In 1978 Chile, a powerful political extremist exploits the Chilean army to conduct and carrier out the physical and sexual abuse against the people of Chile, including forcing his own son, Juan, to have sex with his tortured mother and executing her right in front of him while in the fornicating act. Juan’s father continues to further the abuse with fear, terror, and misogynistic berates until he’s finally fatally coup. Fast forward to 2011, Juan’s an unstoppable madman as he terrorizes the locals over the years without authoritative regulation and also four female outsiders on holiday for a girls’ weekend. Juan and his son force their way into their residence, tyrannizing, raping, and even killing one of them before leaving his cruel mark in his wake, but with the help of a local officer, the remaining three survivors seeks to make sure Juan, and his equally screwed up family, never harm anyone again. However, Juan is prepared, held up inside a compound subterfuge, well-armed and well-unhinged.
Perhaps based loosely off the atrocities of of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s, Artsploitation Films’ distributed “Trauma” goes to the unapologetic extreme, building upon an already unsavory narrative into the bred morbid disposition of the human psyche. Written and directed by “Zombie Dawn’s” Lucio A. Rojas, “Trauma” is a cold, blunt object with a razor sharp bite and has a penchant for the twisted. The Chilean director’s film isn’t the only game in the market of extreme movies, but does manage to create a motive of separation between most with the offending character experiencing traumatic corruption by someone close; in this case, Juan’s father 40-years earlier by oppressing the boy through physical pain and scrambling his son’s mental state by removing any humility, compassion, and reasoning that manufactures the perfect ruthless butcher. Pinochet used his military power to be a lethal strong hand when desired; Rojas spices it up by adding forced incest, rape-after-rape, and implementing a subconscious malevolency.
“Trauma” stars “To Kill A Man’s” Daniel Antivilo as the despicable Juan. Antivilo is patient and soft in his approach to a deranged character that doesn’t display that wild abandonment in psychotics. Juan goes on to slowly terrorize four lovely outsiders from the city in Andrea (Catalina Martin), Camila (Macarena Carrere), Julia (Ximena del Solar of “Perfidy,” another Rojas film), and Magdalena (Dominga Bofill). The four actresses offer up different character perspectives and personality that should divide the dynamic or, at least, complicate it; there’s a strong sense of lesbianism between them, even exhibiting traits in those who don’t identify as such. Antivilo macho savagery pitted against the four stunning, but strong women does create a black and white, stark-producing character placement. Outside that dynamic, one character has no dialogue and, yet, manages to high level physical role that’s barbaric, humiliating, and spacey and that role is inside of Juan’s schizoid son, Mario, is donned by Felipe Rios who has the strung out appearance of a long, drawn out face and muscularly thin. Eduardo Paxeco, Claudio Riveros, and Florencia Heredia round out the cast.
Rojas does a beautiful job in the juxtaposition department, paralleling the bleak, grimy, and yet agreeable life of Juan and his equally as certifiable family next to the full of life and vigor in the unsuspecting women that Rojas’ introduces off with Camila and Julia engaging in a steamy girl-on-girl love making scene that doesn’t leave much to the imagination and, then, slides into their instant road trip the day after. Rojas had built up Juan’s pain and suffering toward being molded into a monster whereas the women fly by the seat of their pants, churning out memorable moments in a flash whereas Juan’s unfortunate course was a slow burn throughout his long, hard life. The parallelism flips from Juan to the women up until the moment their lives intertwine and this is where things get messy with Roja’s script. Between Julia, Camila, Magda, and Andre, three of whom are related, tension builds as Julia plays the flirtatious and brazen field between hooking up with the cousins as stroppy Andrea steams in a passive stew on the sideline. This subplot never goes explored, going uncooked right in the middle of a hot flame where passions and couples’ plights evolve the story. The abrupt presence of Juan puts a cease and desist on any other subplot that ultimate funnels “Trauma” to be a rape-revenge flick with a graphic content.
