TRAUMA (Lucio A. Rojas, 2017)
United Artists Midway 9
108-22 Queens Blvd.
Friday, August 10, $15, 11:59 pm
Festival continues through August 12
Lucio A. Rojas’s Trauma opens with a brutal, extraordinarily difficult-to-watch scene that is severe torture porn, daring viewers to look away as it goes places I won’t even begin to describe here. If you stick around to see what happens next, you might just feel dirty and shameful and maybe even hate yourself for doing so. That said, Rojas doesn’t hide what he has done; he has made a ferociously savage film that the opening credits say was inspired by real events, initiated by the ruthless barbarity of the Pinochet regime toward its own people in Chile. The trailer itself is NC-17, and the film is described as “extreme horror.” It has been awarded honors at the Mórbido Film Festival (Special Mention), Horrorant Fright Nights (Best Cinematography), and Vancouver Badass Film Festival (Best Actress). And now it’s the Midnight Madness Grindhouse selection on Friday night at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The first scene, which involves a mother and son in a grisly, gruesome situation, takes place in 1978; thirty-three years later, four young women — Andrea (Catalina Martin), her sister, Camila (Macarena Carrere), Camila’s girlfriend, Julia (Ximena del Solar), and Camila and Andrea’s cousin Magdalena (Dominga Bofill) — are going on vacation to a remote house that, little do they know, has quite a history, one that even local cops Pedro (Eduardo Paxeco) and Diego (Claudio Riveros) choose not to share with them. Soon they are at the mercy of Juan (Daniel Antivilo), a monster of a man — the 1978 child grown up — and his son, Mario (Felipe Rios), whose relentless evil knows no bounds.
Evoking such genre favorites as Saw, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Hostel, Rojas outdoes all of them in his depiction of depravity, gore, and mayhem. Rojas (Sendero, Perfidia) is a skillful filmmaker and a brash manipulator; Trauma is not for the mere horror aficionado but for those fans who thirst for more. The movie reaches down dark and deep, showing things that really don’t need to be seen, even if they happened exactly as Rojas depicts, however unlikely that is. (There are numerous flashbacks as the story shifts between 1978 and 2011.) I have no problem with terrifying films filled with lots of blood and guts; however, Rojas’s attempts to relate the destruction and repression wrought by Pinochet get lost in all the abhorrent torment, while his biblical theme concerning the sins of the father gets overplayed. It’s essentially an exploitative women-in-danger flick — yes, there is nudity and sex because, well, you know — taken to another level. There’s a reason the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema advises, “Absolutely no refunds will be given under any circumstances, including walk-outs.” Consider yourself warned.