Dir: Alberto Serra
Star: Ana Grethel Solis, Isabella Sierra, Freddy D’Elia, Stella Lauri
a.k.a. El Sacrificio
Panama. That’s a country from which I’ve not seen a film before. Cross it off the list, though the local flavour is somewhat diminished by occasionally crappy dubbing. There’s one guy who might be Australian or Cockney: opinion was divided in Film Blitz Towers. Fortunately, that’s mostly an aberration. It helps this is a film which stands or falls more on its visual sense rather than dialogue, which is functional at best. It begins in the city, where orphan sisters Sofia (Solis) and Carmen (Sierra) eke out a fragile existence. The older Sofia, is a street-smart Goth chick and protective of her possibly autistic younger sibling, who likes dolls and books about anatomy.
Out of the blue, they get a call from their mother’s parents, Javier (D’Elia) and Eugenia (Lauri) who have tracked down their grandchildren. They invite Sofia and Carmen to come out and visit them on their farm in the countryside. Almost as soon as they arrive, Sofia begin to sense that something isn’t right, though Carmen is delighted to see all the farm animals she only previously encountered in books (or, I guess, the frozen food department at the local market…). The audience will be right there with Sofia, wondering why the next line out of her mouth isn’t, “And what time is the next bus to the city?” We do have the advantage of knowing the film’s title, which doesn’t exactly bode well, does it?
It’s probably safe to say that understated subtlety isn’t the film’s strong suit (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you). There’s a slew of Ominous Happenings, such as Sofia mysteriously almost drowning when she goes for a dip in the nearby river, and Eugenia takes a suspicious interest in Carmen’s burgeoning menstrual cycle. The older sister eventually catches up with the audience and decides to leave, only to find Carmen won’t go with her, and the grandparents are entirely fine with that. This is where matters come to a head, as we find out they want to do… Well, exactly what the film says on the box, with the aim of resurrecting an ancient and malevolent river god. Sofia is the only thing standing in their way. That and her chainsaw (top).
The makers say this was “based on legends from all over Latin America,” and it does have a sense of everything but the kitchen sink having been thrown into a blender. When it finally shows up, my reaction to the deity was, “Is that it?” For it’s not much more than a guy with abnormally long fingers on one hand. However, I have to admit, he uses them in enthusiastic and bloody ways. The overall payload delivered by these final twenty minutes is equally vigorous and messy, and I reckon makes up for any moderate shortcomings from the first hour. By the time all is said and done – mostly done – Sofia will be drenched. And not in river water either.