GORE IN THE STORE
MURDER ME, MONSTER (MUERE, MONSTRUO MUERE) ****
Directed by Alejandro Fadel.
Starring Victor Lopez, Esteban Bigliardi, Tania Casciani.
Horror, Argentina, 109 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in cinemas and On Demand in the U.K. on 4th December by Anti Worlds.
A flock of sheep covered in blood wander across the remote countryside followed by a woman with a horrific, seemingly life-threatening wound to her throat. Looking straight into the camera, she intensifies her seemingly fatal situation in a way that marks out the proceedings and style of MURDER ME, MONSTER. Slowly paced, hypnotic and horrific, director Alejandro Fadel has crafted a puzzling film that could attract as many fans as it could alienate them.
Set amongst the stunning landscape of the Andes Mountains, Cruz, a local policeman, is investigating the murder of a beheaded woman. David, the husband of Cruz's lover, has gone missing. A connection between David and the horrific murder becomes all too apparent. After another heinous decapitation, Cruz is set on a mind-bending journey that threatens his sanity as he slowly realises the presence of a malignant, otherworldly presence.
Familiar as the storyline may be Fadel has crafted a distinctive film that has a distinct atmosphere, combining the run-down reality of a hardscrabble, rural lifestyle with a Lovecraftian cosmic horror that makes its grotesque mark. Aimed squarely at the arthouse crowd its deliberate pace and concentration on the banal lifestyle of its main characters takes up just as much space, if not a little bit more, than its horror aspects. What the film is about, on a subtextual or metaphoric level, remains willfully opaque. Is it a commentary about the brutality of the country's police forces and the number of "vanishings" made in their name? An essay on the perceived sexism of the horror genre to female victims? Is it both, or is it neither? Even after several viewings it still puzzles in a manner that beguiles and infuriates.
Fans of films such as POSSESSION and THE UNTAMED will find familiar ground being ploughed here, especially in regards to the more extreme elements included here regarding the monster at the heart of the film's mysteries. Just as disturbing is the violence upon the victims and the way the police treat them. Decapitated heads are treated more like household items than evidence, stuffed unceremoniously into shopping bags and plunked down on an autopsy counter with all the care you would give a leg of lamb.
Fadel manages, however, to make this a stylish exercise with its stunning photography and creative visual flourishes; the shadow thrown by a car's headlights illuminating the outline of a monstrous creature in the dust is one particular highlight among others on display here. The use of reflection and repetition, both audibly and visually, is used to haunting effect accentuating the metaphysical nature of its vast and mystifying cosmic horror. At the same time, the score by Alex Nante is nicely expressive in its spare use.
Whilst it will no doubt test the patience of many viewers, lovers of weird fiction will find much to admire. Hints of a viral nature contained within speech patterns and a genuinely grotesque creature that helps put across the nature of an uncaring cosmic horror are presented here enticingly and in a way that makes one eager to see Fadel make a return to the genre in this mysterious manner.