Thursday, 14 October 2021

1974 - La posesión de Altair


The Altair Limits

1974 - La posesión de Altair
Mexico 2016 Directed by Victor Dryere
Cauldron Films Blu Ray Zone A

Warning: Some minor
spoilers here to set the scene.

1974 - La posesión de Altair is a film which was completely off my radar until Cauldron Films, in the US, released a Blu Ray of it recently. In fact, my only reason for buying this release was because it was bundled with the CD soundtrack to the movie and proper CDs are becoming scarce in the phase of music business ignorance we all find ourselves in at present. So I pre-ordered this and finally it’s here and, much to my delight, it’s a great little horror movie lurking within the box.

Well, I say horror but, that’s actually a hard call, to be honest. A couple of decades ago, when I first saw the giallo All The Colours Of The Dark, I was watching it and wondering why the hell people thought it was a giallo when it was obviously a horror movie all the way through until, in the last ten minutes or so, the rug was pulled and it turned out to be a giallo after all. Well, without giving anything away, 1974 - La posesión de Altair has a similar moment, or set of moments, leading up to a similar theme of subverting the genre somewhat but, I think when all is said and done, the use of horror tropes in this one is totally justified and, as far as I’m concerned, it still functions under the genre of horror movie... albeit not the kind I was expecting. Which is also great, of course. I do have one caveat but I’ll get to that in a while.

Okay, so briefly, the film tells the story of a young Mexican couple, Altair (played by Diana Bovio) and Manuel (played by Rolando Breme) after they move into a nice, big, somewhat secluded property. The film is a found footage horror and starts off with black and white interview footage of the aftermath of the events of the film from a TV news broadcast to give foreshadowing, before going into the full colour story proper through the traditional, ‘film everything that happens to us’ route of the found footage movie. Basically, shortly after moving into a new property, Altair starts talking to an ‘angel’, unseen by Manuel and the audience and, not long after, starts acting both withdrawn and crazy. For instance, she has been told by the angel to build two, black painted brick ‘doorways’ in both her bedroom and the basement and, though she doesn’t order the materials, the bricks and black paint arrive in the garage for her the next day. Lots of the usual sound design scares and the old birds flying into the house tropes are involved but also a moment when the new puppy, Carlo, who has been lost for about a week, turns up again as a much older dog. Manuel enlists the aid of his best friend (to document the strange phenomenon) and also Altair’s sister... and they try to get her some help from out of her past and figure things out.

The film doesn’t show a lot of gore (although there is some, such as Altair bleeding from the eyes in a kind of stigmata moment... an image used on the trailer and marketing for the movie) and instead, the majority of the scares come from the camera anticipating what you don’t see (even providing a couple of nice jump scares at times) and the strong ‘sound design’ style soundtrack from composer and sound designer team Enrico Chapela and Uriel Villalobos. In addition to the CD soundtrack of this, there’s a short but sweet extra giving an insight into the ‘score’ (I still maintain ordered noise is music... because it is) and how instruments were disguised and disturbing sounds like babies crying and cats mating were sonically transformed into something less recognisable but equally unsettling. And, as far as I’m concerned, it all works very well.

There are some clues about the nature of Altair’s possession dropped through the narrative and, I have to say, I did get there just 20 minutes or so before certain chilling events take place... but that being said, the film really delivers the scares and explores a cross pollinated concept which I’ve only personally seen done once before so, yeah, I thought this one was brilliant.

There’s also some room, given the found footage nature which would almost eliminate this, for some nice moments of shot composition. For example, when Manuel’s friend Callahan (played by Guillermo Callahan) is filming an intimate conversation between Manuel and Altair, where Manuel’s face is more prominent in terms of facing towards us, Callahan pans the camera around to a mirror mid conversation so we get almost a reverse shot. Which actually perhaps stems from this character’s hastily established love of cinema. Both the main male characters are cineastes with Bergman and Hitchcock’s names being invoked at various times. Also, despite being listed as an anachronism on the IMDB,  Callahan’s penchant for mathematics and his recent trip to Budapest justify, to some extent, his possession of a Rubik’s cube, which was invented that same year but wasn’t actually on the market yet.

My one problem with the film was the found footage nature of a movie being set in 1974. The whole thing is supposed to be shot on Super 8 film (and this is indeed how the director shot the majority of it) but I really don’t think the average man on the street would have been wasting expensive Super 8 film to record everything on. I get it that the character is a stop motion animator working from home and so he has drawers full of the stock but, yeah, you would get through so much more of it that it would cost a small fortune. Back in the 1970s, when my family had an old Super 8 cine camera, I think we only got about six or seven reels shot because, yeah, this stuff was expensive. You certainly wouldn’t have wanted it to go wandering around the house shooting off film as you go.

However, that being said, it does give the film a nice ambience it might not have had, albeit that nothing that happens in the story necessitates the need for a period setting at all (but that’s another story) and, if you can get past the more modern attitude of people filming everything, then it’s all fine. And as it happens, I had an absolute blast with 1974 - La posesión de Altair and would recommend it to all my horror loving friends. I wish it had got a proper cinema release in the UK so I could have experienced the film properly but, who knows, one day we might get the opportunity. One of the better of the found footage movies and now I’m off to listen to the CD.

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