Truth and Movies

Murder Me, Monster

Review by Josh Slater-Williams @jslaterwilliams

Directed by

Alejandro Fadel

Starring

Esteban Bigliardi Tania Casciani Victor Lopez

Anticipation.

Know nothing about this. ‘Murder Me Rachael’ is a pretty good song by The National?

Enjoyment.

A horror-crime hybrid with remarkable sound design and effects work.

In Retrospect.

Not sure much beyond the gore endures, but this melancholic mystery sure has some frights.

A headless woman sparks a search for a mythical creature in Alejandro Fadel’s taut mountainside thriller.

Appreciators of Amat Escalante’s The Untamed and Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux – Latin American social dramas that toy with horror to varying degrees – may find a new work to admire in Murder Me, Monster from writer/director Alejandro Fadel. It’s a Spanish-language international co-production set around the Andes Mountains, and features a similar fusion of libidinal imagery and arguably Lovecraftian terror to that of Escalante’s film, in particular.

Fadel establishes his film’s body horror bona fides upfront in the grisly opening scene, as a woman stumbles through a flock of sheep and falls to her knees as she tries to keep her head and neck in place in light of a deep slice. Heard offscreen is monstrous breathing of unknown origin, presumably the culprit. The rest of the opening sequence sees police officers for the rural area arrive that night, finding the now headless woman’s savaged remains and interviewing her half-blind partner.

Officer Cruz (Victor Lopez, in his debut film role and with a voice like he’s gargling rocks at all times) is assigned to the case and locates a primary suspect: the apparently mentally disturbed David (Esteban Bigliardi), who happens to be married to Cruz’s lover, Francisca (Tania Casciani).

David attributes the crime to a “monster” that is using certain phrases to communicate with him telepathically, including the mantra of the film’s title. But as many more women turn up decapitated in the countryside, and with the rampage hitting close to home, Cruz is drawn to David’s rationale and a strange theory about the crimes that also concern geometric landscapes and the seemingly ritualistic appearance of a gang of motorcyclists in the mountains.

The motorbike motif, particularly as the riders are bathed in red light at one point, brings to mind Panos Cosmatos’ recent Nicolas Cage oddity Mandy. Though on a completely different mood register, Murder Me, Monster goes similarly batshit in its third act. Fadel plays his hand very early on with on-screen visuals confirming some sort of monster does literally exist in this film’s world, teasing a weaponised tail wrapping round a victim’s throat and keeping the full creature hidden in the shadows. But the exact nature of its existence remains slippery throughout the rest, as elements of apparent possession come into play or, perhaps, infection via some evil spirit in the air.

This is a potentially reductive point of comparison, and concerns completely unrelated filmmaking nations to those that produced the movie, but the two recent films Murder Me, Monster most resembles – as though the pair’s respective atmospheres and plotting were mixed in a blender to surprisingly compatible results – are Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s largely nocturnal rural body hunt mystery Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing, a Korean horror in which a multiple homicide leads to a variety of almost primeval terrors being unleashed on a town.

But while the tonal gymnastics are compelling, what sticks in the mind most is Fadel’s monster when it’s finally revealed in full; a triumph of (mostly) practical effects that looks like the offspring of a Doctor Who creature of the week and the xenomorph from Alien.

Published 1 Dec 2020

Tags: Alejandro Fadel Murder Me, Monster

Anticipation.

Know nothing about this. ‘Murder Me Rachael’ is a pretty good song by The National?

Enjoyment.

A horror-crime hybrid with remarkable sound design and effects work.

In Retrospect.

Not sure much beyond the gore endures, but this melancholic mystery sure has some frights.

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