Unexpected horror surprise for the humans
One of Mexico’s best in the genre
Oftentimes, when I put a movie into my Netflix queue, I know very little as to why it suddenly showed up on my recommendation page at a particular moment, and never beforehand. Therefore, somehow, someway, the unanticipated treasure, POISON FOR THE FAIRIES, found its way into my DVD player, and captured my full attention – and that’s not easy since many horrors are more prone to put me to sleep than maintain my interest. Even worse, it’s about two little girls. For me, kids ruin just about every movie I’ve ever seen (come on, didn’t you want to see Newt get annihilated in ALIENS?). But within ten minutes, I learned to trust writer/director Carlos Enrique Taboada, and I have no regrets.
POISON FOR THE FAIRIES involves young, well-to-do Flavia (Elsa María Gutiérrez in her only film role), as the new girl at school. In short order, she meets ten-year-old Veronica (Ana Patricia Royo), who claims she wants to be a witch. Soon, Veronica has Flavia by the pigtails, coercing her to take part in all things macabre.
Taboada’s narrative follows a steady pace that keeps us intrigued. After all, is Veronica really onto something about becoming a full-fledged witch, and will Flavia gain the gusto to save herself? The suspense and tension is palpable, with little childish breakaways that don’t detract from the story – and that’s because we always know something is brewing. Veronica is conniving, and it’s clear her classmates know she’s a lying, mean-spirited jerk. But Flavia’s impressionable, weak-minded, and without Veronica, she’d have no friends at all. Then again, maybe Veronica is everything Flavia wishes she could be.
Thanks to the cinematographic talents of Lupe Garcia. The color is rich and inviting, often serving as a stark contrast to the dark plotting and goings-on. To further support the strong narrative, we see this film through the eyes of the girls – or at least on their level. Just like Charles Schultz and his Peanuts characters, adults are not welcome, though we can clearly understand what they are saying in this story. Whenever an adult does appear on screen, they are never fully engaged by the camera. We see backs of heads, a hand, or even a mid-section. The only times adults grace a frame is if they are old and ugly, or deceased (I wonder how the director convinced his adult actors to not balk at their lack of screen time). Otherwise, it’s the girl’s world and the things that matter to them, their imagination, and how they see the world. What matters to Veronica most is her caretaker’s knowledge of witches and what they can do – and how they can bring about havoc. Such is the driving force behind Veronica’s desires to become a witch and take control in her lonely little world where she does nothing but covets.
In this sense, Veronica and Flavia are the same: friendless. Without each other, they’d have no contact with the world they inhabit. They are two sides of the same forgotten coin, looking to connect and be heard. Veronica, however, is full of such envy, and its subsequent hatred, she wants to destroy. Otherwise, Flavia is naïve and weak, and wants a confidante. Combined, they form a give-and-take friendship with more on the line than tea parties and playhouse time.
It’s rare to see two young actors, especially preteens, carry a movie – most notably a horror – but Gutiérrez and Royo do a masterful job thanks to Taboada’s exceptional direction, and the girls inherent skills. Royo, however, is a standout. She was actually ten when the movie was shot, yet has a presence more akin to someone twice her age. This adult nature, especially concerning facial expressions, body language and attitude, is frightening in and of itself.
The only problem with the movie is Juan Baños’s Foley work. Sadly, it’s far from subtle. For instance, he makes the girl’s footsteps sound like elephants clomping along in Mary Janes, instead of two lightweight girls jogging along tiled floors. Maybe that is why Baños found this to be his fourth and final film.
Regardless, the psychological tension and manifestations are fabulous, and the profound thematic elements from bullying to over-wrought curiosity long for acknowledgment. As with any great tale, Taboada delivers one heady horror with an ending that more than satisfies, and will leave audiences with much to discuss. My only regret is that I hadn’t heard of POISON FOR THE FAIRIES until now.
4 out of 5 stars
Whether you have seen this feature or not, what are your favorite Mexican horrors?
(Photo from SaltyFlowers.)