From Chile comes Trauma, one of the most controversial films I’ve had the pleasure of viewing, although not everyone will share this opinion, I’m sure. Right up there with A Serbian Film, Trauma breeds the same kind of discontent for the country’s political regime. Straight out of The Optical Theater Festival, Trauma opens up with a scene so revolting and jarring, I had to do a second take. I consider myself fairly seasoned when partaking in more extreme films. Nevertheless, when I came across this particular film, it gave me an uneasy feeling that left me with a bizarre sensation of shock. That was how I knew this movie had done its job by simultaneously shocking and revolting me.
Lucio Rojas delivers this tale of soul-shattering material and he is quite clear and concise in his mission to repel and appall his audience. The story begins in 1978 in Chile, a country ruled by military dictator Augusto Pinochet. The atrocities committed against the people by his regime are unspeakable. These horrors are being carried out by the military, and pain and agony is wholly apparent as people around them are being tortured. Without getting into much detail, a son is forced to commit an utterly despicable and unspeakable act on an already ripped and torn woman… who happens to be his own mother. As we can see even from this scene, the boy is instantly traumatized, and so is the viewer after witnessing it.
We then jump to 2011, where we are flung into a steamy lesbian sex encounter between Camila (Macarena Carrere) and her girlfriend, Julia (Ximena del Solar). This is a scene that is not afraid to show skin, all in glorious and passionate detail. We then meet Andrea (Catalina Martin), who is going on a trip with her sister Camila and Julia, as well as Andrea and Camila’s cousin, Magdalena (Dominga Bofill). The group is going on a retreat to a family house in a smaller community outside Santiago, Chile. They get lost and must stop at a local watering hole for directions. Once in the bar, the women are noticeably ogled until Juan (Daniel Antivilo) steps in and the women leave.
When they arrive at the lush cottage, the party begins and Julia puts the moves on Magdalena, unbeknownst to Camila. Before any of this drama is further pursued, there are two male assailants creepily watching the erotic female seduction going on from outside the house. Julia spots one of the guys while performing a striptease and it startles her and everyone else. Soon, the two Peeping Toms invade the dwelling with obvious malicious intent.
We find out the men are Juan, the man who intervened in the bar earlier, and his son, Mario (Felipe Rios). The men are on a mission to sexually violate the women, and do so in particular sadistic and unsettling fashion, noticeably taking great pleasure from it. After the home invasion, another major traumatic event occurs and finally the women seek refuge in police officers they met earlier. Unfortunately, this doesn’t resolve the situation as easily as you would think.
The movie’s title, Trauma, is definitely an appropriate name, not only because of the experiences of the female victims but also because of the young boy’s traumatic childhood, as well as one unsettling scene involving a baby which brings to mind the newborn porn segment in A Serbian Film. I think one of the biggest reasons I familiarize Trauma with A Serbian Film is the message both films bring in regards to the filmmakers’ discontent with their governments and the way their country’s systems work. Also, Trauma is beautifully shot using pristine quality production, much like A Serbian Film. Both are done with a high level of technical merit and this is why I mention them in correlation.
A fault with Trauma is the plot premise with the women going to a location to be preyed upon by the local creeps. This formula has been done to death in stuff like I Spit On Your Grave and Death Weekend. If Lucio Rojas pulled inspiration from one of these films, then I can praise him, even if the schtick has been done before. Otherwise, Trauma is definitely a trip down the sewer pipe of hell with some beautiful looking women to ease the ocular pain.
I read that director Rojas made the choice to shit or get off the pot, for the lack of better words, to deliver convincing brutality, a feat which I believe he has succeeded ten fold here. I also read that after filming particularly bothersome scenes, the cast was visibly shaken and had to recover from the intensity, and I can totally understand why. The gore in this is realistic, repugnant and highly effective, along with the sense of tension and panic which comes through wonderfully. Trauma is one of the best and meanest indie horror features and has now been added to my 2017 favorites list, which continues to grow as this year is producing some amazing films.