A Classic Horror Story

Released over the summer on Netflix, this Italian horror film is exquisitely shot and a little too clever for its own good.

The film opens Elisa, played by an excellent Matilda Lutz, as she deals with a phone call from her controlling mother. Elisa is pregnant, and she and her mother disagree on how to proceed with the pregnancy, but Elisa yields to her mother’s manipulation. She gets on a ride share app and ends up in an RV with a disgraced doctor, a randy couple backpacking through Europe, and Fabrizio, a film school reject and annoying driver. An accident leads everyone unconscious. The next morning they wake up in a field miles away from the road with only a creepy house to greet them. As Fabrizio says, “it’s like the setup to a classic horror film.”

That setup is standard, but unconventional plotting really gooses the premise and sucked me right into the movie. The movie is unpredictable. It has a lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing. And while I figured out one twist, the motivations were completely surprising. I really appreciate any movie that can surprise me.

I found the lead, Elisa to be a wonderful protagonist. She says so much without any words. Matilda Lutz has these wonderfully expressive eyes that convey so much and keep me locked into her journey no matter where it was going, and I was very scared about where it was going.

Because of how unpredictable the film is, I never settled into the comfort of knowing who will survive this ordeal. In most horror films, you can pick out the final girl with ease. Which character is going to escape Jason? The girl who doesn’t have sex. Who will survive this one? I wasn’t sure until the final moments of the movie.

The movie has a wonderfully off kilter color palette. They’ve turned the reds up slightly, and the greens have an artificial quality. The color correction combines with the production design to make for a really vivid viewing experience.

Okay, time for the drawbacks. The biggest drawback is the final twist. Spoiler alert there is a twist. It changes the plot entirely and pulls the rug out in a big way. Looking back, I can see all the foreshadowing and setup, but it did feel jarring in the moment. It would be very easy to feel betrayed by the narrative. If you don’t buy in, it’s going to feel cheap.

This wasn’t a great horror film, but it was a fun, surprising, and tense movie. If you like twisty plots and tense horror, this will be a good choice. It was my cup of tea. B+

Spoiler territory!!!!!

Okay so the RV crashes into a tree by the road. Everyone is unconscious. They wake up the next morning in a field. The doctor stalks angrily into the woods Fabrizio goes with him, insisting they go south.

They come across what looks like a satanic cult altar. Fabrizio tells the doctor about stories he’s heard of a village that went crazy worshipping three demons who require a sacrifice of eyes, ears, and tongues.

They return to the RV. That night they are attacked by the members of this cult. They take one of the randy couple and brutally torture and kill him while the rest hide in the attic of the creepy house.

The next day they try to escape, but the end up in the same field only now the RV is missing. At this point, I am freaking out. What is going on? These nice people are going to be murdered one by one! Is it purgatory? Are they in a haunted forest? We’re they abducted by aliens? What is going on?

That night the cult abducts and kills all but Elisa and Fabrizio in a massive cult ritual. It’s gruesome. Fabrizio is shaken and reaches out to Elisa for comfort as they hide in the house. As he’s hugging her, she hears a crackle in his ear. A voice comes through. She pulls a hidden radio from his ear. He’s part of them. I figured he was in on it, but my faith in the movie is shaken. Why is he betraying them and what is happening?

It turns out, the whole thing is decided by Fabrizio. He is turning their torment into a high budget snuff film. He’s being backed by the mafia who have a buyer lined up for this most visceral and realistic of horror films. I was on board with it because it was well hinted at throughout the film. I know it sounds absurd and silly on paper, it in the moment it works.

Elisa ends up killing Fabrizio and the co-conspirators and making her desperate escape. This is probably the most important reason I bought the twist. It plays into Elisa’s story. She has been controlled and manipulated her whole life. She is finally asserting her independence and breaking free from those who are trying to control her. For that reason above all, I liked it.

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