LEGIONS l Fantasia International Film Festival

“The world is full of terrible things, and we are defenseless creatures, surrounded by inexplicably and inflexible forces (-Don Juan Matus [Yaqui Sorcerer])

At the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, Fabián Forte’s LEGIONS combines an Evil Dead-type gory humor with a mystical folk horror that explores the importance of heritage. In the film, Argentina faces a demonic force called Kuaraya, who threatens darkness across the nation. However, only knowledge of the old ways will stand a chance against this wicked entity. And while the movie includes a lot of interesting elements, the character development and the execution of the story come off as underwhelming.

Antonio (Germán de Silva), a mediator between worlds, comes from a long line of sacred men. Now he resides in a mental institution, telling his stories of demons to uninterested orderlies. However, the other patients serve as a rapt audience, and they love Antonio’s tall tales (oops…I mean real-life experiences), so much that they try to act them out and beg their bard for more. Through retellings of Antonio’s past, we witness flashbacks of a much younger man. In these visions, we see a delightful, yet eerie combination of glowing reds and greens, which paints Antonio’s memories as hellish and supernatural. Contrasting these more radiant scenes with the drab interior of the mental facility gives the impression the demons disappeared, but so did the aging shaman’s interest in life. With a diminished light, Antonio prefers to live in his past where he had an important status….and a daughter.

As an audience, we see Antonio unleash his skilled sorcery to battle demons, and while in his youth he receives high levels of praise from the villagers, but he will have to try much harder to earn the respect of a teenage girl. The demon does quick work to make Antonio’s life miserable and kills Antonio’s wife, leaving the single father to raise the young Elena (Lorena Vega) by himself. The loving father tries to raise his child to believe in magic, but she chooses to distance herself from her father’s teachings, and the pair eventually become estranged. The movie offers a strong post-colonial reading as we see the older Indigenous generations struggling with the modernization of the world and the new generation must learn to imitate the white majority, therefore losing their cultural identity.

On the surface, the story looks at the never-ending war between good and evil or even the turmoil of having to choose between traditions or the more modern. However, the heart of the film comes from the father/daughter relationship and the efforts both sides must make to mend the damaged family unit. Both Vega and De Silva offer strong performances and add a lot of heart to the film. With the approaching blood-red moon, Antonio knows Elena is now in danger and he must convince her to save herself (and others), she must return to her roots. However, despite the strong performance, the story does not call for enough urgency, so the film comes off as slow and limiting.

With strong attempts to immerse the audience into Argentinian magical realism, LEGIONS‘ exciting shots and interesting mythology lose some of their power due to trying to balance humor and horror.

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