dos, tres’ devised, and which is now being resurrected by different directors for Prime Video and Spanish Radio & Television (RTVE). A fictional story that some political leaders nevertheless insist on making a reality, at the cost of their scant virtue…

The second season of Historias para no dormir (Tales to keep you awake at night), premiered on the night of Halloween to mixed results. The four episodes will once again immerse viewers in the fabled dystopian, futuristic and sometimes oppressive world that Ibáñez Serrador imagined decades ago, but it’s one in which the result sometimes falls short of the high expectations held for such a well-respected brand. There are moments in which viewers will feel their hair stand on end thanks to blood-curdling performances like that of veteran Javier Gurruchaga in ‘La alarma’ (The alarm) , while in other stories they will yawn, such as the one set in a 19th century Galicia that believes in zombies that have “returned” from their graves. But on the whole, this series is well worth a sleepless night and is also a good opportunity to reconsider whether the future it depicts is perhaps more real than it seems.

The first of the four standalone installments of this second season is ‘El trasplante’ (The Transplant), directed by Salvador Calvo. Javier Gutiérrez, Ramón Barea, Petra Martínez and Carlos Cuevas star in this story of a society that loathes the elderly and where ageism is rampant. It is set in a world of immaculately dressed, callow youths, where there are only two kinds of people – the renewed and the donors.

Some use the DNA of others to go back in time genetically, to a primordial version of themselves; while others end up having to sell their intestines in order to keep a roof over their head. In a world in which there are no longer public funds to pay pensions, the married couple played by Ramón Barea and Petra Martínez find themselves facing the invidious choice of one of those options. He will be the one who undergoes the transplant in order to keep working and acquiring savings so she can follow suit. Where before there was a gray-haired, wrinkled old man now appears a muscular young man with bigger pecs and morning erections who greets life with a smile. It’s a change causing upheaval in the life they knew and the one they know now.

‘Historias para no dormir 2’. Amazon Prime Video.

‘El trasplante’ (The transplant) along with ‘La alarma’ (The alarm), which has Nacho Vigalondo at the helm, are the two best stories of this second season of Historias para no dormir. In ‘La alarma’ a family is stuck living in a chalet that has become a veritable death trap. Outside, a thick, acidic and toxic rain keeps them stuck inside in the face of some kind of unexplained apocalypse. This self-contained episode is replete with acclaimed actors of the stature of Roberto Álamo, the brilliant Gurruchaga, Neus Sanz, Carlos Areces, Aníbal Gómez, Sofía Oria and Jordi Coll.

La pesadilla’ (The Nightmare), by Alice Waddington, harks back to a bleak Galician village in 1880 where a series of femicides, under eerie circumstances, freaks out all the folk in the mountain village and sees them clamor to exorcize the only foreigner who dwells among them, who they suspect is the culprit of all their ills. But not even a powerful cast, led by Álvaro Morte and Mina El Hammani, manages to add an iota of terror to this gloomy story.

‘Historias para no dormir 2’. Amazon Prime Video.

Rounding out the season is ‘El televisor’ (The television), with Jaume Balagueró as director and Pablo Derqui and Manuela Vellés as protagonists. This story is perhaps the most realistic of all of them. A wealthy family moves to a big house on the city outskirts with a swimming pool and padel tennis court. But what seemed like a happy sojourn starts to unravel amid fear of possible break-ins and burglaries. Who hasn’t at least once been kept awake at night by the fear of a possible intruder? They are the only neighbors in their area without an alarm system and what starts as a desire for self-protection ends up becoming an unhealthy obsession for Marcos, the father of the clan. It’s pure madness in which reality can only be deciphered through the pixels of the TV.

The second season of Historias para no dormir is produced by VIS, Paramount’s international studio for Prime Video, in collaboration with the production company Prointel and Isla Audiovisual. Despite the mixed results, it’s an excellent series and essential viewing for lovers of the most disturbing dystopias.

Daniel Forcada
Daniel Forcada is a journalist, writer and a avid devourer of all kinds of drama series and has worked for ‘El Confidencial’ and ‘Telemadrid’, among other media. As an author, Daniel has published ‘La Corte de Felipe VI’ and ‘Anson, una vida al descubierto’