Review: LEGIONS, Dry Humor, Gore and Reconciliation
María Laura Cali, Mariana Anghileri and Mauro Altschuler star in the bloody thriller from Argentina, directed by Fabián Forte.
The red moon, la luna roja, is coming, and with it the return of the demon Kuaraya and their quest to raise the Evil One.
Antonio is all too familiar with Kuaraya. He is a legendary shaman, from a long line of shamans, who has battled the demon before.
So our only hope lies with Antonio, except there’s a problem. He’s been locked up in an asylum and his unbelieving daughter, Elena, won’t even come to visit him, and she will be the key figure in all of this. If he is to defeat Kuaraya once again he needs the next in line, the next who would have inherited these magical gifts, to believe in magic and accept the mantle of powerful shaman.
With that said, there is a concentrated effort from director Fabian Forte in his latest film, Legions, to show reverence to local folklore, customs and the religion of shamanism. He spends a considerable amount of time at the beginning of his tale establishing Antonio’s authority, and often revisits this mysticism throughout the story. The casting of spells, rituals, smoke and fire feature prominently throughout the flick. From there the clock starts ticking, the days go by, and we wait for the red moon and Kuaraya to arrive.
There is dry humor, comedic elements and characters in the institution that made me think that the iconic Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia is definitely an influence here. While I would never consider myself an Iglesia authority, I’ve seen enough to pick up on his matter-of-fact delivery style to notice its influence here. A pair of innocents in the asylum, Roberto y Pedro, along with Olga, who fancies herself still capable of using her feminine wiles to woo a man, act as a comedic anchor in Legions.
The rest of the comedy is largely situational. For example, a flashback to Elena’s teens, after she and her father have moved to the city, is not only a moment to show the growing divide between Elena and her father but to have a bit of fun with his shamanistic ways.
You’re led to think that the noise coming from behind the walls is the neighbors having a row but it’s entirely something else. A ritual performed by Antonio in another moment clears the way for him to escape the asylum, much to the chagrin of one of the security personnel.
Mariana Anghileri, from Daniel de la Vega’s On The 3rd Day, joins in a supporting role of Clara. Sent to Antonio to help him in his fight against Kuaraya, she stands opposite Lorena Vega’s Elena. A true believer, she is willing to act as a proxy for another mystical practitioner in the film, Isarrina. He would never say it but Clara is what Antonio hoped Elena would be. In the meantime Clara will provide the help Antonio needs to prepare to prevent the rise of the Evil One.
As it is everywhere, genre filmmaking in Argentina is a real community effort. Credit is due to Andres Borghi for the visual effects. Borghi’s effects work is extensive. He’s worked on recent films like Virus-32 and Bienvenidos al infierno. Marcos Berta Studios, whose specialty is in prosthetic makeup and props, did their share of the effects work. They were responsible for some great stuff in Demian Rugna’s Aterrados; Rugna was a second unit director here. See? One big happy family.
To the effects. The demon Kuaraya is a terrific use of costume and makeup. We all love a bit of man-in-suit action, right? It is always worth repeating: in-camera effects feed a horror fan’s addiction.
The suit is used largely for a creep factor throughout most of the film, lurking in the woods, hiding in the shadows, reaching over shoulders. There are also some fun makeup effects with the addition of mealworms that are good for a bit of skin crawling action. Then there is excellent demon makeup. That’s not even Kuaraya, just some other poor bastard caught in the fray. A lot of that came courtesy of Berta.
Future consideration to bolstering finales in future films will give bigger payoffs for Forte’s audiences. Yes, I do believe that Legions could have used more pop at the end. It all kind of wraps up too quickly for me and goes back to talk of bloodlines and magical inheritance. I did not mind so much, as I’m always fascinated by representations of local folklore and indigenous mysticism; there was much of that to fill in for what may be perceived as a lack of action.
It goes back to a hangup that I have about celestial events being the catalyst for these events. The waiting. If said creature is not going to act until the moon is high, or red, or the seas retreat, or the mountains quake, we’re left with waiting and filling the down time with ... what? Of course, things pick up as the red moon rises, I’m hesitant to say that the pay-off was worth it in this instance -- because of its brevity.
At its roots, Legions is a story about reconciliation. Reconciliation with self and reconciliation with family. Part of that reconciliation with self is the accepting of one’s destiny.
I end with this question, however. In this story Elena loses her faith for a certain reason. If it were not for this reason, would her rebellious teens years in the flashback or her reluctance to visit her father in the asylum even have happened? Is her turnaround tied to the recovery of a certain item, or genuine love for her father and his/their beliefs?
Food for thought moving forward onto your next adventure, Mr. Forte.
Review originally published during Fataspoa in May 2022. The film will be available to purchase on various Video On Demand platforms January 19, 2023, via XYZ Films.
(Full disclosure: Screen Anarchy is owned by XYZ Films.)