Legions

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Legions
"Fans of fantastic stories – especially those of the gruesome variety – are in for a treat."

Antonio (Germán De Silva) is popular with his peers. They respect his talent as a writer, enjoy working on the play he has created, and love listening to his stories – but even they are inclined to raise their eyebrows when he insists that everything he’s telling them really happened. If he’s such a great sorcerer, why is he locked up in an asylum?

Flashback scenes reveal the very different life which Antonio lived as a young man, in a hut in the forest, where he was widely respected for his magical abilities, which stemmed from his bloodline. He lived with the woman he loved then, and she gave him a little girl. After she was killed by an evil demon, he fought it in order to save his daughter, but it stole a necklace which was vital to protecting her faith. When they moved to the city and she began to grow up, she gradually lost her belief in magic and demons, coming to see him as a deadbeat and reacting with horror to his ritual work.

Father and daughter have now become estranged. She lives with her partner and works in an office, and though she occasionally doles out bits of magical advice to her colleagues, her life is pretty ordinary. The impending arrival of a blood red moon could change everything, however. When Antonio realises that the demon will take that opportunity to try to sacrifice her, he realises that he will have to escape from the asylum in order to save her. To achieve that, he will need the help of all his friends, and he will need her to start believing again.

The father/daughter story is touchingly played by capable actors, Lorena Vega bringing sufficient weight to the latter to make her much more than a damsel in distress. Underneath the high stakes drama of the main plot is a story about how modernisation and the shift to urban living has impacted indigenous communities in Argentina, and the generational divide which often stems from it. There’s a suggestion that the loss of traditional beliefs has left people spiritually and emotionally poorer, taking the magic out of life more generally and, perhaps, coinciding with a reduced ability to take pleasure in the sharing of stories.

Fans of fantastic stories – especially those of the gruesome variety – are in for a treat here as director Fabian Forte approaches the telling with gusto, creating colourful characters and clearly having a lot of fun with practical effects. It’s a type of filmmaking now largely abandoned in the northern hemisphere yet much loved by horror fans, and whilst it might not always look realistic, that’s not really the point. It certainly creates an impression.

The magic here is not just in the effects work itself but in how it is contextualised. Forte presents a rich and fully fledged mythology and extrapolates from that to create elaborate rituals, which he shoots in a way which maximises the thrill they deliver. The comedy element and deft supporting performances enhance the effect (not for nothing has Forte been compared to Sam Raimi). The production design is also strong, and Forte proves adept at drawing the eye to little details which will prove important as the story develops.

Buoyed up by Argentina’s strong tradition of magical realism, yet never taking itself too seriously, Legions, which screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022, seems destined to attract a cult following.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2022
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Antonio is a sorcerer from a powerful bloodline, trapped in an asylum against his will. After an omen informs him that his daughter will be sacrificed by an evil entity, he must use his magical skills to escape and save her.

Director: Fabian Forte

Starring: Germán De Silva, Lorena Vega, Ezequiel Rodriguez

Year: 2022

Country: Argentina


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