Fantasia Film Festival Movie Review: WHITE COFFIN (2016)

A parent’s greatest nightmare is losing their child.  We have all seen the news stories of frantic parents begging the camera, and ultimately the viewers, for any information on the whereabouts of their child, and it’s abundantly clear that the parents will do anything to get their child back. WHITE COFFIN, the latest film from director Daniel de la Vega, focuses on a mother who is willing to risk everything, even so far as going beyond death, to rescue her abducted daughter; however, she learns that on this path there are far worse things than death.

There are elements of this film that I really enjoyed.  Typically directors are hesitant in showing a child being killed, which I for one completely understand, but I appreciate when a director is willing to go that far and show us something that would otherwise be hidden or written out of a film. No one wants to see a child, a human, or an animal die, but sometimes its the catalyst in getting the point of the film across to the audience.  Now, before you throw your arms up in the air and tell me that I’m spoiling the film, trust me, I’m not, but I just wanted viewers to be prepared in case they have a sensitivity to children being abducted and/or killed.  This film is more than just about a kidnapping, it’s about the length parents will go to protect the ones they love.

What makes this film work so well is the writing styles of brother Adrián Garía Bogliano (HERE COMES THE DEVIL) and Ramiro García Bogliano (PENUMBRA).  As a fan of both brothers, I was excited to see their story come to life by the directorial hand of Daniel de la Vega.  As I mentioned above, the story focuses on a mother’s determination to do whatever it takes to get her daughter back, and after an accident she is given a day on Earth to bring freedom to her daughter.  As interesting as this story is, it wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the performances by Julieta Cardinali who plays the mother Virginia and Rafael Ferror who plays Mason – the individual responsible for giving Virginia time to find her daughter.  They were the two that really kept the film going and the ones that you found yourself investing your emotions in.   Another aspect that I enjoyed about the film was the unsettling undertone and ambiance throughout.  As Virginia races against the clock to find her daughter she comes face to face with characters that reveal their sinister nature and insidious motives.  Even though you know the characters seem off it’s not until the end when they reveal their true colors that you realize how twisted this film is.  I love when a movie keeps me guessing until the end and this one most certainly did.

Where many films will rely on gore to add tension and horror, WHITE COFFIN was very particular.  If you are a gorehound your appetite will be satiated as there is a certain scene with a chainsaw that’ll get your blood pumping; however, for the majority of the film there is very little gore and blood.  I think this added to the film because it wasn’t used as a crutch from the director and was only put in when absolutely necessary.  I think one of the strongest points of this film is the use of mystery and intrigue to captivate the viewer and suck them into the story that is unfolding.  There were a few areas of the film that I think needed tightening to make the story flow but a lot of that could be because of the language barrier.  There were times when the movie felt choppy and disconnected and I found myself getting frustrated with the narration but I would remind myself to stay patient and look at the film as a whole and not just at times when I was frustrated.  I’m glad that I did because looking back I think WHITE COFFIN is a gem of a film.

All in all, WHITE COFFIN is a film that intrigued me from start to finish and really pushed certain boundaries of discomfort.  Though I do believe the majority of my confusion at some point of the film were based off of the translation of the Spanish language, it didn’t deter me from enjoying the movie.  WHITE COFFIN shows the love and pain that parents feel for their children in the rawest sense as well as the consequences of what can happen when one makes a deal with the Devil.  If you are like me and enjoy a slow burn film that relies on suspense, mystery, and a punch-to-the-gut horror finale then make sure you check out WHITE COFFIN.

Shannon McGrew
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