By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
In the midst of the ongoing Mexican Drug War, untold numbers of children have been left behind, their parents disappearing for mysterious reasons and seldom seen again. Young Estrella (Paola Lara) is one such girl, her father long since out of the picture, and her mother recently absent. When a shooting incident results in the closure of her primary school, Estrella has nowhere to go, and she finds herself haunted by constant unexplainable occurrences. With nowhere to go, she begins tagging along with a group of fellow orphans, who are being hunted by a local drug lord. Meanwhile, the ghosts of numerous disappeared people surround Estrella, and seem to be guiding her to mysterious ends.
I want the name of the artist, I have a mural to commission…
One of the most disturbing things a movie can do is remind you that what you’re seeing is just a reflection of reality. Tigers Are Not Afraid accomplishes this and more by contrasting real life horror and cinematic horror elements. It turns out there is very little to distinguish the two, with the exception being the way real people are involved in the former. The cinematic horror elements are by their nature a piece of entertainment. And ironically, the ghouls and ghosts that populate this film become unlikely protagonists when contrasted with the everyday reality of the drug gangs that have terrorized Mexico for the last couple of decades.
For their part, the child actors who make up the primary cast are uniformly excellent. Director/Writer Issa López managed to bring the same kind of naturalistic performances from her child actors as filmmakers such as Terry Gilliam and Guillermo Del Toro are renowned for. Both of the aforementioned filmmakers are well known for their ability to bring humanity and potent performances from child actors, and so the comparison bears mentioning.
Pictured above: the next generation of Mexican Cinema.
Most important in setting the scene of a film is the camerawork. The cinematography of this movie is mostly handheld work, giving an documentary-like feel to the production. The only times the camerawork shifts to more static imagery is during the moments with supernatural imagery. This enhances the surreal feelings of these moments, and throws an appropriately distinct contrast that highlights the intrinsic terror of the sequences.
Horror has often been used to subtly play on real world fears using supernatural metaphors. But rarely do films combine both to achieve the same ends. This is a deeply tragic film evoking some of the most genuine feelings of dread that I’ve felt in recent memory. It earns my highest recommendation.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for cellphone use
Take a Drink: for ghostly apparitions
Take a Drink: for tiger animation
Drink a Shot: for the body count