Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

"At the genre level, Medusa is failing. Simply put: it's not scary." | Photo: Courtesy of Director's Fortnight

A group of masked girls go on a night hunt. They are targeting those who break out of the ideal model of a Christian woman who ought be beautiful, undefiled and serve her husband. This is how Anita Rocha da Silveira opens her Medusa, in which a strict Christian morality is at full intensity and Brazil appears as a state of religious authoritarianism.

When one of the girls in the masked militia, 21-year-old Mariana (Mari Oliveira), is wounded during an attempt to lynch an accidental sinner, her belief in these religious values will change dramatically. Against her will, the girl will be pushed beyond the ideal world, in which she no longer fits, having lost her beauty. The hypocrisy of both her friends and the community, requiring young girls to follow a life pattern in which there is no room for individual decisions, becomes more and more apparent. Mariana, however, knows no other life, she is more and more convinced that behind her failures is something more than the corruption of the society – an evil force, an impure demon.

The Brazilian director tries to show the traps of blind affiliation to a fundamentalist religious institution, which is lined with a political agenda. She does not give her young protagonists a moment to breathe – neither when the hypocrisy of pastor (Thiago Fragoso) who tries to built his political electorate from pious zealots becomes clear, nor when they discover the tensions related to their corporeality.

Although the purpose of creating such a claustrophobic world was probably to maintain the tension characteristic of horror movies, Mariana's lack of agency means that this world is not causing terror but stuffiness.

Medusa is an ambitious picture. It is not only a socio-political commentary on the condition of contemporary Brazil, a criticism of institutional religion, but also an attempt to reverse the tensions of a classic horror movie, where an innocent girl has the best chance of survival. In this case, the real terror is to be caused by the mask of innocence.

Unfortunately, perhaps the ambitions are too high. At the genre level, Medusa is failing. Simply put: it's not scary. Perhaps we are already too used to the images of everyday dystopia to be impressed with the image of the world viewed in this crooked mirror. Or maybe Medusa gets lost somewhere between kitsch and the seriousness of a moral manifesto?

Reviewed on: 14 Jul 2021
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A woman who is part of a gang who hunt those who transgress their religious ideals, finds her values changing dramatically after she is injured.
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Director: Anita Rocha da Silveira

Writer: Anita Rocha da Silveira

Starring: Bruna Linzmeyer, Thiago Fragoso, Felipe Frazão, Joana Medeiros, Lara Tremouroux, Mariana Oliveira

Year: 2021

Runtime: 127 minutes

Country: Brazil

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