Fabián Forte’s Legions, an Argentine horror-comedy that premiered at the 2022 edition of the Fantaspoa Film Festival, is a delightful concoction bound to please fans of Sam Raimi, Alex de la Iglesia, Rodrigo Aragao and even Will Ferrell. A clever mix of horror and comedy is a really tricky balance to achieve, but Legions mostly succeeds by constantly taking shots at all the forces involved and their opposing viewpoints, impressing with its offbeat writing, superb soundtrack, and enough moments for gorehounds to enjoy.
Antonio is a self-titled shaman who takes on quests which carry him all around the world, battling demons, ghosts and all manner of nasties. His life takes a sudden turn with the birth of his daughter, Elena, which occurs after he’s faced one of the most powerful demons ever. The entity, Kuaraya, aims to take everything Antonio loves; first with the death of his wife, then by slowly destroying Elena’s faith in her father and the ancient ways.
The major strength of Legions’s comedic approach lies in its attention to detail. It lets viewers know what kind of film it is when the first scene shows Antonio is caught off-guard by a Deadite-like assailant and rarely abandons that intensity bordering on recklessness afterwards. There is a deviously funny transition from young, wide-eyed Antonio to an aged one who is stuck in a mental institution because he murdered a possessed man (one he kept tied up in one of his rooms) while defending his daughter. Antonio becomes Tony, and his life in the asylum is depicted though a series of rapid-fire, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-like interactions with his fellow patients, who are mounting a stage play based on Tony’s stories (“life experiences”, he stubbornly insists).
Is Antonio really an efficient shaman, or is he mainly deluded? It’s pretty clear that his experiences are real, but the film portrays his unwavering faith in himself, and his stubborn ways coming off as simply ridiculous to other people–even Elena. At one point a fellow patient blurts out that he wants to embellish a demonic character in the play, because of “demon stereotypes”. The film uses banality of modern living as a juxtaposition to Tony’s pride in his lineage and extensive knowledge, creating some laugh-out loud moments, such as when Tony has to meet up with his lawyer or when a mental patient reads a self-help book. There are even Will Ferrell-like sight gags (the slogan “nothing is impossible” is written on one of the patients’ rooms, a gag recalling the rotating motivational slogans on graves in the recent Netflix parody The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window)
Tony resents the ignorance around him, but doesn’t really do anything to fight it until he learns that Elena might be in danger and has to prepare to meet her after years of being separated. The movie’s main themes are faith and loss of faith, and the “old ways” being replaced by capitalist ideals. When Tony has to meet up with Elena, he is advised to literally “dress up to fight the demon”, and he puts on his best suit for the occasion. The film launches into corporate satire for a while, having Elena listen to mindfulness exercises in order to banish any thoughts that would decrease her productivity, or Tony calling customer support. In the film’s standout moment, Tony uses what seems to be a banishment ritual on all of Elena’s coworkers in order to get some alone time with her.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack dutifully switches from tribal music when Antonio is deep in his rituals to humorous stabs in the asylum meant to highlight the ridiculousness of a powerful shaman being subjected to the a failing healthcare system. As such, the soundtrack doesn’t follow the “serious music can make the comedy funnier” rule, but it’s a really satisfying composition nonetheless – one of the strongest since The Stylist – relying on theatrical elements and exaggeration.
Elena’s faith might not entirely be gone, and Tony is really lucky for having a secret powerful ally on his side. If one can fault the movie with anything, it’s this: it doesn’t really up the ante until the final minutes, with some really sick visual effects and intensity reminiscent of both Raimi and Rodrigo Aragao’s The Black Forest. A decapitation scene together with a cleverly edited moment straight out of a classic vampire horror playbook manage to make viewers forget a couple dull moments from before.
Overall, Legions manages to hold up to a lot of the most successful horror-comedies of the past years: Two Heads Creek (2019), Snatchers (2019), Wyrmwood Apocalypse (2021), and of course the Ash vs. The Evil Dead show (2015-2018). Fans of world cinema and eclectic horror are in for some rip-roaringly funny moments and an intense, emotionally-satisfying finale. Expect Legions to find its legion of followers both on the festival circuit and once it hits home distribution.
We Watched Legions as Part of the 2022 Fantaspoa Film Festival