SCREEN DIARY: FERAL at Raindance 2019.

SCREEN DIARY: FERAL at Raindance 2019

Our first Raindance day featured two familiar tropes of the modern horror genre – the zombie outbreak movie and the found footage scare show. Two South American offerings wrestled gamely with conventions. How did they get along? Part 2 – FERAL.

SCREEN DIARY: FERAL at Raindance 2019.


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d. Andrés Kaiser, 2018 (Mexico, 101 mins)

European premiere

FERAL is a mystery wrapped in a sock tucked away in the bottom drawer of an enigma. Like many found footage films, it runs the risk of being more backstory than compelling narrative but thrusts its concerns into the present with a series of shocking revelations steeped in colonialist atrocities. It’s a cautionary film about the horrors that await us when corrupting influences have warped our worlds and entirely misguided efforts to re-assert personal agency come cruelly apart.

Documentary filmmakers and their interview subjects tell the story of Juan Felipe de Jesús González (Hector Illanes), a fallen priest who, having taken part in a radical series of psychoanalytical experiments, flees the church and seeks a life of isolation in the forest. Through a trove of old Betamax tapes, we learn that his isolation was profoundly altered when he found and offered shelter to a young feral boy, attempting to bring the child into his world through an at times brutal re-education. Later, two more feral children joined the family but their presence destabilises what is already unmanageable. The priest’s life becomes a quest of faith way beyond his limited control, ending in madness.

SCREEN DIARY: FERAL at Raindance 2019.
SCREEN DIARY: FERAL at Raindance 2019.

As a faux documentary FERAL works incredibly well. The interview subjects and location shoots are varied and convincing, and the found flashbacks are always taut, plunging us ever onwards into darkness. With only a couple of postproduction Betamax warps outstaying their welcome, everything slots compellingly into place, piece after intriguing piece. Avoiding more primal scares, debut feature filmmaker Kaiser’s emphasis is on heightening tension and darkening tone as the horrors of what happened in the forest – and who might have caused them – are gradually revealed.

Potentially sensationalist details never over simplify cause and effect, giving FERAL a profound seriousness of intent. This is a world where calculated religious experimentation has had brutal consequences, the young priests forced to defend their faith or risk being unravelled. That this latter has happened is the dark energy that drives this grim tale. FERAL shares distinctive textures with Jorge Michel Grau’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2010), another fine Mexican horror where a hidden-away household collapses under the strain of its inherent strangeness as its secrets are exposed.

And that’s the meat of it…



The 27th Raindance Film Festival screens at Vue West End & Vue Piccadilly (18 to 29 SEP 2019).

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