Lillian Hellman ever written a horror film set in provincial Argentina, it
might have looked a lot like this. Shades of J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla are also easily discernible in
Martín Desalvo’s near two-hander, Darkness
by Day (trailer here), which screens
during this year’s Macabro, the Mexico City International Film Festival.
leads a sheltered life on the family’s ancestral estate in the middle of
nowhere. At his brother’s behest, her father leaves Virginia home alone to
check on her critically ill cousin Julia. As soon as he leaves, Virginia’s
other cousin Anabel arrives in a state of extreme exhaustion. Something is
clearly vexing her too. She has no appetite and only seems to rouse herself at
night. These are also odd times in the village at large. There are reports of a
rabies outbreak and other young women seem to be suffering from symptoms
similar to those afflicting Julia.
the confused Virginia cannot seem to reach her father by cell or land line.
Yet, as Anabel strengthens, the shy woman becomes more enthralled by her mysterious
cousin. This seems to greatly concern her father and uncle when they finally
return bearing bad news.
would be interesting to watch Darkness in
close dialogue with Mauricio Chernovetzky & Mark Devendorf’s The Curse of Styria, which also
screens at Macabro. Both favor mood and atmosphere over blood and cheap
thrills, but Darkness is an especially
slow builder. Unlike Styria, Josefina
Trotta’s screenplay eventually embraces the lesbian overtones of Le Fanu’s
classic. In fact, Darkness is quite
Hellmanesque, depicting the cousins’ fathers as not just paternal but
Recalde (Desalvo’s real life partner) compellingly portrays Virginia’s
innocence and her subsequent fall from grace. She subtly hints at the young
woman’s possible arrest development, without overplaying her hand. However,
Romina Paula really ought to be more seductive as Anabel.
is unusually elegant, creepy, and evocative by horror movies standards,
thanks to the first class work of cinematographer Nicolás Trovato and art
director Fernanda Challi. That old spooky family manse was a real find.
Recommended for genre fans who appreciate moodier gothic films, Darkness by Day screens this Sunday
(8/24) and next Friday (8/29), as part of the 2014 Macabro. Also recommended,
the thematically related Curse of Styria launches
the festival with a free screening tonight (8/21).
Labels: Argentine Cinema, Horror Movies, Macabro '14