Trauma (2017)

Evil can be transcendent.

(2017) Horror (Artsploitation) Catalina Martin, Macarena Carrere, Ximena del Solar, Dominga Bofill, Daniel Antivilo, Eduardo Paxeco, Felipe Rios, Claudio Riveros, Florencia Heredia, Alejandro Trejo, Claudia Aravena, Mauricio Rojas, Max Torres, Felipe Eluti, Catalina Bianchi, Nicolas Rojas, Jose Calderon, Cristian Ramos, Nicolas Platovsky, Faby Zamora. Directed by Lucio A. Rojas

I’m not one to post warnings before I start my review, but this movie demands one. It is absolutely not for everybody. There are graphic depictions of rape, torture and worse. Those who are sensitive to such things should definitely NOT view this movie under any circumstances whatsoever. In fact, you probably shouldn’t read the rest of the review either. Those who think they can manage, read on…

During the height of the reign of Chilean despot Augustin Pinochet, a woman watches her husband be executed in front of her – this after she has been brutally raped by her interrogators. Then, her son (Torres) is brought in. She screams and cries and begs her son to be calm. The lead interrogator injects the boy with some kind of rudimentary Viagra and then the boy is forced to rape his own mother. He continues to rut with her even after she’s been shot dead by the interrogator, who then raises the boy as her own.

In present day Chile, four friends in metropolitan Santiago  – Andrea (Martin), her sister Camila (Carrere), their cousin Magdalena (Bofill) and Magdalena’s girlfriend Julia (del Solar) head out into the country for a girl’s weekend. They end up getting lost and find a bar in the small village which turns out to be a very unfriendly place, but a local named Juan (Antivilo) defuses the situation and gives the girls directions to the hacienda they are renting.

Later on that night, Juan appears at their rental with his son Pedro (Rios) and the two locals beat and rape the girls savagely. In the morning, the two leave but only after one last act of violence. The police soon arrive and the girls are able to describe their attackers. When the cops go to arrest Juan and his son, they are ambushed and only one cop survives. Knowing that there is no getting out except through the sadistic Juan, the women decide to join forces with the cops and beat Juan and Pedro at their own game.

Yes, Juan is the grown-up young boy from the opening scene and much of what Trauma is about is the cycle of violence perpetuated by abuse. This can be applied not only to the brutal abuse of a tyrannical regime but also domestic abuse, although the filmmakers don’t come out and say so. However, the trail markers are very much evident.

Antivilo is magnificent here. His smug smile and sadistic ways make him one of the most memorable movie villains I’ve seen this year Even though he doesn’t snap his finger and make half the population of the universe disappear (although one suspects he would if he could), he clearly enjoys his work so much that he can’t hide his glee at his awfulness. If this were an American film, he’d be getting comparisons to Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear.

The violence here is graphic and unapologetic. Reportedly based on an actual incident, the movie pulls no punches including during the rapes. The actresses reportedly told Rojas that they wanted the actors to be as brutal as possible and the sense of savagery that courses through the scene seems genuine enough. While there are a few digital effects, for the main the effects here are practical.

The movie is a bit long; the build-up to the attack is slow-moving and there are scenes, such as when the four women are dancing in what they think is the privacy of their rented hacienda, that should have been trimmed severely. Also towards the end the movie essentially becomes a standard revenge film; no points for that.

But again, this is a movie that is likely to trigger women who have survived sexual assault and those who are sensitive to such depictions. The rape scenes are hard to watch even if you aren’t triggered. Although the women are beautiful and the nudity is graphic, there is nothing sexy about what happens to these women. The rape scenes can be juxtaposed with scenes of consensual sex which are shot in softer focus and are beautiful to watch; the rape scenes by comparison are in sharper focus and the soundtrack is absent of music during the scene. It’s very stark and effective in that regard.

The question to ask is whether the extreme violence here justifies the message of the movie. There will be some who will call it gratuitous and exploitative and I can’t deny there is a point there. I don’t know if I have an answer to that question; I suppose it will depend on the individual. For myself, I would not think of censoring this nor denying the film’s right to exist. I also think the point could have been made without resorting to the level of depravity the film stoops to. At a certain point, one gets numb to the horrors shown on-screen – but maybe that’s what Rojas intended all along. Maybe that’s ultimately his point.

