Fantastic Fest 2018 Review: FERAL

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

From Mexico comes this dark, slow-burning mystery that gets presented as a faux documentary with a mix of found footage.  Though the approach might sound a little cliche, its messages could not be any more timely.  Feral offers audiences an intimate portrait of an excommunicated priest who makes it his mission to rescue, educate and integrate feral children he discovers in the Oaxacan mountains.  Writer/director Andrés Kaiser paints a dark and painful portrait of a man who wishes to redeem himself, but cannot seem to escape the patterns of abuse that has plagued him throughout most of his life.

I was actually rather impressed with this film.  Instead of using parlor tricks to frighten or thrill his audiences, Andrés Kaiser makes the horror in this film more intimate, psychological and utterly disturbing.  Without being too heavy-handed, Kaiser uses his film to give some biting social commentary on the Catholic Church and its history of abuse.  This abuse haunts his lead character Juan Felipe De Jesus Gonzales (Hector Illanes), a former psychoanalyst priest whose life and vocation has always challenged his faith in profound ways.  Illanes gives a heartbreaking and complex performance in this role.  Also impressive are the actors portraying the feral children.  These talented first time performers offer some physically demanding and emotionally trying turns that I wouldn’t exactly expect from young amateurs.

Andrés Kaiser utilizes the media of “found” video cassettes well to present a truly powerful, though-provoking, and painful mystery.  Just when everyone thought that the methods of faux documentary and found footage for storytelling has grown tiresome and overused, Kaiser uses it to tell a deep story with some powerful messages.  I’m not sure if this is a film I would enjoy watching again, but it has definitely made an indelible impact, as it should on all of its audiences.


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