Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Tigers Are Not Afraid - Review

In 2019, the number of female directors making their mark on filmmaking from the director’s chair is still far too low. But it’s far from a lack of talent or ability, and nothing proves that more than the one genre that seems to afford these women an opportunity: horror. Much like The Babadook introduced the world to Jennifer Kent or Raw introduced us all to Julia Ducournau, Tigers Are Not Afraid brings us Issa López, another exciting new voice for horror and filmmaking alike.

A haunting horror fairytale, set against the backdrop of Mexico's devastating drug wars, follows a group of orphaned children armed with three magical wishes, running from the ghosts that haunt them and the cartel that murdered their parents.

They say to never work with children (or animals) as a director, and in some cases this absolutely proves to be good advice. However, Issa López ignores this entirely, placing a group of orphaned children at the forefront of her fantastical, grimy, tale. And in this instance, it absolutely pays off. Both Paola Lara and Juan Ramón López are solid in their roles, and bring the world around them together, both real and imagined.

In many ways, López is able to evoke a similar style to some of Guillermo del Toro’s early work (fitting considering their collaboration on an upcoming werewolf western film). Yes, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a fairy tale, but it is far from escapism. With each fantasy element added, something terrible follows right behind. And not every element works, the effects are certainly dodgy, but even the simplicity of a trail of blood can be foreboding and menacing when handled properly.

The film is relatively short, falling in at about 83 minutes long, and even then it can be repetitive. Some of the film’s themes and comments on the real world are dredged up over and over in largely the same way. However, it is never lost what López, who also wrote the film, is trying to say: imagination and the simplicity of playing can be a means to survival. Kids casually limbo with police tape or light a piano on fire just to watch it burn, all the while danger lurks around every corner. But in those small moments, they’re just kids.

Tigers Are Not Afraid takes the trauma of a childhood torn apart by violence and balances it with fantasy. In this world, the dead don’t simply vanish, but reappear to watch the living through grimy plastic or comment on how cold they feel. Wishes are granted, but in the most twisted way imaginable, always bringing a consequence of some kind. It’s not without flaws as a film, but the promise of Issa López as a filmmaker is astounding, and for those that enjoy interesting takes on genre, this might be a good film to add to your list.

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