“TRAUMA”— “Chilean Horror Flick Condemns a Military Regime”


“Chilean Horror Flick Condemns a Military Regime”

Amos Lassen

In 2011, four friends who visit a rural locality of Chile are brutally attacked by a man and his son. When they do not find help in the town, they decide to confront these men with the help of a pair of policemen. By doing so, they discover that their attackers are part of the direct legacy of the darkest period of Chilean history and will have to face the most brutal enemy.

Four women, sisters Andrea (Catalina Martin) and Camila (Macarena Carrere), their cousin Magdalena (Dominga Bofill) and Camila’s girlfriend Julia (Ximena del Solar) head to the country to a family cabin for a couple days of drinks and sun. On their way they stop by a local drinking hole for directions. Some of the locals get too close when Juan (Daniel Antivilo), the local tyrant, intercedes. The women clear out and head up to the cottage. 

 Soon, the drinks start flowing and Camila and Julia start fooling around with Magdalena when they discover that Juan is looking in on the party from the outside. He and his son, Mario (Felipe Rios), force their way into the cottage, then viciously terrorize and assault the women in a savage and deadly attack, raping and beating them to near death. The terror continues into the next day when the local constabulary becomes involved and Juan kidnaps a local child and takes her back to his trap-filled fortress. 

In the prologue we go back to Chile in 1978 where director Lucio Rojas’ brutal and shattering horror film, fires an opening volley so fierce you’re left soul searching only minutes into the picture.  We understand that Juan is the boy in the prologue, and that Juan’s father was no better to him than he was to his victims of the oppressive regime. He had been indoctrinated, brainwashed, forced to do heinous things by his father and now Juan carries on his father’s brutal legacy decades after the Pinochet regime has collapsed and has been terrorizing the locals in the area. He has been doing to same to his son, Mario, who looks to be following in ‘his’ father’s footsteps now. 

The film is incredibly violent and graphic. We know that Rojas is speaking of the history and effects of the military coup in Chile. There is no doubt that Rojas does not think much of the dictatorship that terrorized his country over those years. Juan’s link to his father is presented many times throughout the film and we see news clippings in his fortress, flashbacks to Juan’s indoctrination during the first years of the dictatorship, and we even see Juan singing an old military song in the climax as the survivors of his vicious assault attempt to rescue a local girl. 

If you are at all familiar  with the military dictatorship era in Chile and know of the Human Rights violations and atrocities that occurred for some twenty-five years, this film will have meaning for you. you will relate to that. For the rest of us, it has something to say about the sins of the fathers to their sons and to their sons and then to their sons. 

“Trauma” is easily one of the most brutal, graphic and disturbing horror films to have been made in recent memory. The physical and sexual assaults by Juan and Mario in the early goings are savage and Rojas does not hold back in his depiction of its brutality. When the film is not near sexually explicit it is shockingly gory. Sometimes it is both at the same time. Martin leads the four actresses portraying strength and resilience. Carrere emulates her sister’s strength by insisting they go after Juan, after being victimized and assaulted, and rescue the girl. Bohill is naive and fragile, giving us our the saddest and most heart breaking victim in many ways. Del Solar taps into her modeling career to provide enticement and an alluring target for Juan and Mario and the unintended spark to this raging inferno.

Daniel Antivilo perfectly portrays Juan—raised to be a vicious bastard who thinks that he does no wrong. He still believes that the principles of the regime must live on with his efforts. He believes that he is truly untouchable. He plays the devil even more than the devil could have.  Rojas seems to be suggesting that everyone, no matter what state of readiness they find themselves, broken by or having lost someone to the brutality of the regime, must still stand up to its legacy of tyranny. He takes shot after shot at a military regime that devastated his homeland for more than a quarter of a century.

Lucio Rojas is quite clear and concise in his mission to repel and appall his audience. The atrocities under Augusto Pinochet that were committed against the people by his regime are unspeakable. These horrors are being carried out by the military, and pain and agony is wholly apparent as people around them are being tortured. There is a scene where a son is forced to commit an utterly despicable and unspeakable act on an already ripped and torn woman… who is his mother. The boy is instantly traumatized and so is the viewer.

When we move forward to 2011, we are thrown into a steamy lesbian sex encounter between Camila and her girlfriend, Julia. This is a scene filled with skin. We meet Andrea who is going on a trip with her sister Camila and Julia, as well as Andrea and Camila’s cousin, Magdalena as they go to a family house in a smaller community outside Santiago, Chile.When they arrive at the cottage, the party begins but before any of this drama is further pursued, there are two male assailants creepily watching the erotic female seduction going on from outside the house. Julia spots one of the guys while performing a striptease and it startles her and everyone else. Soon, the two Peeping Toms invade the dwelling with obvious malicious intent.

The men are Juan, the man who intervened in the bar earlier, and his son, Mario. The men are on a mission to sexually violate the women, and do so in particular sadistic and unsettling fashion, noticeably taking great pleasure from it. After the home invasion, another major traumatic event occurs and finally the women seek refuge in police officers they met earlier. Unfortunately, this doesn’t resolve the situation.

The movie’s title, “Trauma”, is a perfect fit, not only because of the experiences of the female victims but also because of the young boy’s traumatic childhood, as well as one unsettling scene involving a baby. The film is beautifully shot using pristine quality production, with a high level of technical merit. The film is a trip to hell with some beautiful looking women to ease the pain.

Director Rojas made the choice to deliver convincing brutality and he does. I read that after filming particularly bothersome scenes, the cast was visibly shaken and had to recover from the intensity. The gore here is realistic, repugnant and highly effective, along with the sense of tension and panic which comes through wonderfully. “Trauma” is one of the best and meanest indie horror features that I have seen. It is a vicious and shocking tale which blends the dark history of 1970s Chile with a modern tale of horror and a film that exposes the horrors of politics with the evil that can reside within the souls of ordinary men.

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