REEL SUSPECTS (2021)
Director: Laura Casabé
Starring: María Soldi, Alberto Ajaka, Lali Gonzalez, Javier Drolas
From Argentina comes The Returned (Los Que Vuelven) - a non-linear slow-burning psychological horror directed by Laura Casabé. Set in a dense jungle in 1919, it tells the story of a native Guarani family living under European colonists and specifically Julia (Soldi), the mother of young Manuel who has been acting slightly odd ever since a potentially possessed person was dealt with on the plantation where they reside. However, given the way Casabé delivers the narrative, we are able to see the events of the movie unfold from varying perspectives which, if nothing else, is an interesting angle in which to portray a story like this.
Dealing with grief and loss plus the exploitation of indigenous cultures from the richer colonists, The Returned delivers plenty of whispers in the night and visions in the dark, stemming from the decision by one of the characters to bring her baby back from the dead by praying to a mystical and mythical lady in the ‘mount’. The intriguing opening sequences promise a movie with real potential - but potential which is never fully realized. The slow-burn of the story works excellently here but later gives way to something slightly more conventional as the creepy antagonists are revealed - albeit a nice twist on the norm. It’s this decision that slightly derails the movie, setting it on a different trajectory to the movie's admittedly very good ending.
Fans of atmospheric horror will find a lot to like and admire throughout - Casabe delivers some effective imagery in the second half of the movie and utilizes lighting and shadows potently. The atmosphere itself is consistent, there is always a lingering mystery and small sense of dread that keeps you on your toes and engaged but it doesn't ever threaten to really grab you by the throat and demand your attention. The performances are solid, Maria Soldi and Lali Gonzalez are the standouts delivering strong performances that imbue their characters with strength, mystery, and real emotion in a story that really required those attributes.
With a score that handsomely builds up the slow-rising tension, The Returned certainly has enough about it to leave you with a sense of unease (and also justified resentment towards certain factions within) but it never threatens to be truly chilling.
February 4th 2021