Saturday, December 8, 2012

#146: Love from Mother Only (Dennison Ramalho, 2003)

Love from Mother Only has gorgeous cinematography, sweaty nudity, demonic possession, intense violence, dark humor, and a great setting and atmosphere, and it accomplishes all this in less than 25 minutes. Dennison Ramalho's Brazilian short film has the confident look and feel of a solid feature. I wish it were longer, but that brevity is a strength. It's better to leave them wanting more.
Ramalho's film is available on the DVD Small Gauge Trauma, a collection of 13 short horror films from around the world that share the honor of making a splash at Montreal's famous genre film festival, Fantasia. I watched half of the features last night, and the quality is pretty high across the board. Ramalho's short is one of the strongest. So far, he's directed two other short films, Nocturnu and Ninjas. I hope this guy gets to make a feature-length film some day. He's good.
Set in a Brazilian coastal village, Love from Mother Only begins with Filho (Everaldo Pontes) bringing his small boat to shore. Though his village is small, it's a hotbed of religious diversity, with voodoo, Catholicism, and Satanism among your choices for local worship. Filho wanders into the forest on his way home and runs into his lady friend, Formosa (Debora Muniz). They have some hot, sweaty forest sex, but instead of a post-coital forest cigarette, Filho is given a tongue-lashing by Formosa. It seems Filho is caught between the differing needs of two women. He lives with his devoutly Catholic mother, who simply refuses to die of old age and simply refuses to let her middle-aged son date anyone. Formosa, a daughter of Satan, wants to blow the rural coastal popstand and move somewhere with a little more action, and she wants Filho to come with her. Small towns are just too boring when Satan's your dad. Filho is deeply devoted to his mother, but he's also way into hot devil sex. He's torn apart inside, and when he discovers Formosa having some hot devil sex with another guy while a second guy watches, he goes berserk. Brandishing a machete, he scares the men away and is about to kill Formosa when she goes into full-on demonic possession mode and commands him to kill his mother and give Formosa his mother's heart if he wants her hot devil booty to be an exclusive thing. Will Filho kill his mother? Will he give Formosa his mother's heart? Will his mother have some tricks of her own? I'll leave that for you to find out.
My plot synopsis sounds a bit low-rent, but Ramalho makes it look amazing. This short is so full of gorgeous imagery and narrative energy that the viewer's adrenalin is amped for its duration. I know it's hard to make Brazil look uncinematic, but Ramalho has a great eye and serious technical skill. Muniz is excellent as Satan's daughter in an intensely physical performance that requires her to contort herself and get into lots of brutal altercations, some of the time while being completely naked. She's pretty freaky when in the throes of demonic possession and her weird semi-backwards walk is wonderfully creepy.
Though this film was released in 2003, it has a classic feel. The short was shot on film, and the combination of the film stock and the absence of CGI effects and spatial incoherence ensure it won't look like garbage 20 years from now. I like the cut of Ramalho's jib, and I'd like to see his other two shorts and hopefully a feature film someday. Well, this review is a bit short, but it's a 20-minute film. I just drank 20 cups of coffee, so I'm going to wrap it up and eat some lunch before I turn into a hummingbird. Rent Small Gauge Trauma. It's good stuff.

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