Sunday, October 15, 2017

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Clementina

Difficult real estate markets force difficult decisions. Even though Juana suspects her husband was acting under the evil influence of their new apartment when he brutally assaulted her, she still refuses to move out. New Yorkers will understand. The square footage is considerable, but the terrible feng shui still makes their flat feel claustrophobic in Jimena Monteoliva’s Clementina, which screens today during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Mateo beat Juana so badly, he induced a miscarriage, yet she insists on covering for him when she wakes up in the hospital. The cop and social worker assigned to her case assume she is simply too scared to identify him, but she clearly believes there are extenuating supernatural circumstances. Yet, she insists on returning to their flat, presumably so he knows where to find her.

Juana shuts out everyone trying to help her, except their neighbor Olga. Sensitive to the spirit world, she recommends Juana pay close attention to what the ghosts are trying to tell her, especially when the unhinged Mateo finally returns.

Clementina is certainly a moody film, but it is a bit muddled. There are times when Monteoliva and co-screenwriter Diego Fleischer suggests the spirits intend to protect Juana, but they certainly could have made the job easier if they had not pushed Mateo into a state of violent psychosis. Granted, we are probably supposed to assume it was always in him, deep down, but it only comes out in the fateful flat.

Regardless, Clementina is rather smaller in scope and more conventional than many of the films screening at this year’s festival. Still, Cecilia Cartasegna gives a harrowing performance as Juana, powering the audience through some questionable decision-making. Emiliano Carrazzone’s menacing turn as Mateo will also have viewers holding their breath. However, the film’s inconsistent attitudes towards the paranormal goings-on muddies its effectiveness as a domestic violence parable. Frankly, Mateo is probably right when he tells her they should cut their losses and bolt from the flat.

A lot of talent went into Clementina, but they produced an unusually dour, downbeat horror film. It has good intentions, but the internal contradictions distract from the takeaway and the drama. The cast will impress, but Clementina should not be a priority for fans when it screens this afternoon (10/15), as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.