Monday, January 11, 2021

Dark Forces – review

Director: Bernardo Arellano

Release date: 2020

Contains spoilers

Ah Netflix, you can bring us some films from all over the world, introducing us to new and strange vistas… But some of them come with a serious WTF.

Take Mexican horror flick, Dark Forces. It looks magnificent but it really decided that cohesion was for other movies. Great Dollops of the occult, vampires, criminals and cracking lighting but whilst the basic story seemed to be there, characterisation wasn’t and lore was occult in the worst possible way – so obscured as to be frustrating.

Tenoch Huerta as Franco

So we see a city and Franco (Tenoch Huerta) riding a motorbike through the night. He stops at a hotel, a decrepit place where he rents a room. He is there, it seems, to consult an albino girl who is a medium but there is a financial cost and the consultation cannot take place for two weeks, until the full moon. Meanwhile he meets some of the occupants of the hotel most notably femme fatale (and barmaid) Rubí (Eréndira Ibarra) and occultist Jack (Dale Carley).

vampire attack

Whilst there he starts to suffer either dreams of a vampire or an actual predation. He also needs the money for the consultation, so he and Ruby go on a heist, which leads to her getting a nasty head gash that he has to sew but is strangely missing (as is the blood) in the subsequent sex scene. The consultation is to find out where his sister is being held – which given it turns out to be at the compound of crime lord, and Franco’s erstwhile employer, Max (Mauricio Aspe), shouldn’t have been a stretch to discover by conventional means.

leech parasite thing

Then there are the leeches. Somewhat phallic creatures that live inside some of the characters and seem to be the actual vampires. Or maybe not. You see the film doesn’t tell us. It throws concepts into the ring by the bucketload but doesn’t actually then explain what it is doing with them. In some films this could be a clever thing, in this it isn’t handled with enough aplomb to convince that it is anything other than a conceptual mess. If we take the leeches as an example, we never know what they are, their bearers become veiny in the face when they appear but Franco shows the same veins in a reflection before being infested. Once he is, he sees the previous host who speaks to him but perhaps that is no more than a hallucination.

Rubí vamps

The same might be said of the vampires. He seems to be preyed on whilst asleep and then, when he sleeps with Rubí for the first time she develops fangs but that is never revisited and the inference is he hallucinated it. Later he stakes a vampire but then it is another person who he has stabbed. The film fails, however, to direct the viewer to just how it wants us to view these things – real, hallucination, allegory – perhaps we should just take them as seriously trippy and leave it at that.

a vampiric ghost

Yet if the story seems to want to be 'Argento meets Lynch' with a slice of 'action hero meets anti-hero in a horror arena', and does not manage to get to where it aspires to be, the film does manage to look absolutely gorgeous (except for the flashback scenes to his sister, which feel mundane and this was, clearly, purposeful). It has so much style it drips, in location and lighting especially (though some of the cgi, especially around the leeches, could be better). Tenoch Huerta is wonderfully stoic in performance but his character needed more building by the scriptwriters. Style does not necessarily make the film. I was taken by this, even though I shouldn’t have been, but can’t suggest that more than 4 out of 10 would be fair (and I’m probably being generous).

The imdb page is here.

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