24th Sep2019

‘Is That You?’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Osvaldo Doimeadiós, Lynn Cruz, Gabriela Ramos, Jorge Enrique Caballero | Written and Directed by Rudy Riverón Sánchez


Written and directed by Rudy Riverón Sánchez in his debut feature film, Cuban horror movie Is That You?, entitled ¿Eres tú, papá? in its native country, is a psychological and intense story that see’s a teenage girl, unable to move on from the loss of her Dad, try to conjure him back using a ritual, only to find out some horribly dark truths about his disappearance and about the relationships he had during his life.

There are some very disturbing and dark elements here, with the controlling of the father, Eduardo (Osvaldo Doimeadiós), as he holds his wife, Alina (Lynn Cruz), down and keeps her under his vicious thumb. He has this unspoken control over his daughter Lili (Gabriela Ramos) too, and when Alina, with he help of a man named Carlos (Jorge Enrique Caballero) fight back against Eduardo and end his life, it triggers what the film is to become. Lili trying to call back the spirit of her deceased father is visited by the shadows and voices she seeked, and it’s up to us to decide if it is indeed her father returning to her, attempting to control her once more, or if the girl’s mind is lost. It’s a desperate and terrible tale of a shattered family.

Is That You? is a pitch-black movie and it delves into those themes of control and both physical and emotional abuse while maintaining a tone of familiar supernatural tropes that we all know from ghost-stories we’ve seen many times. It leaves unanswered questions that are pivotal ones, and leaves them unanswered for a good portion of the film, making it feel, at times, like it’s dragging its feet at much too slow of a pace much of the time. It’s the kind of plot that is hard to hate-on because it’s a very serious natured one and is dealt with in a respectable manner, yet I did find it tough to “enjoy” this in the usual sense of the word. It’s a slow-moving, some may say “sluggish”, tale that unfolds in a way that feels so extremely grim and depressing. The characters we spend our time with are broken in a number of ways and their relationships are often toxic. The situations we witness are messed-up and while the cast do a damn fine job in their acting work here, the whole thing is let down by that big shiny obvious pacing problem. It becomes pretty annoying, feeling almost self-indulgent in the way it hazardously treads at a snails pace.

The tension in the air is a strong point, and I thought it was built very nicely by Sánchez, a definite positive to this somewhat conflicted film. The locations and the tone feel like those of a traditional supernatural horror film, but the actual plot borders more on a very dark drama, dealing with these uncomfortable situations and cracked characters. It’s an interesting study but not the kind of horror film I was expecting it to be.

The theme of being controlled, of the emotional torment that can be severely inflicted on others, is a disturbing one, and I thought it was treated in a unique manner that I found intriguing. It’s where the “horror” end of this movie exists. It will crawl under your skin, for sure, if you are able to get past the flaws and become immersed in the plot and the characters. Dark and disturbed, Is That You? manages to pull away from it’s problematic parts to become a methodical and precise psychological horror film, one that I can partly recommend due to the concepts on offer, but be wary of the road itself often being one blocked up with a little too much traffic.

**½  2.5/5

Is That You? is available now on iTunes and DVD.

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