Color, 2016, 82 mins 2 secs.
Directed by Victor Dryere
Starring Diana Bovio, Rolando Breme, Guillermo Callahan, Blanca Alarcón
Cauldron (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Imagine Paranormal Activity taking place with a Super 8 camera in 1974 Mexico, and that'll at least get you in the ballpark of the genuinely creepy retro found footage film, 1974: La posesión de Altair. Proving that a few creative tweaks can breathe new life into even the most shopworn concepts, this inventive and borderline experimental spin on the idea of a couple besieged by a malevolent force in their home gets a gritty overhaul here, moving the action far before the cell phone era to deliver a spooky little number that slips under your skin more than you may realize.
Everything seems happy at first for newlywed couple Altair (Bovio) and Manuel (Breme), who have decided to move to a house in the countryside. However, the moving-in process is disrupted by uncanny events that start with an inexplicable flock of birds that rains down dead on the house. Soon Altair is acting very strangely, such as hanging out in the middle of the woods clutching a toy, going into trances in the bathtub, and saying things like "You understand nothing," claiming she was visited by an angel at the foot of the bed. Even before the move, Manuel has been meticulously filming everything n his Super 8 camera for posterity, with friend Callahan and Altair's sister , Tere (Alarcón), enlisted to find out what's going on -- and whether it can be stopped. Since we've already seen a frantic crime scene at the beginning of the film introducing the footage, it's clear something very, very bad is still in store.
Though it doesn't try to reinvent the found footage approach in terms of narrative or scares, this one easily stands out thanks to its time setting and especially its look. The beautifully grainy texture with vibrant, borderline unnatural colors goes a long way to create an uncanny atmosphere, especially when it comes to shooting a seance or an excursion into a basement you know damn well won't end happily. Apart from a couple of iffy special effects moments (the first appearance of the birds, for example), the film really feels like a home movie from hell left in someone's basement, especially during the hallucinogenic final stretch that, without spoiling things, veers the film in a harrowing and genre-twisting direction.
For this film's English-language home video debut, Cauldron Films has brought out a welcome Blu-ray edition that sticks to the intended aesthetic of the film with every bit of grain intact; particularly projected, it's a weirdly entrancing viewing experience at times, especially when those wild colors straight out of a '70s album cover pop up at times. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 Spanish tracks both sound very good and make nice use of the ambient sound effects and music score (which works fine, though that element may be a distraction for some viewers); the last 30 seconds in particular will really give your speakers a workout either way. Optional English subtitles are included, of course, and extras include the Mexican trailer and a short featurette (3m5s) with the film's sound designer, Uriel Villalobos, chatting about the creation of the film's sonic environment to create a "looming sensation" the balance of dialogue, music, and sound effects. The limited edition also comes with a soundtrack CD (perfect for freaking out your neighbors), a pair of double-sided mini lobby cards, and a slipcase.
Reviewed on November 30, 2021