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  • Writer's pictureK.B.O'Neil

[Review] LEGIONS (2023) A Blood moon resurrects an ancient evil in this Argentinian horror/comedy

Releasing January 19th on VOD is the Argentinian festival darling LEGIONS. Filmmaker Fabián Forte (Deadman tells his own Tale), Refers to his latest film as a "love letter to Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD series." Mixing the perfect blend of horror, slapstick comedy, and a pinch of character drama is no easy feat. Given the forementioned inspiration for the film, I found it much more grounded despite the premise. A tale that pulls from Argentinian folklore and culture while telling a heartfelt father-daughter story at its core. Staring Germán De Silva, Ezequiel Rodriguez, and Lorena Vega.

LEGIONS is told through two parallel narratives that intertwine as the story progresses until the past and present collide. Starting with a younger Antonio in the picturesque Missionary Jungles of Argentina, we see that he is a respected shaman with a history of battling demons to varying degrees of success. When his wife gives birth to their daughter under a Blood (red) moon, it draws the attention of a powerful entity known as Kuaraya.

It desires the daughter as a sacrificial offering, but Antonio's faith and magic protect her. When his wife is brutally attacked by the beast, leaving him to raise Elena alone, his mother bestows a powerful necklace on the child. Its purpose is to protect and strengthen her connection to nature and faith. When that necklace is taken away by the demon, she changes. Antonio has no recourse but to move from the jungle into the city to give her the "normal" life she desires.

Years later, we find Antonio Poyju (De Silva) locked away in a fluorescent-lit institution after an incident that leaves him and his daughter estranged. He recalls tales from his life to his fellow patients, a ragtag band of eccentrics who are so enthralled that they stage a play of his life. It's here where the movie has a lighter tone, and the humor contrasts the earlier scenes. It would be One Flew over the cuckoo's nest if McMurphy was an old grump who entertained by recanting wild tales from his time in the jungles. The ensemble cast is fantastic here.

His daughter Elena (Vega), now an advertising executive, has put her past behind her. She's married and lives the life she always felt she wanted. However, remints from her past are still there, when she dishes out some homegrown medicine to help a colleague with an eye cyst, jokingly referred to as a witch. What's the saying, you can take a girl out of the jungle..?

When reports of a Blood moon are on the horizon, Antonio realizes that Kuaraya will return to finish what was started all those years ago. He must escape the institution, warn his daughter, restore her faith and defeat the ancient evil for good. Now, if only he convinces his daughter to speak with him.

Though LEGIONS markets itself on the Evil Dead name, it's only the final act that feels in the same vein as the classic. This is a disservice to the film as it stands alone on its own merits. I loved the mystical nature of the jungle scenes, shot beautifully by cinematographer Mariano Suarez, and the duality between light and dark. The idea that demons exist without a catalyst, like a book of the dead, to unleash them is far more terrifying. It's a matter of fact; here is evil, and here's how we defeat it. I found that mythology fascinating.

While the narrative focuses on faith and the loss of, It's not a dismissal of religion but more a metaphor for forgetting one's culture or foundation. The idea that once Elena loses her necklace (faith), she longs to move away to the city can be seen as more of a generational divide than spiritual. That the idea of progress means leaving part of ourselves behind is a powerful message. Can you thrive in the future while holding on to your past?

Let's talk demons, shall we? The influence of Sam Raimi on the humanoid monsters is very apparent from the makeup to the movements. Where Forte veers into his own is with the design of the main baddy Kuaraya. Mainly kept in shadows and darkness with only a hand appearing in and out of frame for the better part of the story, the final reveal makes it a unique presence. It has an almost werewolf quality you wouldn't expect when dealing with demons. I would like to know if this character is based on actual Argentinian folklore or a combination of a few different ones. Mainly practical effects and makeup; there are CGI elements that are crude at times but didn't take me out of the scene.

Germán De Silva and Lorena Vega capture the estranged father-daughter dynamic beautifully. The underlying pain, regret, and love they both show in their performances give off a history far more significant than that we are shown. It's the father who knows he'll be rejected but still doing everything he can to protect his little girl. Vega, trying desperately to move on from her past, still holds on to those moments when her father was her hero, and that hope might just save her. Both of them are captivating to watch.

LEGIONS is a tale steeped in Argentinian lore and culture. On the surface, it's a tale of evil coming back to finish what it started years ago in the jungles. It's a classic good versus evil Tale but with so much more underneath. It's a father and daughter redemption story told with magic, mythology, and letting your loved ones find their way. Combining elements of humor and horror, it's a family drama at its core. Through exceptional performances from its leads and a great supporting cast, you can't help but root for the underdogs. Fabián Forte created a film with heart, mysticism, and a lot of blood. Go into this one with an open mind, and you'll be happy you took the journey.

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