Published Feb 14, 2014Part parental revenge film, part ghost story and part Rosemary's Baby, this scattershot Mexican low-budget genre film with a title far more interesting than its subject matter feels like it was written on the back of a Tijuana bar napkin.
The opening scene features an artistically shot lesbian love scene that then turns into a brutal murder. This opening teaser is discarded, never to be returned to; it's just one of a number of head-scratching elements in this strange genre picture.
Instead, the picture follows a Mexican couple and their two children (around 10 and 13) vacationing in rural Mexico. We can't help but feel for the two parents, Felix and Sol, humbly played by Laura Caro and Francisco Barreiro. Their road trip seems like an attempt to bring the family together one last time before the kids grow up and leave the home, touching on the theme of growing distance any parent could identify with.
When they allow the children to wander off to explore the countryside themselves, it gives the parents a chance to indulge in a quiet moment; their conversation evolves into a hypnotic love scene featuring heavy petting and the strangest dirty talk you've ever seen on film. The scene goes on for what seems like ten minutes. But as the parents receive their sexual gratification, the kids disappear, causing a daylong search that ends with their seemingly safe return. But the kids are different, especially the teenaged daughter, who upon physical examination by a doctor appears to have been raped. What happened to the kids and why they don't respond to the repeated questions of the parents are just two of the elusive mysteries at the heart of the picture.
Peter Weir's existential Picnic At Hanging Rock appears to be an influence, albeit with a low budget genre sensibility. As the parents investigate the disappearance of their children, their search ends with a gory rampage of revenge against the suspected rapist of their daughter. As the title suggests, the devil himself seems to be at work here as a force unseen and without physical manifestation, beckoning his victims to a creepy cavern in the foothills.
In addition to the lesbian sex and the parents' dirty talk, sexual motifs are cleverly plugged into everything in the film. Early on, the young daughter receives her first period, a classic genre metaphor going all the way back to cinema's early exploration of vampirism; the shape the possessed cavern in the woods is a symbolic representation of a woman's vulva; and whenever given the chance, director Adrián García Bogliano lingers salaciously over the nude body of his female hero.
Unfortunately, Bogliano's admirable intentions to make a thought-provoking horror film are lost through the unsuccessful balance of this genre imagery and aloof existentialism. While we're clearly not meant to fully make sense of the big picture, the audience is left too much in the dark by the time the credits roll to arrive at any intended cinematic satisfaction.