Film Review – Kurusu Serapio (2016)

It’s not for nothing that the Blair Witch Project is considered one of the most influential horror films of all time. It’s cast its shadow over the likes of Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield. Nearly 20 years later, it’s still inspiring film makers as seen in writer/director Marcos Codas’s 2016 film Kurusu Serapio.

This independent Paraguayan film utilises a mixture of found footage and conventional narrative to tell its story; a group of teenagers haunted by the spectre of a curse, the malevolent Kurusu Serapio.

Despite the basic premise, the film packs plenty of intrigue into its six-minute runtime. The setting, rural and suburban Paraguay, is rich and detailed. Simple background shots of gas stations or woodland impart a quiet beauty and strong sense of place on the film. While the common viewer may not care to appreciate the aesthetics of a horror movie, Codas used specific elements of the local culture to weave the background into the story, bulking out the story and characters through use of props and sets. The titular curse laid on the main character takes its influence from the real-life shrine of Saint Serapio in the director’s hometown, where locals beg for favours at the cross there. No wonder then that the film has been declared a work of cultural interest by local authorities in Paraguay.

The found footage elements are well shot, managing to steer clear of the pitfalls of overly shaky camera work or corny jump-scares. Instead, the technique looks as it should, like something anyone might shoot on a mobile phone camera. The sense of realism is aided by the young cast, recruited from a local theatre group, who combine local dialect and accents with competent dramatic skills.

Codas makes some interesting technical decisions throughout. Abrupt cuts to black abound, occurring roughly every five seconds at points in the film which seemed a little jarring to me. That said, it adds a certain sense of chaos and confusion to proceedings. I felt they could have been toned down just a little, but perhaps it’s a matter of opinion.

Overall, this is an excellent film, packing a richly ominous story into a bite-sized package. It’s easy to see why Kurusu Serapio has attracted plaudits at screenings from Argentina to Egypt. Codas is a promising creator, and if he continues to imbue his work with such a strong sense of atmosphere, he’ll certainly be one to watch in the coming years.

Kurusu Serapio is available online as part of the Chunks of Horror compilation.

Jonny Keen | [rating=4]

Horror, Independent  | Dir. Marcos Codas | Christian Cuadra, Leila Benitez Planas, Alexis Amarilla Baez, Camila Sigaud