Monday, February 08, 2016

Face of the Devil: Welcome to the Amazon Lodge

The Puma Rinri Amazon Lodge must be the beneficiary of the best or worst product placement ever. That is their logo plain as day, right when the end credits start to roll. Clearly, most of the film was shot there and it does indeed make the resort look enticing. The scenery is spectacular and the rooms are fab, but it is a bit of a drawback that the only observable employee is a practitioner of the dark satanic arts. Frankly, it would probably still be worth visiting, but that devil worshipper is not the guests’ biggest problem in Frank Pérez-Garland’s Peruvian horror flick, Face of the Devil (trailer here), which releases on DVD today in the UK.

Lucero’s father is a tad on the protective side, but understandably so, all things considered. Years ago, a demon possessed her mother, forcing him to exorcise it the hard way. Both father and daughter still carry the emotional scars from that day. Nevertheless, the old man finally relents, agreeing to let Lu join her BF and his hard-partying pals on their Andean getaway.

They certainly get away from it all staying at the high mountain inn, including things like emergency medical services. C’mon, what could go wrong, except maybe falling prey to the Tunche. According to their spooky tales poolside tales, the Tunche is a shapeshifting demon who stalks the mountainside. If you hear his piercing whistle, you basically know your butt is toast. However, Face of the Devil is probably a more evocative title than Whistle of the Tunche. Regardless, you had better believe he is real, because the old caretaker readily vouches for his existence.

In any event, the revelers from Lima are all considerate enough to let the Tunche stalk them in their swimwear. Aside from the schlubby Mateo, they all have fine beach bods. However, they also have real relationships that raise the stakes somewhat. Granted, Face is about as predictable as most horror films, but screenwriter Vanessa Saba brings Lucero’s backstory full circle somewhat cleverly. She is also pretty creepy appearing as Lu’s mother in the flashback sequences.

Vania Accinelli is perfectly presentable as Lu, but Nicolás Galindo and Carla Arriola develop some surprisingly compelling chemistry as Mateo the plugger and the curvy Paola, whom he so obviously carries a torch for. However, the real star of film is the exclusive mountain retreat (it is up there with The Shining’s Overlook Hotel). If you were an ancient elemental demon you would want to stalk victims there too. In contrast, the Tunche is supposedly a shapeshifter, but he is mostly invisible throughout the film. At least he is not especially sadistic, preferring to dispatch his prey quickly and efficiently, which is rather considerate of viewers’ tolerance as well.

Location is often key in horror films, so Face’s exotic backdrop really is key to its mojo. Largely foreswearing gore, Pérez-Garland builds up the suspense rather nicely, while cinematographer Roberto Maceda Kohatsu and art director Cecilia Herrera give the production a real quality look. Although not hugely ambitious (aside from the location shooting), Pérez-Garland gets the job done. Recommended for genre fans, Face of the Devil is now available on DVD in the UK from Jinga Films.