Directed by Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonca Filho.
Starring Barbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Sonia Braga, Udo Kier.
Horror, Brazil, 131 minutes.


In cinemas 13th March from MUBI


A film with a simple premise, Bacurau contains many surprises. Telling the tale of a remote Brazillian village coming under siege from a pack of bloodthirsty hunters, this is a multifaceted film that effortlessly switches genres, from art house drama to John Carpenter-esque action with a running political commentary and lashings of deadpan humour and bloody violence.


From the films beginning there is a certain tension. Set “a couple of years from now”, Bacurau starts off with a bullet riddled water truck driving along a pot holed road that is littered with coffins lying smashed on the asphalt. On board the truck is Teresa, Colen, returning home to the titular village with medical supplies and for the funeral of her grandmother. Bacurau is a place, and film, where things are done differently however. Psychedelics are shared out at the funeral. A large screen situated on the back of a truck broadcasts uncensored highlights of violent homicides in the city and no one bats an eyelid when one of the shows inadvertent stars strolls by helping out with the collective needs of the village. Life seems strangely blissful in this community that seems to take pride in its singular ways.


Hints that all is not right creep in. Starting off with what could be the innocuous glitch of the village disappearing from online maps, a disquieting atmosphere and tension soon grips the viewer. A number of outlandish visual cues tip the film over from its deliberately paced first act into a full blooded yet offbeat take on the basic action movie theme of a group of people under siege. Then Udo Kier, the dark prince of offbeat, shows up.


The Carpenter-esque tribute actually morphs into a kind of collaboration when his own composition Night, from his Lost Themes album, appears on the soundtrack. While signalling another transformative turn for the film in terms of style and pitch it is to the films credit that it never feels like a hodgepodge of genres and ideas just mashed together for the sake of mashing them together. Its consistency is quite remarkable and is a credit to the skills of its two directors, particularly Filho, whose previous film AQUARIUS was a stately drama of a woman, Sonia Braga again, refusing to leave her home against the advice of real estate developers.


This skill set in different genres pays off for the viewer who is willing to indulge in such an exercise. Fans of art house drama may find themselves shocked by the cold blooded violence that takes centre stage and genre fans may find the films opening act too slow and uneventful. Hopefully both audiences give this strange beast of a film a chance which displays the best qualities of both sides.


It is a film that is quite unique in its approach. Slyly twisting and regularly surprising the viewer with avoiding the usual story beats and expected pay offs, it never comes across as an experiment in being clever for the sake of it. Its art house cinema approach never comes across as remote or as an arch look down at genre cinema. It also contains one of the best exploding heads since SCANNERS, that manages to satisfy on both a narrative and visual level. These Cronenberg and Carpenter tropes combined contribute to one of the most exciting films of the year so far.


Iain MacLeod


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