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History of the Occult (Historia de lo Oculto)

Director - Christian Ponce - 2020

"Greasy movie"
A conspiracy at the highest levels of the Argentinean government is about to be revealed on national television but the truth has a terrible price - Tromsø International Film Festival


Sometime in the 1980s, the Argentinian president is in trouble. There are popular demonstrations on the streets and accusations of corruption. What’s more popular TV news magazine show 60 Minutes to Midnight is about to broadcast its live show, the last it will ever present. They’re being taken off the air but before they go a team of producers Maria (Nadia Lozano), Jorge (Agustin Recondo), Alfredo (Hector Ostrofsky) and Abel (Casper Uncal) hope to reveal a conspiracy that will land the President himself in serious trouble.

In the studio, the presenter has a sociologist and a special guest as well as a government minister. There has been a mysterious murder and the a reporter lurks on a street corner waiting for an ultimate piece of evidence to arrive which will prove that there is an occult cabal linking all the ministers of the government and the President.

Such is the set up for Christian Ponce’s realtime horror film. Shot (mostly) in black and white and (mostly) in Academy ratio, Ponce’s debut is eager to throw in as many chilling and uncanny elements as it can. Conspiracy, child kidnapping, alternate realities, a ritual involving hallucinogens, lurking demonic presences and thudding noises are all added to the mix and for the most part are very effective as the clock ticks down to midnight.

It’s never quite clear why the producers are huddled in a bungalow and not in the studio itself. Nor what the actual nature of the conspiracy is. The fact that it is hinted at murkily is sufficient. Ultimately, one might suspect that this is the equivalent of a shaggy dog – or more fittingly a shaggy hound of hell story. The skeleton of the plot can creak and there might not be anything under the sheet after all, but it is a lot of atmospheric fun getting there.

Things become crazier as the film progresses and the stakes are significantly raised. Franco Cerana and Camilo Giordano’s cinematography helps evoke the cloak in the cloak and dagger and occasional stabs of colour hint at something truly uncanny. There’s a minimalistic feel which hints at economy as much as anything. But if this is a calling card film – and there’s no shame in that – then it does introduce a truly interesting talent.

The 32nd Tromsø International Film Festival runs from January 17th to the 23rd. DMovies is reporting live all week!

"Greasy movie"

By John Bleasdale - 20-01-2022

By John Bleasdale - 20-01-2022

John Bleasdale is a film critic and writer based in Italy. He has published a novel entitled Blood is on the Grass and a book of short stories as well as a number of articles and features. His work ha...

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