Artsploitation Films continues to distribute internationally provocative films that always delight as well as disgust (in a good way). With Lucio A. Roja’s 2017 film, “Trauma”, casualties pile high and damage control is non-existent, fitting the Philadelphian-based company’s axiom that presents the film onto a high-definition Blu-ray. With a widescreen, aspect ratio 2.35:1, the image quality is quite good. Details are very promising here and really need to be with the gore. The face explosion and the jaw unhinging deaths are certainly not stodgy as the scene on these moments linger more than most would, soaking up the full effect of the viscous covered chunks out from the face crater by a high caliber handgun is a thing of beauty. The Spanish 5.1 surround sound syncs up well in all aspects from dialogue to ambiance. English subtitles are available and line up well enough though speedy at times. Dialogue is clear and present, Ignacio Redard score is heard, and no signs of any kind of distortions or other issues. Bonus features are limited to just the theatrical trailer. “Trauma” might have vastly skewed the actual events the film is based off of to pen a story, but what a gorgeously gory-filled and exploitively-charged narrative that can be a tell all for the cause and effect of political extremism at it’s worse. Director Lucio A. Rojas puts Chile on the controversial and extreme horror map.
Three high school friends live in an online gaming and comic book world making them easy targets for sinister bullies. When one of them, Devon (Alexander Fraser), becomes the victim of extreme bullying, the gaming friends are forced to come together and cope with the brutal and aggravated assault laid upon their friend Devon. Becky (Alicia Rose), whose had a long lasting love for Devon, plans the ultimate revenge by teasing to expose a hidden secret on the world wide web about Devon’s bully neighbor John Brooks (Daren Ackerman). The circle of violence and secrets wildly spirals out of control to an extremely car-crash of a finale that will put Devon, Becky, and John in a trio of devastating destruction.
“All American Bully,” formally titled “The Innocent,” serves as not the typical bully-revenge film we’re aware of in such films as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” or Jason Buxton’s “Blackbird” and that creates a misleading film title, but doesn’t necessarily hurt the film’s integrity. Director-writer John Hawkins intentionally creates an unexpected twist that’ll take the film into a totally different direction. With the help of the elusive, yet recently fan-revived cult “Friday the 13th” heroine Andrienne King and the superb acting by Daren Ackerman who portrays complex character John Brooks, “All American Bully” becomes a unique hybrid with a cultural and social timeliness that will surely strike the core like a bully punching you in the gut and kicking you while you’re down all for just your lunch money.
The John Hawkins film is not solely about high school bullying, but also about mental illness and childhood abuse to which all comes to the forefront to bring the house down at the end. The repercussions from years of bullying results in kidnapping, rape, and murder. Actor Daren Ackerman’s has a wide range playing the disturbing character John Brooks by never backing down from the character’s various stages. Ackerman complete shadows his peers such as Alexander Fraser who can’t strain from a monotone tone, Alicia Rose who has range but just not enough girth, and even Adrienne King who, I felt, played an overacting Principal.
There seems to be a side story that goes unexplained to which we have to make our own conclusion. Adrienne’s Principal Kane doesn’t trust her employed teacher Mr. Taylor that’s somehow related to her son being gay. I concluded that Mr. Taylor and her son had some kind of relationship that’s not being explicitly explained and this drives Principal King unhinged, but her breakdown doesn’t feel connected to the story, feeling separate from the body and not bring the film to closure. Perhaps Principal Kane’s mental break parallel’s the psychotic break that John Brooks suffers, displaying and defining two various scenarios of pain.
Speaking of homosexuality, Hawkins hits many gay undertones and not only with Principal Kane’s son and Mr. Taylor. There’s also a past relationship, even if only one sided, between Devon and John when they were tiny kids playing army in the woods. The overuse of the word fag becomes repulsive and that might be intended to reveal the true ugliness of the word. I had always thought fag might have faded into oblivion, especially in the film industry, but I guess in independent ventures the word still thrives to bring out the tensions and angers out of the viewers. Lastly on the topic, John becomes the plaything to all his mother’s friends and some of them being men, creating more taboo and disturbing qualities that make me think Hawkins is one warped individual. When Becky, played by an absolute beauty named Alicia Rose, and Devon actually have a heterosexual scene together, the mood becomes ruined when John gets a hold of them, to punish them, almost for being happy because his life turned out tragic and hopeless.
Forget the misleading title “All American Bully” (as I believe “The Innocent” works better) and the misleading Wild Eye Releasing DVD cover where a person gripping a firearm at their side in a student filled hallway; instead, focus on the film as a whole where the acting is solid and the direction tells a stunning story of various facets of bullying. Check out this Wild Eye Releasing DVD and also take a gander at the cast interviews as you’ll learn more about the actors backstory and how their take on bullying motivated them to create this film.