Director: Damian Szifron Starring: Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Érica Rivas, Rita Cortese, Julieta Zylberberg, and Darío Grandinetti. Argentina. 2h 2m
There has been a breakthrough in modern horror anthologies, from V/H/S (2012) to Southbound (2015), Dark Tapes (2016) to ABC’s of Death (2012), there’s been a highly dedicated sense of the bizarre and foreboding squeezed in alongside a curative surreal and darkly comic backdrop of horror. With Argentina becoming the forefront of genuine wholesome and brilliantly crafted cinema lately from superb freaky titles like Terrified (2017) and Cold Sweat (2010), there’s no wonder that this combination of short dark thrillers sets a new bar in the horror genre.
Touching on the more difficult human emotions of anger, revenge, and snap decisions the film is surprisingly entertaining, gritty and at times damn right bizarre. it’s charm is in it’s shocking detail and zoned in lense on our reality which highlights the ugly and yet makes it funny and palatable.
Each of the 6 stories are slightly longer than the last, the introduction is a twilight zone styled escapade where a group of passengers on a plan all realise they have something in common but they realise the similarity all too late, it’s cheeky and wonderful, but each subsequent story is just a little bit longer, more grueling and elaborate.
The introduction sets the scene for what’s about to come, a beautiful woman boards a plane, mid-flight she mentioned in passing her ex boyfriend Gabriel Pasernak, the couple parted after she cheated on him with his best friend, it turns out that the passenger she’s speaking to criticised his music in a national paper in a scathing review that basically ended his career. Slowly they realise that everyone on board the plane has had some negative impact on Gabriels life and he’s just locked himself in the cockpit with the pilot.
It’s almost like a 2 sentence horror story played out with sharp wit and expert talent. Luckily each film after is a bit longer each time until the magnum opus and follow as thus,
Las ratas / The Rats
A waitress notices a loan shark has walked into her restaurant, a man who ruined her family and caused her fathers untimely death. The cook offers to mix rat poison into the man’s food but is this the best way to get revenge? The waitress offers to talk to the man but what unravels next is going to cause a terrible night for everyone present on that fateful night.
Having a poison goblet involved in a scene has been a directors favourite toy, no one will ever forget the scene from Princes Bride, but Szifron manages to juggle a movie around where the poison might be with some class and cunning. What would you do if faced with someone who ruined your life and given a golden opportunity to take them out secretly or face them on and have them know your feelings, which path would you take?
El más fuerte / The Strongest / Road to Hell
Imagine the worst case of road rage amped up with a dash of Duel (1971), also amped up. Basically you won’t believe how far these drivers will actually go, starts out with some fun but the humour turns very dark as the anger rises.
Bombita / Little Bomb
A Demolition expert picks up a birthday cake for his daughter, returning to his car he finds it’s been towed, trying to explain that there were no signs, he pays, later he is refused a refund for the fee at the DMV, he slams his hand against the partition and is arrested, the story makes the news and suddenly his life is thrown upside down, without a job and facing divorce over a parking ticket he forms a cunning plan.
Definitely the most up beat of all the stories, it shows how the little man can fight against the corporations, and who doesn’t want to fight back at parking agents!!
La propuesta / The Proposal / The Bill
The son of a wealthy couple arrives at home after committing a hit and run on a pregnant woman. While details are sketchy on their chances of survival, the father forms a cunning plan with his lawyer for someone else to take the fall for his son.
By far the darkest story of the entire series as it really highlights corruption and just how easy it is for those with money to literally pay for freedom, but is it really just about bills? A really interesting deep dive down a dark rabbit hole and one with explosive results, bound to leave anyone feeling angry and disgusted.
Hasta que la muerte nos separe / Till Death Do Us Part
A jewish wedding is turned upside down when the bride discovers the groom has been cheating on her, she runs out of her won wedding in years and is later consoled by a kitchen worker on the roof, they end up having sex and is caught by the groom and then things get weird in the strangest, funniest wedding I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s almost heart warming to see a couple sripped down to the core only to realise if they love each other , AFTER they have said their vows, but is it all worth it?
Hopefully one or more of these ingenious stories that’s enough to catch your attention to check out this amazing and anthology, which takes us to the wilder depths of human psyche, but director Szifron has detailed, while producing another project he was writing the stories based partially on real life situations that he went through, the one closest to his heart it’s possibly the Road to Hell which was written after argument he had with an Audi driver.
Each of these segments could easily be their own feature length film, each with a heavy layer of black humour. Szifron has stressed that they were not planned as comedies, instead they are purely thriller, more specific political thrillers, but with each taking us two depths which were uncomfortable with and I think that is where we find the humour. Individual stories have a different layer of revenge, hate, love and grief, and distinctly feel as if they have been directed by somebody different, however it’s just simply the colours, dimensions, styles and textures which set them apart. Szifron has stressed they are all “vital organs of the same body” and are from a larger universe which is the human need for revenge after being disrespected. It’s easy just to say that the common theme is violence as it plays out in each other’s films in different ways, however there is more of a connection between the fuzzy boundary between doing what would be considered right in that situation, as opposed to what is right on any other day.
The film, especially the section called Little Bomb, started it’s own cultureal phemonamon, and kicked off a new phrase “Film this for me, Nestor!” which is used in the same context as “Going Postal”!
Related: El Secreto de sus Ojos (2009), The Entidad (2015), V/H/S (2012) Southbound (2015), Dark Tapes (2016) ABC’s of Death (2012),
Lists: Short Introduction to Modern Argentine Cinema, 10 Modern Anthologies Vol 1
laugh, cry, revenge, petty. arguments, human nature, cheating, bent government, w, argentina, 2014, injustice, road rage, drowning, marriage, wedding, cheating, aeroplane,