ACHOURA, which had its North American premiere at the Cinepocalypse Film Festival, is a monster film. It is a monster that eats children and the film is set in Morocco and is a French and Moroccan co-production directed by Talal Selhami, who also directed Mirages. It tells the story of unfortunate children who run afoul of the titular monster during the festival of Achoura, a Muslim night of celebration where children gather around bonfires and throw water at people nearby.
Through flashbacks, the premise is set up and slowly the ideas are revealed. The film concerns the sacrifices and the friendships of the children who managed, with the help of a mysterious man, to trap ACHOURA in a human body. The structure is similar to IT, where the characters are seen as children and then as adults who have forgotten the monster that they confronted as children and are forced, by the monster’s reappearance, to reckon with the monster once more.
The monster must possess a human body to become part of the material world and have form but also can be trapped within a human body. While the monster prefers children, adults are not entirely safe. The process of the children who are now adults remembering the horror and trying to find a way to stop the monster, which has risen again due to the kindness of a child, leads to an agonizing choice.
The actors who portray the children and adults are both very good. Younes Bouab, Sofia Manousha, Moussa Maaskri, Omar Lofti and Ivan Gonzales all do work that is idiosyncratic and believable as the adults. They bring understanding and sympathy to the characters who are not always the shiny hero types that populate most of our own American cinema’s films. They are flawed and they do the wrong things out of their naivete and ignorance of the horror that they are fighting. The cinematography is also to be commended while it does tend to be on the dark side of the spectrum. Even though this is a monster film, I would call it more of a fantasy film with scary elements than a hardcore horror film. There’s really not a lot of gore and I found the lack of it somewhat refreshing. The character work is the most interesting part of the film and that’s a good thing. It’s more of the gentler sort of monster film with the horror mainly being part of the choices the characters need to make.
ACHOURA is an old fashioned monster movie that concentrates on the human evils and ignorance that mirror those of the fantasy world and how human beings must sooner or later reckon with those evils and cannot put off that reckoning forever.