Fantasia 2022: LEGIONS is Bloody Wholesome Folk Horror

Legions is my second Argentinian festival watch this year, which functioned both as a solid folk horror entry and also the touching story of a father and his daughter who have fallen out of touch. Written and directed by Fabian Forte, the film tells the tale of Antonio Poyju (German De Silva), a self-proclaimed shaman, who (according to him) comes from a long line of great sorcerers, now in his twilight. When we catch up with Tony, he is in a mental institution for homicide, recanting his glory days of battling demons in the jungles to his fellow psych ward patients. This allows Tony to fill us in about his past and his daughter (Lorena Vega) who shares his gift thanks to his bloodline. The problem is she has been stripped of her faith in mysticism, choosing instead to work in an ad agency, keeping her father and faith at arms length.

That is until a lunar event forces Antonio to mend their relationship, so he can help her regain her faith or lose her forever to a powerful demon — Kuaraya.

There’s a rather profound statement Antonio makes while talking to his doctor early in the film, “I am surrounded by faithless young people”. The film uses this statement both as a literal and metaphorical take on the fact that the old ways have been forgotten in this modern world, and the fact that the shaman is alone, having fallen out of touch with the world he’s tasked with saving. With that being the overall theme at play here, it’s his need to repair his relationship with his daughter, so that he can save her life, that drives the narrative engine of this oddly wholesome film. While we never really get the inciting incident that was the final straw in their falling out, there appears to be some genuine fear of this man who makes his living performing exorcisms and who kept demon possessed patients in the family home.

De Silva here carries the story and imbues it with a heart and soul through his performance, which is infused with weariness and regret. Vega does something a bit more nuanced here, not just giving us the stereotypical generational divide between daughter and father that is expected, but really internalizing the fear and, by doing so, raising the stakes to Tony’s mission. Something terrible happened there and what you imagine is so much worse than anything we could see or be told about.The film uses comedy and charm to offset its sharp edges in a way that leaves the viewer hopeful at the end of the film, even though we’re dealing with this dark supernatural subject matter. It’s a mix that mostly works, while it does erode the stakes at the heart of the film by putting on these bumpers.

Legions was an intriguing watch. The way the film deals with faith and the supernatural delivers a different flavor of this genre than US horror fans are accustomed to. These takes colored by a different culture are always refreshing to me, because they play by their own rules that the viewer is tasked with discovering. It’s how that is combined with this rather profound theme of faith and family that gives this film some real resonance after the credits roll and you start to think about how technology has supplanted these beliefs in our own general consciousness. Legions is a charming and humorous take on folk horror that along with its story of a father and daughter presents the existential question even though these monsters have been forgotten — do they still exist?

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