After the harrowing death of her mother, Carmen is surprised to learn she now owns a delipidated property that belonged to her Grandmother. Being an investigative journalist Carmen’s natural curiosity kicks into gear and she decides to go and explore its history with her husband Julián and their dog Tomasa in tow.
There are two things you can be sure of in horror movie lore. Firstly, NEVER set foot in a house inherited in mysterious circumstances. Torch the fucker as quickly as possible for the insurance money and use it to move to an island on the other side of the world. Secondly, Tomasa’s doggy days are seriously numbered.
For Carmen, however, the urge to poke about in dingy cupboards to disturb family skeletons is too strong to resist. Initially unphased by the festering sense of impending doom, her true nightmare begins when she stumbles upon a musty stash of old VHS tapes. Mixed in with the birthday party footage of fond memories are a catalogue of recordings documenting a slew of horrifying exorcisms.
Rodrigo Fiallega’s comfortingly old-school possession shocker sticks to a relatively standard template but is so well made and acted that you won’t mind. There is a steady stream of jumps and twists to keep us engaged whilst the chemistry between the two likable leads is authentic and nurtures a tangible relationship dynamic.
Camila Sodi uses her considerable screen presence to flesh out the character of Carmen beyond that of a nosy journalist on a mission. Just as convincing in the periods of normalcy as when she is being terrorised by unseen forces, it’s a nuanced performance that chalks her up as an actress to keep an eye on.
Carolina Costa’s classy camera work is given a full license to roam as she assembles a gothic vista of palpable evil. Her sweeping focus pulls, awkward framing angles, and intense visual misdirection combine to give The Exorcism of Carmen Farias a gorgeous sense of dread and paranoia.
Aided and abetted by a score that is light on corny stabby string scares and heavy on melodic foreshadowing the film fights hard to shake up its checklist of haunted house prerequisites. And, for the most part, it succeeds admirably.
It shines brightest when dealing in layers of subtlety. The central narrative core is that of Carmen and Julián’s miscarried baby. At one point this figures in an admittedly distressing dream sequence that smacks of needless shock tactics. This sad and traumatising life event acquires much more dramatic mileage during the delicate moments the couple interacts under its shadow of despair and loss.
Likewise, the bombastic incidents of supernatural harassment, although effective in a sledgehammer to the face kind of way, pale against the more considered aspects of spooky bedevilment. One such carefully staged scene involving a simple coffee cup will have James Wan puke green with goosebump envy.
The Exorcism of Carmen Farias represents another regenerative salvo of Mexican horror to bolster a roster of recent hits such as We Are What We Are and Here Comes the Devil. Personable and richly atmospheric this pacy possession flick is an entertaining blend of technical guile and demonic hysteria.
Horror Thriller, Supernatural Mystery | Mexico, 2021 | 93 mins | Invicta Films | Dir. Rodrigo Fiallega | With:Camila Sodi, Juan Pablo Castañeda, Lucy Paez, Juan Carlos Colombo