The Trace We Leave Behind (Movie Review)

The Trace We Leave Behind (Movie Review)
8 10

PLOT: A doctor seems to encounter the supernatural while searching for a missing patient. Or is he just losing his mind?

REVIEW: Although there are some independent filmmakers fighting the good fight to keep the horror genre alive in the country that gave us Coffin Joe, in general there's not a lot going on when it comes to homegrown Brazilian horror. With their film THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND (or O RASTRO in its native Portuguese), director J.C. Feyer and producers Malu Miranda and André Pereira set out to prove that Brazil can do horror just as well as Hollywood.

Written by Pereira and Beatriz Manela, the film draws inspiration from the tumultuous political climate in Brazil and the fact that, despite spending billions to host the World Cup and the Olympics, the country is currently languishing in its worst recession in history. The economy is so bad that hospitals have been closing down due to lack of funds and equipment, and such an occurrence is at the heart of THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND.

Rafael Cardoso stars as João, a doctor who has been tasked with overseeing the transfer of the remaining patients in a closing hospital in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, the transfer does not go smoothly, and not just because of the protests. A patient gets lost along the way; a young orphan girl named Julia, the last patient to have been admitted at that hospital, who João had briefly spoken to one day. Although João's wife Leila (Leandra Leal) is pregnant with their first child, Julia commented that he doesn't look like a father because when you're scared you look at a father and know things will be okay. I think that comment spurs João along in his desperate search to find Julia, as he wants to prove that he can make things okay for her.

Concurrent to Julia's disappearance, João begins to experience very strange things in the old hospital. While he witnesses some intense evidence that the hospital may be haunted, and Feyer wrings every bit of creepiness he possibly can out of these haunting sequences, we also have to take into account that we're seeing things through the eyes of a man who is carrying a huge amount of stress and responsibility on his shoulders, and who is sleep deprived because of the terrible nightmares he's having. There's a chance that João's mind may be crumbling just as much as the walls and ceilings in the condemned hospital.

Cardoso delivers an incredible performance, really getting across his character's tortured emotional state as João gets more and more desperate and scared. The longer he searches for Julia, the more disturbing the situation becomes, and he ends up unearthing some very dark secrets. THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND is far from being a simple, straightforward story of a haunted hospital. The story takes twists and turns that I wasn't expecting at all, and by the conclusion we're in territory that I never would have imagined this film was going to take us into. 

Leal also puts in some great work as Leila, who is dragged along on her husband's quest. She's the loving wife trying to keep their home life together for most of the film, but then the point comes when she has to follow João into the darkness. The film throws some heavy emotional content her way, and Leal capably handles it in a very impressive manner.

Hollywood level but uniquely Brazilian, THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND is a well-made and polished film that, aside from an egregious jump scare here and there, doesn't fall into any Hollywood trappings. This is a story centered on adult characters, and it doesn't handle its horror with any sense of levity. It's a deadly serious situation that beats the characters into the ground, and Feyer means to take you along the ride with them. There is no relief, no break in the dark atmosphere. The film is relentless in its determination to scare and disturb.

Overall, I found it to be quite effective. The only nitpick I have in mind after watching the film is that, if we are truly to wonder if the horrific events are supernatural or psychological, then it seems like João goes off the deep end a little too quickly. The ending, while providing resolution and being a satisfying wrap-up, also left some questions, but they are mostly intentional.

THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND is probably the best possible attempt there could be to make Brazilian horror mainstream in its native country. We'll have to wait and see if the attempt was a successful one. I hope so, because I would love to see more horror like this coming out of Brazil.

Extra Tidbit: THE TRACE WE LEAVE BEHIND is now on DVD and Blu-ray in Brazil. An international release strategy is being plotted out.



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