Directed by: Lex Ortega
Every year a movie (or two) seeps out of the underground bearing with it a pungent odour and reputation of being so dark and evil that it's a test of endurance to watch.
Or so they say.
I rarely find these films to be as shocking or provocative as they are made up to be. Well, dark and grim, but not as shocking and disturbing as cover blurbs and early critic quotes would have it be. Perhaps I have a complete lack of empathy for people and things outside of my circle. Or perhaps I’ve just ended up being way to analytical in my viewing and rarely letting stuff get under my skin… That's just the way it is right now it seems. I’ll have to look into that.
Not saying that Atroz isn’t shocking and grim, because it is. It will turn many viewers inside out and kick them in the bollocks, having them question why the hell they wanted to watch this flick in the first point. But what I find truly exciting is when extreme cinema uses its extremeness as a storytelling tool. A device to crack open your head and push the buttons that make you react, in many cases sending you a message that is much deeper than freaking out audiences with cool effects.
To the point. Mexican violence and sleaze fest Atroz is a found footage flick - something of a trait with underground extreme cinema, because it's cheap - but Lex Ortega brings a twist. It's understandable why Ruggero Deodato's name is slapped on as an executive producer, something Ortega wears, and should, as a badge of honour.
The violence is rough, brutal, sadistic and elaborately shoved in your face. Many of the underground checklist traits are crossed off as we go down the spiral staircase; body fluids, torture, genital mutilation, rape, sodomy, incest and murder. One scene has a camera mounted to the fist that's delivering blows to a transvestites face, another has a razor blade fixed barbed wire wrapped dildo going up and inside an anus.
There are certainly an amount of cringe worthy moments, but it's still the message, the reason for being, that interests me, because this certainly isn't the first underground film to be shot in found footage style and depict a series of atrocities during the course of the movie.
Much like fellow Mexican, Emilio Rocha Minter and his We Are The Flesh, which also smashes through taboos like a bull in a china store, Atroz uses it’s provocative and extreme cinema approach to tell a story outside of the violence, a story that’s bigger than the image you are seeing on screen. Where I read FLESH as being a comment on the atrocities we don’t see but take place behind closed doors, Atroz is about the eternal circle of violence.
At the start of the Atroz we are on the scene of a car accident. Two men are in custody for the accident that has left one young woman dead in the middle of the street. In their car, a police inspector finds a DV camera with some highly incriminating evidence documenting atrocities performed by the two men. The found footage material acts as exposition for the crimes of the two men, but it also tells the story of how the violent behaviour was born, how the monster was created if you want. Atroz is a film about violence. How violence births violence. How violence is unstoppable, how everybody is powerless in the face of violence. It’s a full circle treatment. It’s could also be read as a comment on how the police instead of solving crime, work in unconventional ways. Unconventional ways that give birth to even more violence. In it’s unconventional way, it’s justice, through violence. Or is it…Perhaps Lex Ortega only wants to freak you out with period blood, asphyxiation sex and deadly dildos from hell, but I don’t think so. I recon that he’s trying to make a comment on violence in Mexico, a violence that takes place behind closed doors, a violence that even the authorities that supposed to protect us are a part of but he’s disguised it all as an underground found footage film that’s being hailed as the most brutal film to come out of Mexico so far.