This year I was fortunate enough to be given press credentials for the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival. I will be writing about what I watch here and at the Cultural Gutter in Notes and in a final round-up piece in August.
Antonio Puyjo (Germán De Silva) is proud of his bloodline, his family and his people. He is an Indigenous shaman, though he prefers “mediator between the worlds,” who has helped heal people and drive out demons. Antonio’s daughter Helena (Lorena Vega), however, is embarrassed by her father and her heritage. She has lost her connection to Argentina’s Missionary Forest and, according to her father and grandmother, her faith. Antonio and Helena moved to the city, but they have grown estranged because Helena wants a normal life without demons and healings and Antonio will not change who he is. Not even while living in Buenos Aires. There he continues to find work as a shaman.
When Fabian Forte’s Legions (Argentina, 2022) opens, Antonio has been committed to a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, Helena is an advertizing executive and conceals her heritage as best she can. Antonio’s friends in the hospital are producing a play based on Antonio’s experiences–particularly the time his family was attacked and cursed by the demon, Kuaraya. Antonio’s doctors feel good enough about his progress that his lawyer believes he can get Antonio released as long as Antonio doesn’t cause trouble. But there is a red moon coming, the same portentous red moon as the night of Helena’s birth, and a woman comes to visit Antonio and warns him that his daughter is in danger. So Antonio makes some trouble.
Legions mixes horror, Indigenous Argentinian ritual practice, and comedy. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the beliefs and practices presented–or how respectful they are to practitioners–but I can say the film is trying hard to be on Antonio and Indigenous people’s side. There is some tension in the film between the folk horror and the horror comedy, but possibly more between the horror comedy and the painful reality Germán De Silva brings to his performance of a father estranged from his own daughter. I wouldn’t want the film to eliminate that element, in fact, it’s crucial to the underlying exploration of what Argentinian society might have lost. But it is a tricky balance.
Overall, Legions reminds me of the horror movies and horror comedies of the 1980s, especially ones with demons or beasts like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series or films like, An American Werewolf In London (1981). There’s even a reference to Poltergeist (1982) that is nicely integrated. In general, Legions could have done with more–more gore, more sorcery, and even more demonic activity. But that aside, I enjoyed the practical effects–the demon vomit stains and the creature claws. I also enjoyed the play within the film, especially the devil costume worn by one of Antonio’s friends in the hospital. I know I am missing things that I would have gotten if I were Argentinian, but as it is, I love the film’s ideas and I had a pretty nice time with the monster, magic, performances and practical effects.
I received a review copy of Legions. Carol Borden is an editor at and evil overlord of The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to thoughtful writing about disreputable art. She was a writer for and editor of the Toronto International Film Festival’s official Midnight Madness andVanguard program blogs. She has written for Biff Bam Pop, Soldier of Cinema, Mezzanotte, Teleport City, Die Danger Die Die Kill, and Popshifter. She’s appeared on CBC radio, The Projection Booth podcast, The Feminine Critique podcast, and the Infernal Brains podcast. She’s written a bunch of short stories including Godzilla detective fiction, femme fatale mermaids, an adventurous translator/poet, and an x-ray tech having a bad day.You can find them here.