Three teenagers go visit a friend at his old farmhouse for the weekend. What they didn't expect was to be stuck in the middle of a centenary war between good and evil.
Rafael Baliu (writer / story)
M.M. Izidoro (created by / story)
Guilherme Aranha (story)
The Fostering received its US premiere at this year’s Filmquest. And since we’re so in love with compact and easily digestible sound bites in today’s film-going society, here’s mine: “The Fostering is the Brazilian Candyman”.
There. Easy. Succinct. True. See the movie when you get the chance. But first, let’s take a deeper look, shall we?
Ale (Mariana Cortines – nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Feature at Filmquest) and her boyfriend Jorge (Diego Goullart) are travelling to a massive house in the Brazilian countryside, along with Jorge’s cousin Magu (Clara Verdier – nominated for Best Actress in a Feature at Filmquest). They’ll be meeting friend Apolo (Pedro Carvalho) at the remote location, where they’re going to attempt to play an elaborate prank on Magu. Thing is, the house has a very real history of violence and mystery. And their antics (complete with a drawn pentagram on the floor of the creepy basement) couldn’t be on a worse day. It’s an anniversary of a great tragedy on this property, which during the days of slavery was owned by the evil Honey Baron (Ivo Muller – nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature at Filmquest). Not coincidentally, also happening that day is the revival of long-dead slave Bento (and victim of the Honey Baron) – this annual return is meant to keep the evil within the house at bay. All factions come together for a bloody, frightening and highly unusual evening.
The acting is top-notch throughout. All of the actors clearly put everything on the line (everyone’s crying/sobbing delivers full on waterworks – you never doubt that they’re producing real tears – and the addition of the snotty noses caused by true emotion add to the authenticity of these performances). While everyone’s notable, my favorite performance comes from Mariana Cortines as Alexandra (Ale). Her character comes with immediate baggage – her history is mostly unexplained, but we do know she takes meds to keep the voices in her head at arm’s length. So her emotions and brittle mental state are constantly on the verge of an easy deterioration. Her best moment comes after she’s had one of numerous hallucinations within the house – begging and pleading with Jorge, her mascara running down her face in streams – to immediately leave the house. It’s a chilling delivery when Ale confirms that she did indeed take her pills, but is still hearing voices.
It’s very clear that the filmmakers were inspired by Bernard Rose’s Candyman (director Rodrigo Gasparini confirmed this following the screening). The Fostering is based on Brazilian mythology (like Candyman’s urban legends), centers around an apiary of days long gone and touches on the issues of abused/murdered slaves. All sound familiar? Well, other than those easy comparisons, The Fostering is definitely its own beast.
That’s not to say that the film is all honey and roses (see how I did that?) The story is confusing as all get-out. And per Gasparini, as they were shooting, they were using different versions of the script, so that may account for some of the wishy-washiness. In its favor though, is the fact that the strange (but enticing) atmosphere is ripe for throwing anything and everything onto the screen. Things very quickly go downhill for the characters, and all of the insanity is reasonable within the world created, thus it’s easy to forgive some of the confusion. And don’t get me wrong, I got the general idea, but towards the end of the film (and even early on as the legends are retold), it all becomes very contrived. But the visuals are so strong and the vibe so penetrative, you’ll happily go along for the ride, even if you find yourself scratching your head through most of it.
On that note, the imagery in The Fostering is inspired and terrifying. The poster art illustrates one of the most frightening horror film villain masks this side of Haddonfield. And the mask’s design is what was actually used by bee-keepers of the slavery era. Keep your creepy mask and your swarming bees to yourself, thank you very much.
Visually, there are also call-outs to the films of Dario Argento. The hallucinations/visions of The Honey Baron – bathed in a deep red (ahem) are striking and creepy.
And my favorite moment in the film is a very animated camera – filling in for the evil’s release from the basement and subsequent journey through the house – complete with slamming doors and shutters. It lovingly reminded me of a shot from Michael Mann’s camerawork in The Keep. Gasparini mentioned that The Evil Dead films (the original trilogy and the recent remake) were major inspirations for The Fostering and with shots such as this, it shows. However, in Gasparini’s film – there’s no slapstick humor to help brace yourself against the ever-present horror in The Fostering.
There are a few good “boo” moments, but what will no doubt intrigue you more, is the underlying rumble of dread as the picture picks up speed. Again, there’s so much thrown onto the screen as the film reaches its climax; that you’ll be happily caught up in the insane wackiness.
I had the chance to chat with Gasparini before the screening. And he touched on something which stands out in the film. The Fostering is definitely a fun exercise in visual horror, but there were some (obviously intended) blurred lines of good vs. evil. And since you can see things from the perspectives of many characters on opposite sides (aside from perhaps the wholly evil Honey Baron), it adds to the confusion (I’m not talking about the story confusion, mentioned above) – and for once, that’s a good thing. Every character is coming at this situation from different sides and they all think they’re right.
Gasparini: “The movie’s about people who go to the wrong place at the wrong time. What I like about the script is that there is no good or bad. Everybody believes something. People get killed for what they believe. There’s tons of gray – it’s not black and white all the time.”
Originally titled O Diabo Mora Aqui (The Devil Lives Here), the title was changed by the producers for English-language audiences to The Fostering. Apparently, the actual translation was too similar to the 2012 Mexican horror hit; Here Comes the Devil. No similarity in content, but I get it. However, The Devil Lives Here certainly offers a much more vivid picture of the film’s story and power, while The Fostering is just far too abstract.
Honestly, which title grabs you? The Fostering or The Devil Lives Here. I rest my case.
The film has done well on the festival circuit, including a showing at the prestigious Sitges Film Festival in Spain. Here at Filmquest its been nominated for Best Feature, Best Director(s) for a Feature: Rodrigo Gasparini & Dante Vescio – in addition to the multiple acting nominations listed above.
Gasparini: “We tried to do something that has this Brazilian flavor, but at the same time is universal. Anyone can watch.”
Mission accomplished. We all know that horror is overwhelmingly acknowledged as “universal”, so despite the fact that Gasparini’s film is in Portugese with English subtitles, the visuals and the frights will translate into a fun and terrifying ride for anyone willing to get on board – no matter where you’re from or what language you speak.
The verdict is quite clear. When the opportunity arises (like the long-dead slave Bento), go see The Fostering – or if you prefer (as I do), The Devil Lives Here.