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Rock, Paper and Scissors - Movie Review

Rock, Paper and Scissors - Movie Review
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PLOT: Upon their father’s sudden death, a trio of siblings unite at his house to divvy up their inheritance, leading to a series of sinister and suspenseful psychological head games that turn violent and increasingly surreal.

REVIEW: Feature first-time Argentine filmmakers Martin Blousson and Macarena Garcia Lenzi have turned in what I’d call a darkly absurdist psychological thriller with Rock, Paper, and Scissors - a small but well-made and well-played 80-minute movie that, despite the dead giveaway of its IMDd plot synopsis that you should not read beforehand, establishes early on and miraculously maintains throughout, a bizarre tonal consistency, a tautly-coiled string of suspense, and a suspended air of mystifying fog pertaining to its three craven central characters - all of whom are preposterously driven to madness by the crushing grief of their father’s death and unquenchable greed for his inheritance money. The fun in watching this movie is deciphering the cruel intentions of the three siblings at the heart of the film, decoding their twisted in-fighting and savage ulterior motives, and wondering just how their weird and worrisome actions will unfold, even if the promise of an ultra-violent climax is slightly sidestepped. For fans of offbeat international horror who aren’t afraid of subtitles, Rock, Paper, and Scissors is a wacky and wickedly waggish cinematic mind-f*ck worth playing when it drops on VOD this summer.

The film opens in an old rundown manse in Argentina, where siblings Jesus (Pablo Sigal) and Maria Jose (Valeria Giorcelli) soon welcome their estranged, upper-class half-sister Magdalena (Augustina Cervino) from her home in Spain. The old house belongs to their recently deceased father, who died in the home three days after mysteriously falling down the stairs and breaking his hip. Maria Jose, an amateur nurse that has been living with and taking care of their father, is not only the most emotionally shaken of the three, but she’s also the most unhinged, entranced in a faraway glaze of delirium as she tries to pick up the pieces. Jesus is a flaky wannabe filmmaker who appears more serious than he initially lets on, needing help from Magdalena, a professional businesswoman who has arrived for two weeks to sort out their father’s financial paperwork, execute his last will and testament, and decide on selling the house. A house that Maria Jose still resides in. While happy enough to see Magdalena for the first time in years, you can sense a boiling undercurrent of resentment among Jesus and Maria Jose over their successful half-sister’s sense of entitlement in collecting her what they feel is an unwarranted inheritance.

An ominous air turns absurdly mysterious when Magdalena also falls down the stairs, awaking to find herself laid up in their father’s medical bed, swaddled in heavy bandages, and immobilized with a neck brace. She can’t reach the phone and her cell charger is too big for the wall socket. At her bedside is Maria Jose, serving hand and foot as she informs Magdalena that her leg is broken and she cannot walk. Crazier yet, Magdalena immediately claims she was pushed down the stairs, an accusation both siblings deny, and an action we do not see onscreen. Was she really pushed? If not by her potentially vengeful brother or sister, could it have been a supernatural entity in the house? The ghost of their father, perhaps? While the latter is dispelled rather quickly, the core question remains unanswered, leaving us to watch in awe and wonder which sibling is telling the truth, which is pathological lying, and how the shifted allyship and sick infighting between all three will all play out. As each person’s ulterior motives become clear, our sympathies alter, making for a head-spinning farrago of f*cked-up sibling rivalry that culminates in an abrupt torrent of violence.

Around this central mystery, the directors are able to tightly wrap a tensile rope of unslacked suspense, maintaining such a strange and offbeat tone in the process that it’s hard not to be engrossed as the story unfolds. The most unnerving behavior belongs to Maria Jose, who dreamily watches The Wizard of Oz every night in a fugue state, dresses up like Dorothy and her Guinea pig- ike Toto to reenact certain scenes, which she also forces Jesus to film and Magdalena to participate in while she’s strapped in a wheelchair. Shit’s nutso! Even in completely mundane scenes where she is acting orderly as a nurse, the directors manage to frame these really frightening, devilish expressions on Maria Jose’s face that exponentially heighten the overall creep factor. The twisted psychology of the characters is what’s most alarming in this movie, the fragility of which explodes in a conclusion that, while too expository for my liking as it hastily tries to explain everything away in a nutshell, emphasizes the absurd nature of the story in glorious fashion. While the third act leaves a bit more wanting with its copout non-violent Misery homage, the final scene atones with a memorable mixture of mordant horror and morbid humor that mostly sticks the landing.

All in all, I’d recommend Rock, Paper and Scissors to fans of bizarre, suspenseful psychological thrillers and absurdist dark comedies alike, with the caveat that you go in cold without reading any plot information prior to seeing the film. Directors Bousson and Lenzi get extra credit for making a feature debut this assuredly competent, this well crafted technically, tonally, and thematically, and this memorably maniacal.

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