12th Oct2020

Grimmfest 2020: ‘Urubu’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Carlos Urrutia, Clarice Alves, José Carabias, Alejandro Ibáñez, Ángela Villar, Francisco Lima da Costa | Written by Alejandro Ibáñez, Carlos Bianchi, Alejandra Heredia | Directed by Alejandro Ibáñez

When you see a film described as akin to Who Can Kill a Child? and Cannibal Holocaust you can’t help but get just a little bit excited. After all whilst the latter is the most notorious of the video nasties, the former is an under-rated classic of the genre, often maligned purely for it’s title. Which meant I was VERY interested to see what Urubu had in store.

Urubu follows Tomás, a photographer and ornithologist, who takes his wife Eva and his daughter Andrea to the Amazon jungle in search of a mysterious bird: the albino urubú. The trip, which should be a simple photography excursion, soon turns into a nightmare when Andrea disappears…

Who Can Kill a Child?, for those who haven’t seen it, actually shares a lot in common with Stephen King’s original Children of the Corn short story (which was released a year after the film hit cinemas), in so much as they both feature kids out of control, killing any and all adults who would stand in their way. This film, which comes from the son of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, director of Who Can Kill a Child?, relocates the story to the jungles of the Amazon – which is clearly where the references to Cannibal Holocaust come from!

However a gory blood bath this film is not. What we do get with Urubu is something more akin to the Holocaust knock-offs put out by the Italians in the wake of that films success – feeling, at times, inspired by the ridiculous travelogue-style storytelling that plagued the low-budget cannibal cash-ins of the 80s. It takes a while for the kiddy-terror to kick in here – over an hour in fact – an by then many may have given up on Alejandro Ibáñez’s film. It’s almost as if Ibáñez didn’t quite have enough story to fill a feature, seemingly trying to build a terror tale around his father’s original story – itself based on the book El juego de los niños – and a Lord of the Flies, kids alone on an island, scenario.

But besides some fantastic cinematography and a haunting soundtrack that’s pretty much all Ibáñez has. There’s a definite creepiness to Urubu once we do get to the crux of the story, undoubtedly helped by the fact the kids here take gleeful pleasure in their actions, something which is not seen in traditional Hollywood horror films. However whilst the kids behaviour ramps up the creepiness, Carlos Urrutia – as Tomas – and Clarice Alves as his wife Eva, let the story down. Their actions supposedly explained away by their distress at their daughter going missing not enough… Urrutia in particular seems more interested in manically overplaying his each and every emotion. And the fact his character is driven insane by the island and the children on it completely detracts from what should be a fight for survival for him.

Instead we side with the killer kids. Well at first of course – its hard not to side with kids when they’re being slain – however that’s not where Urubu is leading us. It, like the original 1976 film AND the more recent 2013 remake, shows us kids fighting back. However like the remake, whereas 1976 iteration of this tale had some great implications about why the kids had turned so violent, Urubu just shows us violent kids, running feral on the island for no [explained] reason – totally missing the opportunity to say a lot about children in modern society, which would have made for a much better movie.

There’s a pre-credits sequence, after the films close, which presents statistics about child poverty and death which – whilst commendable – seemingly seek to add a depth to a film that doesn’t have it. Almost making a mockery of the very horrifying real-world statistics and visuals it presents; as if to say “oh, these kids fought back against the society that did them wrong.” Perhaps instead of relying on a credits sequence to add layers to your tale you should’ve crafted a better story in the first place…

* 1/5

Urubu screened as part of the 2020 Grimmfest virtual festival on Sunday October 11th.


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