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Thursday, 9 January 2014

Escape (2010)

Director: Andrés Rosende
Stars: Lydia Aquino, Alfred De Quesada, Berto Colón and Ivana Horonic
This film was an official selection at the 7th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2011. Here's an index to my reviews of 2011 films.
Escape, a capably made picture from a company called WIT or Whatever It Takes, is one of those films that is weighed down by its metaphor and its message. With no background for us to explore to find a moral compass, we're given two sets of people who must therefore be seen as good guys and bad guys. The bad guys are the ones driving around at night in pickup trucks with bright searchlights to help them shoot the good guys with crossbows. The good guys are the ones running as fast as they can to remain alive. Well, maybe not alive, but in one piece at least. There are two other clear observations that we can't fail to make from the opening minute and one of them is that the good guys are fanged. Usually, vampires avoiding the rising sun aren't the good guys, but we can vaguely buy it here because, hey, at least they don't sparkle. The other observation is that these vampires are Latinos who speak Spanish, while the hunters are Caucasian and speak English. Here's where the metaphor jumps in to say hi.

This short film isn't badly written but it struggles with this metaphor because it refuses to allow us to delve any deeper than the surface. We're effectively told to trust the angle from which the story is told and there's nothing here that allows us to deviate from that without acquiring a vaguely guilty feeling about doing so; it's never good for a message movie to play for guilt because it can backfire so easily. Fortunately Lydia Aquino, the lead actress, gets a story arc that almost makes up for it. She's a Latino vampire called Alicia, who makes it safely to to a building with Guillermo, her significant other of some description. Already there is Martin, who is doing as well as can be imagined with a couple of arrows in him. They spend their time bemoaning their lot and arguing about what they should do next, until their pursuers catch up with them and it all becomes real again. Guillermo wants to leave the country; Alicia sees it as their home and refuses to yield to oppression. You can see where this metaphor is going.
It never really comes out to state that cornered vampires tearing the throats out of people with stakes is somehow morally equivalent to illegal immigrants taking a stand against racism, but it does feel like that's what Andrés Rosende, the director and co-writer, took here. It all works much better as a drama than a message. It's good to see Spanish speaking vampires in an American film, as it's been rare even with an early start like 1931's Drácula, Universal's Spanish language version with Carlos Villarías as the Count, shot at night on the same sets that Béla Lugosi was shooting on during the day. The differences in Alicia's and Guillermo's reactions to these circumstances are explored well and Alicia's character has a fairly believable progression within a short amount of time. With the metaphor toned way down, this could play well as the beginning of a feature, one where the opening credits and title screen arrive as this ends, to be followed by a bigger, better story, which would bring needed background and depth.

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