DISCLAIMER: The following essays contain spoilers!
Incarnation. 2021. Directed & Written by Noboru Suzuki.
Starring Mayumi Amano, Shiino Fujita, Shinsuke Kato, Nagatsuki Lynn, & Bakko Maeda.
Not Rated / 13 minutes
Drama / Horror / Fantasy
★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)
I watched Incarnation twice, thanks to this year’s virtual Fantasia options, and the first time I wasn’t in love with it. The second time I watched I found myself more intrigued, from the bit of comedy present in the dialogue to the surprise revelation at the end. Noboru Suzuki’s Incarnation tells the story of an old lady (Mayumi Amano) who’s come to a bar to meet, seemingly unbeknown to her, a con man (Shinsuke Kato). She’s under the impression her estranged son needs money, and we get the sense her son is QUITE the embezzler. As the meeting between the two progresses, the old lady reveals she knows more than she let on; not only about her son and the money, either. She tells the man: “I‘m a vampire.” She also says she knows her son doesn’t need money, y’know, seeing as how her son’s been dead a couple centuries. After that, all bets are off.
What I gravitated towards most in Suzuki’s Incarnation is the tension between the past and the present, a struggle between the older, ancient ways of living and the newer, modern conveniences of urban life. The old woman, despite being a 466-year-old vampire, doesn’t like drinking human blood because people are full “of artificial flavouring and additives from fast food” so they’re “too gross to drink these days.” She also shows the man how she was recently burned by a neon light, griping that “modern time can be a pest.”
The old woman lamenting modernity, and pining for a historical past, is all wrapped up in the con man, too. There’s an excellent parallel between the old woman and her vampirism, and the new world with the con man, as well as the fake son, and corporate embezzling; we can view this as natural vampirism versus corporate vampirism. There’s another additional layer here. We come to discover the con man is actually a mythical creature himself: a werewolf. But he seems to have forgotten it. Here, we find a theme concerning people forgetting themselves, forgetting their culture and where they came from, and it again goes back to past v. present, in that the old woman urges the man not to forget his roots: “You are what you are.” Incarnation is a lot of horror fun, and an interesting piece of commentary on the way history can disappear if we let it but it’s also embedded in us, sometimes raging to burst out of our minds and our skin should we dare to forget.
La Inquilina (English title: The Tenant). 2021. Directed by Lucas Paulino & Ángel Torres. Written by Paulino.
Starring Elvira Arce, Soledad Osorio, & Belén Rueda.
Not Rated / 10 minutes
★★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)
In just ten minutes, La Inquilina—directed by Lucas Paulino and Ángel Torres, from a short screenplay by Paulino—will reel you in and leave you stunned. The film follows Mia (Belén Rueda). She lives in a nice apartment building. But she wakes in the morning with her leg twisted up and finds it’s gone numb. She limps her way around to get ready then heads out for the day. When she’s on the street she’s approached by a random woman who says: “There‘s an old woman attached to your leg… an evil spirit.” The woman tries to tell Mia how to be rid of the old woman, but it only freaks Mia out. The more the day wears on, the more Mia starts to wonder. So she goes to get a candle, as per the random lady’s instructions, and waits until 9 pm exactly to drip wax onto her affected leg.
Will the ritual work? Or, will it bring Mia more terror?
For me, the best part of La Inquilina is the urban Gothic atmosphere. This short, like several others at Fantasia this year including Incarnation, ultimately tackles a major theme concerning how the past meets the present, and what sort of world is produced in urban Gothic spaces as opposed to in the past; specifically, Mia’s struggle with the supposed evil spirit attached to her is actually her struggle with a space in which modern life meets a time of superstition. We often view the city, as opposed to the rural, as a place of science and logic, and—particularly in the horror genre—the rural gets relegated to a space where superstition and traditional, religious modes of thought reign. La Inquilina never deals with the rural, instead focusing on how all those religious traditions and superstitions have embedded themselves in modern life and modern spaces/places; they never actually leave us, they’re just less pronounced. And so the old evil spirit attaching itself to Mia is that ancient world of superstitions and supernatural beings desperately clinging on, refusing to be banished into the urban ether of concrete and electrical wiring. There’s a perfect scene where Mia goes into her building’s elevator and the door refuses to shut, until she hesitantly pulls her leg as far inside the elevator as possible then the door shuts; supremely unsettling. Above any of the theme in this short, the last minute or so, and the closing image, will rock you. There’s no way to escape the pre-modern world when it’s this scary.