It had been a while since I had seen a ‘possession movie’ and it wasn’t really a prospect I relished.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most predictable sub-genres of horror (behind ‘zombie’). As a result, after seeing about five of them, you can accurately predict what will happen in a majority of those that follow.
The important part there is ‘most’ as there are of course the exceptions that take you on a more unexpected journey.
Initially, The Old Ways struck me as being similar to another possession horror I reviewed a while back – Luciferina, mainly because of the South America and possession links. But Actually, when you get started, there is plenty to set the two apart.
In The Old Ways, we follow Cristina (Brigitte Kali Canales), a journalist who is returning to a place called Veracruz, a part of Mexico from which her family originates.
She is keen to investigate supernatural stories shared by locals, mainly involving magic and mystic healing.
But soon after starting her enquiries, Cristina is abducted by a gang who believe she is involved in dark and sinister acts, and Cristina finds herself having to prove her innocence (or purity).
At the heart of the gang is a Bruja (witch) who insists that Cristina will only be let free once, she has been exorcised of the demon that dwells within her – something which sounds absurd at first.
But as Cristina fights to escape, she slowly comes to realise that something isn’t right, and that her kidnappers might be onto something after all. Of course, this plays with some familiar filmic scenarios with Cristina wrapped in a battle between bewitchment and madness, as is usually the way for the victims in possession movies. This time though, things are further complicated by the fact that she is a heroin addict. Director Christoper Alender conveys this entanglement a convincing way, piecing together dizzying scenes, blurring reality with the surreal.
And the dynamics between the characters work well too, as the balance of good and bad shifts. Kidnappers doing bad things with good intentions and the initially innocent Cristina evolving into a threat (thanks to the conflict inside her).
In some ways, the ordeal is similar to the South American psychedelic ayahuasca rituals that are said to rid you of your metaphorical demons and addictions.
The film is strikingly shot and retains a dark, earthy atmosphere throughout. This visual humidity mixed with the involvement of jungle creatures for the ceremonies (such as a snake). This all helps to make the audience feel uneasy and exposed.
The Old Ways is a solid horror, giving a different (though not quite unique) twist to the possession movie subgenre.
It will keep you entranced and intrigued, though the final pay-off isn’t likely to astonish.