A broken moment - Weekend - Kommersant

A broken moment - Weekend - Kommersant

The Mexican horror film "Child of Darkness: Exorcism" by debutante Michelle Garza Cervera, marked by prizes from Toronto, Tribeca and Sitges, where horror films compete, comes out in Russian distribution. Behind the meaningless Russian title lies an original story about motherhood, drawing energy from Mexican mythology and going beyond "Rosemary's Baby" and even samples of the "French new extreme".

Text: Alexey Filippov

Valerie (Natalia Solan) is expecting a baby. In a colorful apartment somewhere in Mexico City. In the arms of a loving husband, Raul (Alfonso Dosal). The idyll cracks one night: a young woman sees a stranger in the house opposite. She jumps off the balcony, and then, ignoring the open fractures, crawls towards Valerie's house. Since then, the fear of persecution has settled in her. That someone is ready to break into her home, cause her physical pain, or even worse - harm the baby. Neither Raoul nor the relatives notice anything suspicious, attributing Valerie's visions to pregnancy.

However, the disturbing background arises much earlier. For example, at the foot of the 33-meter statue of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe in Oquilan, where Valerie climbs 640 steps with her mother (the last 100 meters - with prayer and on her knees): the patroness of unborn children should bless for motherhood. The next alarm signal is the transformation of Valerie's workshop into a nursery: the child has not yet been born, but is already taking the place of her work, crowding out her work identity. Or a family reunion on Mother's Day turns into stories about how Valerie was inept at dealing with children: in her youth, she almost killed a neighbor's boy by accidentally dropping him down the stairs. In general, not everything is so rosy - and it is unlikely that the raging hormones are the cause.

Michel Garza Cervera's feature-length debut is destined to be compared to Rosemary's Baby, more for lack of a better known analogy than for actual affinity. Although the director herself showed the film crew Polanski's films (also - "Repulsion" and "The Tenant"), as well as "The Babadook" and "Something Wrong with Kevin." All about the anxiety of change of fate that the “miracle of motherhood” brings, but none about the collateral damage, the cost of birth and the mythology of reproduction that has permeated civilization from ancient times to the present day.

Even "Revenge of the Unborn" by Bustillo and Mori - radicals from the "French new extreme" - or the spectacular low-budget horror "Revenge" by the British Alice Lowe did not go further than stating that pregnancy is still a body horror. Often fraught with hallucinations and a bloody desire to clean up the world from all potential threats to the child. Servera in "Child of Darkness" offers a scarier transformation. Shaved-headed punk tomboy Valerie reshapes herself into the pride of the family - and goes to university, in the footsteps of her late brother. Well, then it’s clear that: marriage, a large apartment, marital debt.

The horror ringing behind the scenes and distorting the face of the artist Solan does not allow for a second to believe that everything is going according to plan. Even if her phantom “fractures” resemble cramps in the legs of pregnant women, and her visions are the consequences of pre- or post-natal depression. The atmosphere of coercion and frustration turning into irritation so overwhelms the frame that the juicy colors of the interiors from celebrating life turn into a funeral gamut. Even the red herring of watching René Cardona's The Weeper, a 1960s Mexican horror film on TV, does not convince us to treat mysticism as a subset of fiction. The only intrigue is who this "bone woman" - as the film is called in the original - accompanying Valerie in a moment of disgust for a new role. An agent of external social pressure or internal opposition, fear of completely submitting to a faceless norm?

Here Michel Garza Cervera effectively uses the Mexican myth of a woman collecting bones in the desert. Huesera is the one who preserves the strongest signs of life (in the case of Valerie, the contours of the personality), resurrecting them with mournful singing. And the specialization of the “bone woman” on wolves is especially in place here: not everyone is given the opportunity to live in a pack and bear offspring, no matter what heavenly conditions are created.

And it's not about perky rebellion - memories of queer and punk emphasize the radicalism of change - but in the very constitution of the individual. The pain that stepping over oneself brings: an open fracture is a beautiful image. Jagged bones injure not only the owner of the skeleton, but also others, put at risk those who want what seems to be good. And here "Child of Darkness" reconciles mystical and psychotherapeutic practices: sometimes the best way out is to simply get behind the person. Do not break it - quite literally here - for the sake of other people's ideas about happiness. Especially when the price is so dramatically high.

At the box office from March 30

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