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THE APPEARED
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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Paco Cabezas

Starring:
Ruth Díaz
Javier Pereira
Pablo Cedrón

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A brother and sister travel to Argentina to settle out their comatose father’s will, and run afoul of a murderous supernatural entity.
Is it good movie?
Malena and Pablo are siblings with just enough years between them to not understand each other. But when their long-estranged father – so long that Pablo has no real memories of him – lies brain-dead and hooked up to life-support in an Argentinean hospital, they must travel from their home of Barcelona to pull the plug and deal with his estate. Pablo decides that he must take a road trip to their father’s home in an attempt to get to know the man he was, but along the way he discovers a disturbing twenty-year old journal detailing, in a chillingly detached manner, a horrific multiple murder. And when the incidents in the book begin replaying themselves in the present day, the brother and sister are confronted with their father’s dark history and try to change the past by intervening in these events.

It is almost impossible to review a Spanish film these days without referencing Guillermo Del Toro (and yes, I know he is Mexican) but it is hardly an insult. The Appeared reminded me of a cross between The Devil’s Backbone, as it deals with the violent past intruding on the future, and Pan’s Labyrinth, in that it uses a fantastic element to parallel a grievous political time in a foreign country. As an American viewer, it took me a while to figure out that Malena and Pablo were from Barcelona but actually in Argentina (where the film was shot) and I had no knowledge whatsoever of the Argentinean Anti-Communist Alliance, whose activities in the early 80’s the movie's plot centers around, which was a government-sanctioned death squad: raping, torturing, and exterminating any “enemy of the state.”

As Malena and Pablo find themselves thrust into the lives of the dead family from the murderer’s journal, so too do they find themselves on the bad side of the invisible specter from the past. During their frantic, yet futile, attempts to alter history and save even one life, they become intimately familiar with the Triple A, as it was known, and their father’s history with it. They then discover that settling out their strained relationship with the man and escaping the clutches of a killer they cannot see might be one in the same thing. The progression from family drama to invisible stalker movie to harsh political expose feels very natural, with the tension constantly increasing with each revelation. First-time director Paco Cabezas (who also scripted) bit off a serious mouthful, but delivers a very creepy, yet thought-provoking film.

The Appeared is not without its negatives, though, not the least of which the fact that the title makes no sense. Pablo finding the journal is a bit of deus ex machina, as the spirit that leads him to it goes against the rules set up by the film later, and the fact that they can alter the past events at all doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of logic, in the framework of the film of course. But these are small quibbles, and the drama and eerie imagery (such as a girl being lifted into the air by an invisible knife piercing her chest through her back) more than make up for the narrative weak spots.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic widescreen, and the transfer is crisp and clear. Other than the strange decision to bleach out the color from the flashback that opens the movie (from only one week before) the photography is gorgeous, well showing off the natural beauty of the landscapes in Patagonia.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish, with optional English and Spanish subtitles.
The Extras
There is only a behind the scenes documentary, running slightly under 20-minutes, but it is candid, entertaining, and informative. The cast and producers give the standard fluff about how they couldn’t put the script down, and all that, but it is really worth it to hear Cabezas talk about his inspiration for the film, and his thoughts on the horror genre in general.
Last Call
While not being a perfect film, The Appeared is a wonderful antidote to the slick, watered-down horror Hollywood provides. It chooses to explore archetypal themes such as grief and domestic disparity and all of our deep-down desires to reach into the past and change events for a better outcome, while also juxtaposing cinematic horror with the very real horror of a troubling time in Argentina’s history. And it does it under the guidance of a director who knows how to shoot a tense and engrossing film.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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