This review is part of our Fantasia Festival 2020 coverage.
The Pitch: Eric (José María de Tavira) is a rich conductor living in a gorgeous modern home. So, why when we meet him is he getting fall-down drunk by himself at a dive bar? Enter Fabiana (Cristina Rodlo), the bartender on the night Eric causes a scene. Feeling curious, Fabiana brings Eric back to her place to let him sleep. When he wakes up, Eric rewards Fabiana with a pleasant afternoon date that leads to sex and a fast-tracked relationship. After practically moving into his apartment, detectives arrive with questions surrounding the last of Eric’s girlfriends. Seems one went missing not too long ago, though Eric insists it’s less nefarious. She left him. Fabiana’s not sure what to think, but then she starts hearing strange sounds around the house.
Agoraphobia: Jorge Michel Grau made a splash with his 2010 Cannes cannibal crucible We Are What We Are, which was later remade by Jim Mickle. While that film has its razor-edged pleasures, Grau truly came into his own in the wake of his debut’s modest success. 2015’s Big Sky and 2016’s 7:19 were some of the sharpest high concept B-movies of the ‘10s. Big Sky followed a teen deathly afraid of the outside world and sunlight, forced to march across the desert following a botched car-jacking. While 7:19 took the opposite approach, following two men trapped in the rubble of a building that collapsed. Grau’s made a marvelous showing for himself as an artist, adept at revealing the world through absences and withheld information. In that sense, Perdida is his proper formalist follow-up to We Are What We Are, a tale of moral uncertainty so sharply photographed and edited it could cut glass.
Claustrophobia: The best way to describe Perdida, one of the most satisfying and fun films of this year’s Fantasia Fest, is to say that it’s an updated version of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This film takes the form of a classic mystery tale that feints hysterically in the direction of the supernatural and gruesome without ever fully committing to any particular version of events. There’s a cruel edge to this in the sense that it only works as mean-spirited noir, but thankfully the movie plays that game well enough that this writer got over its biggest narrative stumbling block. Though Perdida is based on a 2011 Colombian movie, at its best, it feels like it was adapted from an early Lawrence Block short story.
The Verdict: Grau further cements his reputation as a skilled maker of agreeably nasty little potboilers with Perdida, a kind of Neo-noir B-sides to this year’s Best Picture winner Parasite. Perdida is the kind of solid little thriller I wish Americans still made. The morality play aspect of the film might not linger, but its crisp images of casual bourgeoise sadism and the way it re-contextualizes its own mystery as it goes likely will. It’s the kind of film where you cringe over momentary lapses of reason and patterns of behavior alike. Movies where no one is what they seem are always fun when well composed — and Perdida is no exception.