REASONS TO GO: There is certainly a political point being made here and a valid one at that. Daniel Antivilo is one of the best movie villains this year.
REASONS TO STAY: The violence is brutal and trigger opportunities abound. Some scenes could have used some trimming.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a lot of graphic violence, much of it of a sexual nature. There are also portrayals of rape, torture, and various sex acts with plenty of nudity and some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Artsploitation reportedly didn’t submit the film to be distributed by iTunes because they were concerned that all their films might end up being banned from the site.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/29/18: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
Six Days of Darkness Day Five


Five Minutes of Heaven

Five Minutes of Heaven

You never know who's on the other side of that door.

(IFC) Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca, Juliet Crawford, Niamh Cusack, Richard Dormer, Jonathan Harden. Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Violence is a tool that our species likes to use to resolve conflict. Rationally, we know that it solves nothing and only leads to more violence. However, nobody ever accused the human race of being intelligent.

On a cold day in 1975, 17-year-old Alistair Little, a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, shot 19-year-old Catholic worker Jim Griffin in the head through the front window of the Griffin home as he watched TV, killing him. Jim’s 11-year-old brother witnessed the crime; had Little known that he was related to the young man he’d just murdered, he’d have shot him too.

33 years later, a documentary program wants the two men to meet and reconcile on live television. Little (Neeson), who’d served 12 years in prison for his crimes, had come out a changed man, working with people in war zones on conflict resolution, trying to teach people to solve their issues without violence and stop the cycle he watched tear his country apart.

Griffin (Nesbitt) has never fully recovered from the incident. His mother blamed him for not stopping the murder of his brother; Joe for his part isn’t sure she’s not right. Married and with two daughters of his own, he is a broken man – oh, he’s normal enough on the outside, but his demons torture him on the inside, turning him into a man who endlessly fidgets, tormented by things only he can see.

You see, Joe’s reason for going on the program is more simple and direct than reconciliation. He intends to kill the man who murdered his brother on live television. He’s brought a knife with him for that very purpose.

The murder of Jim Griffin actually took place as described, and both Joe Griffin and Alistair Little were participants as described. The documentary show is complete fiction; the two men have not met and it is unlikely they ever will. They both consulted with the filmmakers on the script, however.

You would think that both the reality and the fictional situation would make for compelling drama, but German director Hirschbiegel (Downfall) and screenwriter Guy Hibbert don’t deliver. The script is a talky one, with the two men not meeting until the final scenes. Much of the exposition is done through flashbacks and dialogue between the two men and the chauffeurs driving them to the television taping. That makes for some lifeless cinema.

The movie is redeemed by the performances of the two leading men, and they couldn’t be more disparate. Neeson’s Alistair is dead-eyed and drained, something vital inside him killed by the same act that tore apart the Griffin family. Alistair had been gung ho to make his mark on the Troubles, never realizing what the consequences would be of that act to his life. Alistair has had to live with those consequences, and the price is terrible indeed. 

Nesbitt gives us a Joe who is so filled with rage he can’t sit still. He masks his pain with one-liners and bonhomie, but the anger surfaces in subtle ways, especially now that the murder is much on his mind with the television program bringing it all back. He is obsessed with vengeance, equating it with justice.

The movie’s denouement is a bit of a letdown, but once again it is saved by the powerful performances of Nesbitt and Neeson. I would have preferred a movie that wasn’t so static and had a bit more juice to it, and considering the subject matter I think it would have naturally occurred. It’s a shame, because the actors and the concept deserved a better movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Nesbitt and Neeson deliver terrific performances. The concept is a compelling one.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie is very talky, with much of the exposition coming from conversations between the two principals and their drivers.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a brutal, bloody murder early on, and plenty of foul language throughout. The subject matter is complex enough that I’d warn away the little ones.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was originally broadcast on BBC2 on April 5, 2009 before being given a theatrical release in the United States.



TOMORROW: My Sister’s Keeper