Now On DVD/VOD: SCHERZO DIABOLICO, Deviously Disturbing Horror Thrills
An initially intriguing thriller setup leads to something quite honestly disturbing in Adrián García Bogliano's Scherzo Diabolico, now available to watch via various Video On Demand platforms (and on DVD, too!).
Opening with helicopter-style overhead shots, following a car as it winds its way through a wooded region on a two-lane highway, rather like Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, the movie then cuts to Aram (Francisco Barreiro). He's driving alone, though when he eventually returns home we learn that, like Jack Torrance, he's struggling to get along with his wife (Milena Pezzi). At least their only child, a son, doesn't have any supernatural inclinations.
Aram is a fiercely dedicated worker who is more than willing to work many overtime hours. But then his boss Granovsky (Jorge Molina) tells Aram that he won't be paid for that overtime and, adding insult to injury, also informs him that he won't be receiving his long-awaited promotion. Aram is pushed over the edge, and soon begins tracking a teenage schoolgirl named Arabela (Daniela Soto Vell) with sickening precision.
Here's more about the film from Anton Bitel, who covered it at Frightfest last year:
Bogliano, like Aram, manages the film's events with a rigorously methodical control that shoves violence and depravity away into the distance or the dark - but the repressed will eventually reemerge with a bloody, bludgeoning vengeance.
As a thriller, Scherzo Diabolico is well-tempered and taut, parcelling out its narrative information in much the same way that Aram compartmentalises the different aspects of his life. Yet it is as an Oedipal drama, where the tragic trajectory of one person's rise comes only with the destruction of the boss/father, that Bogliano's film finds its strongest (and subtlest) sociopolitical grip.
This may be a dog-eat-dog world, but in Bogliano's bleakly passive-aggressive vision, once the questionable justice starts being meted out by proxy, the collateral damage spreads like a plague of mice. The results are finely-tuned perfection.
Frankly, there are certain elements of the film that, for me, were questionable and made me queasy, not so much the explicit violence but some other things involving the schoolgirl and how she's treated/exploited by Aram. The story deals with Aram's motivation, without justifying it, yet it still made me feel like I needed to take a shower afterward. (That's probably a good thing.)
After the success of his nifty thriller Cold Sweat, Bogliano has continued to surprise -- and, yes, sometimes mystify with -- Penumbra, Here Comes the Devil and Late Phases, all representing different takes on the horror/thriller genre. Scherzo Diabolico continues that trend, pushing moral boundaries while also seeking to deliver unexpected, if horrific, pleasures. I admit: it made me flinch.
As noted, the film is now available to watch on DVD and VOD. Visit the official site for more information.
Anton Bitel contributed to this story.