Many people believe that The Blair Witch Project (1999) was the first found footage horror movie, but the subgenre was actually born nineteen years earlier with the controversial Cannibal Holocaust (1980). The Blair Witch Project was so wildly popular that there has been a steady flow of found footage films ever since. I personally really enjoy this subgenre and over the years I have discovered some fantastic found footage films as well as some that weren’t very good. Today I’m going to review KURUSU SERAPIO, a short film that is part found footage, and explain why I think it’s an excellent example of extraordinary independent filmmaking.
KURUSU SERAPIO was co-written and directed by Paraguayan-Canadian multimedia producer Marcos Codas. Codas said he was inspired to make KURUSU SERAPIO to celebrate his love of genre film, in particular The Blair Witch Project, and also to “exorcise demons from his past.” He told me, “I always say that I wrote KURUSU SERAPIO as a way to deal with having been discriminated against growing up. So I made myself an all-powerful witch and put my feelings on film.” Shot in the cities of Encarnación and Coronel Bogado, Paraguay, the story combines Paraguayan folklore and social inequality resulting in a terrifying and thought-provoking film. The small budget once again proves that you don’t need big Hollywood financing to make an effective and disturbing film.
The film tells the story of Chris (Christian Cuadra), a young man who lives a comfortable life in the city. When he decides to break up with Camila (Camila Sigaud) he tells his friends Ale (Alexis Amarilla Baez) and Leila (Leila Benítez Planás) that he didn’t want to date her because she was weird and jokes about her being from Kurusu Serapio, which is considered a lower class area. Shortly after the breakup, Chris finds some objects arranged in an unusual pattern in front of his house and his friends tell him they represent payé, which is when a spell is cast, usually meant to achieve things like happiness, luck, or love, but it can also cause more unpleasant effects. Soon, Chris begins behaving strangely and refuses to leave his house.
Ale and Leila become concerned about Chris and force their way into his house where they discover what appears to be a small shrine to his ex-girlfriend Camila. The discovery is confusing to them and when they question Chris he screams at them to leave him alone. The found footage style coupled with an ominous musical score set the atmosphere for KURUSU SERAPIO and leaves the viewer with an overwhelming, unshakeable sense of dread. When Chris disappears, his friends are so alarmed that they are compelled to travel to Kurusu Serapio to search for him. Eventually, they unravel the mystery surrounding Chris’ sudden change in behavior, his disappearance and the truth about Camila. Clever cinematography and the use of shocking imagery causes the revelation of the fate of everyone involved to be truly horrifying.
The film premiered at Asunción International Film Festival in 2016, the biggest and longest running film festival in Paraguay. Since then it has played at fifteen festivals in several countries, including The AM Film Festival in Egypt and Terror Cordoba in Argentina. KURUSU SERAPIO is available to rent or buy internationally on Vimeo and Amazon, and in the U.S. only on Screambox.
With a runtime of just under seven minutes, KURUSU SERAPIO is an impressive and powerful debut film. In that short time, director Marcos Codas manages to expertly interweave some genuinely scary moments, important social commentary, and believable performances that make this worthy of a feature length film.