The Inhabitant (DIR. Guillermo Amoedo)
Latin American cinema is in the middle of a great resurgence, creating some of the best works since the cinemas of poverty of the 1960s. On another hand, there has been an influx of supernatural home invasion films: thieves having to deal with demons who won’t let them leave, a torrent which deemed any new arrivals in the genre mundane. Using this dichotomy, one is left to wonder what the product of these two tendencies, a Latin American supernatural home invasion film, would come out. The answer is, surprisingly, quite good.
Guillermo Amoedo’s The Inhabitant follows three sisters. Desperate for money, they break into a rich family’s house – tipped off that there is a large amount of cash there. During the robbery, they are also inadvertently tipped off to the young girl in the basement, tied up and held captive by her parents, who insist that things are not what they seem. And indeed, they are not, as the rescue of the young girl sets off a demonic situation that is as well-done as it is terrifying. There is a heavy theological tendency to it, just like most films that incorporate demons, but it doesn’t harm the film as a whole.
The Inhabitant could have gotten by on its special effects alone, but it is not a lazy film; giving the characters plenty of backstory for the demon to exploit. On top of that, the setting of the house – at once a mansion dripping with opulence with the looks of a house left to time – fills each scene with dread with its classic Amityville-style aesthetics. The off-the-wall dynamics between the characters is a strength as well. If you like power imbalances and the suggestion that anyone can be on top at any minute, then The Inhabitant is for you.
Despite some minor flaws, The Inhabitant has a spooky atmosphere, a cogent narrative, and an amazing ending.
The Inhabitant screens at Toronto After Dark on Tuesday, October 16 at 7:00 pm at Scotiabank Theatre.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (DIR. Issa Lopez)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. And almost seventy years after Luis Bunuel made Los Olvidados, Mexican children still suffer in the streets; no longer because of generalized apathy, but instead because of the drug wars waged by the cartels throughout the country. However, the realism of the events has escaped away from that of the sur-variety of realism and into the magic variety. Case in point: Issa Lopez’s beautiful and touching Tigers Are Not Afraid, a film that takes the desperate struggle of the ever-suffering street urchin but manages to make it wholly unique. Keep this in mind: this comparison to Bunuel should not be seen as an accusation of a lack of originality, but rather as an endorsement.
Tigers Are Not Afraid tells the story of a young Mexican girl, Estrella, whose attempt at living a normal life are thwarted from within both the worlds of reality and fantasy. On one side, her mother suddenly goes missing. On the other, she receives three wishes from her teacher. Forced to leave her home after a wish goes awry, she ends up living with four other street children, attempting to survive the cruelty of the streets and the cartels.
It is not just the content of this film that makes it so heartbreakingly beautiful – Lopez is a master of form as well. This film is full of tiny touches that make everything so much more magical; whether it is the metatextual, ever-present graffiti on the walls of the slums or the sentient, constantly purring stuffed tiger doll – this film does not just use magic realism, it embodies it.
Along with surprisingly evocative performances from the young cast and the willingness to risk losing the audience with moments of uncharacteristic violence, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a near-perfect film.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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