Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jay's Review: The Appeared

wwWhy is it always the films you put off watching that wind up catching you unawares? This low-key thriller I reviewed for moved me in ways I didn't expect.



In the tradition of The Devil's Backbone comes the internationally acclaimed Argentine/Spanish horror saga from writer/director Paco Cabezas

During a road trip to visit their dying father, an estranged brother and sister discover a hidden diary that reveals a family legacy of fear and torture. But when past and present begin to collide, the siblings must confront the truth behind the trail of 'the disappeared': 30,000 people kidnapped and murdered under Argentina's military dictatorship... some of whom may have returned to our world. Ruth Diaz and Javier Pereira star in this startling combination of supernatural chiller and shocking political thriller that, Eye For Film hails as "a modern ghost story made with commitment, passion and effective terror."

The Appeared
opens as estranged siblings return to Buenos Aires in August, 2001 to attend to the removal of their dying father from life support. While Pablo is warm and nostalgic, Malena is clearly uncomfortable and just wants to sign the papers and go. Pablo's need to know more about their father before he's willing to sign leads them down a path that melds the real history of Argentina's "Dirty War" of the late Seventies, where thousands of Argentineans just disappeared into the night with a ghost story. 

The first ghost appears to lead Pablo to their father's secret diary, which in turn leads them to a hotel where they encounter more ghosts, The Appeared of "the Disappeared," who may just be somehow leading them to change the past. With supernatural assistance, the siblings pursue a mystery and tumble down a rabbit hole of gothic family tragedies and national secrets with a few decent jumps along the way.

The pacing here may seem slow to the American viewer, but in trade, the performers are uniformly excellent (and no, I don't think that just because they speak a language I don't.) Cinematography that makes deep black scenes work dramatically and "gotcha" scares that never feel cheap help to make The Appeared a gripping and engaging thriller for a night when you want to settle in and think with a film while getting a few joy-ride moments along the way. I turned to read up a bit on the “Dirty War” before watching the film, and the vastness of that horror dwarfs anything you’ll ever see in a movie. The Appeared understands that all vast tragedies are related to in human terms. I really did feel like the film educated me on a period of history I was unaware of by introducing it on an intimate scale, all the while balance that with a ripping good yarn.There’s a bold “button” at the end of the film, an ironic observation on human behavior, that I’d find almost offensive anywhere else, but forgivable here.


The DVD presents the film in widescreen with English, English SDH (Subtitling for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing), and Spanish l and the original 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish soundtrack. The extras include the film's trailer and a 21 minute long making-of featurette. The DVD also has trailers for the IFC Films titles Dead Snow (Nazi Zombies? Yes, please!), The Escapist, Dark Mirror, and Pontypool.

Give yourself the gift of reading up on the chilling "Dirty War" of Argentina with it's estimation of over 30,000 "Disappeared" citizens before watching to give an added weight to viewing The Appeared. It's a cerebral thriller that feels somewhat respectful to the history it's using as it's jumping off point. This is a sophisticated, disturbing ghost story and family tragedy that's worth giving your attention to.


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