I gotta tell you, there's not much I love like having a review over half-written and then, through some technical snafu [and my own idiocy] losing it, and facing the prospect of having to write it again from scratch. It's a kick! Especially lately, when I find carving out review-writing time harder than ever [when I was in New York, I had a daily 45-minute review-writing window enforced by taking the subway]. The most epic case of this was my extremely in-depth examination of Korean horror gem A Tale of Two Sisters, which I wrote TWICE, and lost twice, before realizing that Jesus obviously did not want me posting that film to the site. Anyway, here we have my second writing of the review for this film, but luckily the film was good enough that I am still interested in talking about it.
We open with two women bumping pussies. Sorry, that's the only way to put it. It's like you're just suddenly thrown into the middle of Blue Is the Warmest Color. One hears a noise, goes downstairs, and when her friend checks on her, is being attacked by this large guy who chops off her fingers. He runs out and the women escape--minus a few digits--but you know, stumps work on iPhones, too, so no real loss, right? Anyway, we follow the guy as he runs up to this spooky hill with a bunch of big white stones, where he trips and spills his big box o' fingers! Looks like he's been out on a little hunting and gathering mission. I'll bet he has a collection of empty finger puppets on his mantel at home.
We now join our main characters, a family of four. Did I tell you that this is all happening in Mexico? And is a Mexican film? Well, now you know. They're stopped at a gas station when the girl, Sara, gets her first period. Anyone who has seen Carrie knows that first periods happening first thing in horror films is something worth paying attention to. Mom takes her into the bathroom and explains that the devil's mark is on her now, and her sin can never be washed away. No, silly! She gives her the whole "you're a woman now" stuff while the creepy finger-collector is seen eyeing the bloody panties as they sit on the bathroom counter. When they're done, Sara and little brother Adolfo want to go play on the hill--the spooky hill is right there--and they say they'll be back in 45 minutes. So Mom and Dad settle in for a little fingerbang.
Yeah, no, not kidding this time. Dad says they haven't done it in a while, Mom says she doesn't want to, but as Dad does a little digital stimulation while Mom recounts giving her first blowjob, she loses herself--their interlude intercut with the kids exploring the hillside and going into a creepy cave [it's all very Walkabout]--implying that the fate of the kids is inextricably tied to their parents being horny schmucks. They fall asleep, and when they wake, it's getting dark, but no kids. Dad goes to look for them--seeing a notable red truck--while Mom hangs at the station as the requisite old codger who comes out and tells her that the hill is a cursed place. Umm, a little helpful NOW, right? NOW he stops by with that crucial information. Thanks a lot, buttface.
The police tell them to get a motel, as nothing will happen until morning. Once there, Mom is all snipes at her husband, blaming him for what happened. There is an earthquake in the night. But in the morning: two kids, bright and bushy-tailed! Or affectless and possessed, but you take what you can get. Sara's panties are now missing, and she is no longer menstruating. Mom takes the kids to the doctor and finds that Sara has no hymen, but no physical signs of sex, while a psychologist says that there are mental signs of sexual trauma. The kids both have unexplained bruises. They are both very quiet and affectless. Both kids draw a red truck, and Dad recognizes it as the one he saw. When the kids freak upon seeing the truck in real life, Mom and Dad spring into action!
SPOILERS > > >
After leaving the now-offically-creepy kids at home with a babysitter/victim, they find the red truck parked next to a mobile home and decide to mete out some ill-informed vigilante justice! In a hilarious touch, Mom dons a pair of white knit gloves to embark on her undercover life of crime. They tie up and torture the guy [who doesn't look like fingers dude to me, but whatevs] and, upon finding Sara's panties, Dad slits his throat. A lot of the blood shoots into Mom's mouth. They repair to a motel and have a lusty shower together while covered in blood. Are you starting to get the impression that Mom and Dad are maybe not the role models they should be? Well, the old possible-perpetrator problem solved, now we can get back to normal life!
In the moring, the babysitter is gone. They think this is weird, but see no reason to try to find or contact her. The school calls and says that the kids have been skipping class. The cop who helped find the kids starts coming around asking about the dead guy. By now you will have noticed that this film features more than its share of sudden zooms. Mom follows the kids and finds that they take a bus back to the haunted hill, and go into the creepy cave, although she doesn't follow them in. By now you'll notice that this couple does not enjoy the greatest communication, with Mom not telling Dad about the kids skipping school, going to the hill, or even levitating, as the kids are now wont to do on selected occasions. I don't normally dispense marriage advice on this site, but friends, when you see your children levitating, please inform your spouse. Communication is the key!
So Mom finally goes to see the babysitter, after several days, and learns that she felt the devil come and sit on her chest. She also saw the kids having sex! Mom goes back to the cave and finally goes in, where she finds... the kids' bodies! They died in there on the day they were lost, and the kids she's had the rest of the time are... well, not her kids. She drugs the devil kids and takes them back, but then DAD shows up, and shoots Mom, then, presumably, himself! There's an earthquake [which we now know signals the devil taking someone new] and... Mom and Dad come down the hill, rather affectless, get in the car, and drive away!
So, while we're still in the spoilers, one of the nicest things about this movie is how you start off thinking that the kids have been possessed, but gradually start thinking that these parents are rather flawed characters, to say the least... and finally, by the end, you realize that the villains of this film are really the parents. They're self-centered, easily distracted [by sex, for instance] willing to do the quick vigilante killing, and not too concerned with the well-being of their babysitters. The other good thing is that they aren't AWFUL people, they're very believably flawed, and if any of us knew them, we probably wouldn't have too many serious complaints. But they turn out to be the villains here, while the movie sets you up looking in the other direction.
< < < SPOILERS END
The other good thing about the movie is just how very odd and atmospheric it is. There aren't too many shocks in this film, comparatively little supernatural violence or excitement, and while you keep waiting for the kids to do something evil, we rarely get more than vague suggestions or descriptions of what happened offscreen. Yet it has an insidious, low-burning suspense, and the very lack of it following expectations makes it engrossing and keeps you involved. The evil spirits here seem to have no main objective, it's just that everything starts coming apart once they arrive. There are also cultural differences to the filmmaking [all those zooms and such] that also make it fresh and off-kilter for those used to Hollywood films. Overall, it probably won't blow you away, but it will keep you creeped out for a good two hours, and there's a lot to be said for that.
If you like spooky, suspenseful, low-boil horror.