Sunday, August 9, 2020

La Llorona is Reimagined With a Timely Message

La Llorona is a sobering look at the Mayan genocide at the hands of the Guatemalan military, infused with a keenly reimagined figure of Latin folklore. A former general is being charged with the massacre,  torture and pillaging of the villages of Mayan civilians, including women and children. This was a counterinsurgency operation that followed the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) and into the "Silent Holocaust" of 1981-1983 where upwards of 166,000 people were killed. 

Holed up in a lavish mansion, the general, his wife, and daughter are fending off a large group of protestors that continue their efforts around the clock just outside their gates. The sound design is restless and unnerving with the chants, songs and shouting always present at some level. Inside, the house staff abandon their positions, and the lone housekeeper is left to manage, clean up shattered windows, prepare meals, and caretake of the ailing general. Just in a time a woman with long flowing hair, white gown, and a quiet disposition appears at their front door to offer her services. 

With a deliberate, methodical pace and shrouded, disquieting horror, the film is profound, satisfying & sorrowful. The harrowing dream sequences are brutal, and ultimately the film suggests that the crimes of men are paid by the women around them. 

This is an incredibly special film that evokes the same feelings I had after watching last year's Tigers Are Not Afraid. The horrors are very real and this is not a traditional horror film which may be disappointing to those seeking quick thrills and jump scares. But as a historical drama with fantastical elements, this is an urgent, timely exploration of the need for folklore, giving a voice to the silent, and providing justice to the disenfranchised. 

However, this film is still not the definite take on the classic Llorona lore, which I hope someone will make one day. Folklore passes down stories of a culture, gives meanings to traditions, and explains hidden historical context that may otherwise be lost. La Llorona is very personal and important figure in Latin culture and she serves as a warning and cautionary tale within a mystical, ghostly figure. I grew up with her and it was frightening, alluring, and ever-present in my back of my mind.

La Llorona is currently available exclusively on Shudder.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Beware the Snake Oil from Cerave!

All this hand washing has left me feeling a little chaffed, and have been looking for a good hand cream. I don't post many product reviews on other sites but when I do, I have strict “brand guidelines” to adhere to. The following review was initially rejected by Amazon for not following community guidelines, but I thought it was fun. At over $10 for 3 oz, this hand cream should be a mystical elixir, right? 

Have you ever wondered to yourself, what will make me smell more like a swamp witch? Look no further. Cerave's new and worsened hand lotion is sure to dredge up the intoxicating aroma of decomposing roots and standing water. It's somehow thinner than water and yet has a standing tube design to ensure it sprays out evenly over everything the moment the cap is disengaged. After scooping the precious eau de lotionette off the sink and spreading the chalky coulis across your dry, brittle hand skin, you can remain confident that those hands will indeed remain bone dry. No pesky magic healing properties here! 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Quick Takes: The Other Lamb, Blood Quantum, Yummy

The Other Lamb. This hypnotic film tells its simple story almost completely visually with a dreamy aesthetic and mostly sparse prattle dialogue. Set in the cold, wind-whipped countryside of Ireland, the cinematography is breathtaking. As is the performance by Raffey Cassidy who hails from the classic Norma Desmond school of "We-didn't-need-words-We-had-faces". Her eyes seethe with anger and when she does scream its almost completely muted. The blunt message being that women with opinions of their own are "broken" – because the sole patriarchal shepherd says so. Movies about cults tend to be infuriating (why don't they just leave) but this movie does not concern itself with the psychology of cult leaders or followers. It's a much more intimate story of one girl becoming a woman in a cult. And though a drama, the film is shot like horror movie with clear directions that this cult is heading towards the inevitable dark road to coven.

Blood Quantum. Zombie film are such downers and this one is no different, however it’s much more poignant told from the viewpoint of First Nations residents who are seemingly immune. It’s extremely gory, nasty, and vile but that’s to be expected in this subgenre. There’s some fantastic visuals, including some animated sequences, and some odd, unusual camera work. While the performances are uneven they’re still very engaging, and it’s vital to see people of color both in front and behind the camera. The nagging problem is the screenplay that’s much too episodic, incoherent, and meandering to be effective.

Yummy. Disclaimer: zombie movies are not my favorite. The plot is always the same: outbreak happens, random group bonds, they get picked off one by one, and the one you think will survive doesn’t. And then it ends with no conclusion. Yummy checks off most of these boxes but it’s also surprising funny, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is outrageously gory. Absurdly, it’s set in a shady plastic surgery in Eastern Europe, and features a quirky cast that speaks Flemish, Polish (I think) and even English. Thankfully, the movie, whose tone reminded me a lot of Shaun of the Dead, ends before it sinks into bleak despair that ruins most zombie flicks.