The hook of this Argentinian horror film is very like that of Kimo Stamboel’s Indonesian The Queen of Black Magic – Max (Demian Salomon), a big city psychiatrist whose career as an author isn’t in that great shape, returns to the provincial town where he grew up because the patriarch of an orphanage where he was raised has just died. After that, things develop in a different way – slightly recalling the Ramsey Campbell novel Pact of the Fathers, filmed as El Segundo Nombre – as Max’s ‘brother’ Hector (Hector Alba), who stayed behind to take over the family abattoir (cue upsetting mondo footage), reveals that he has left their obese father where he died, sat in a chair facing a large meal.
Max is appalled, but everyone else in town – and it turns out he has brothers who hold all the local positions of authority from police chief through newspaper editor and priest to manager of the soccer team – takes this as the natural way things ought to be. Max also has fragmentary flashbacks that suggest why he was so keen to get out of town when he could, though Hector needles him about the fact that he was the favoured son and primed for a key position in what seems to be a ruling coven. To perpetuate the power of this circle of men, rituals must be carried out involving the corpse and – of course – sacrifice, though this horror movie business is less disturbing than the microaggressions (and macroaggressions) meted out to Max by his variously resentful, envious, hero-worshipping and passive brothers as he’s drawn back into the conspiracy.
The squirming, not-very-sympathetic protagonist reconnects with an old girlfriend (Carolina Marcovsky) and is hooked by the prospect of a much-needed cash inheritance, but also lured into male bonding rituals – a very unusual hunting trip – before getting down to the funeral arrangements. The evocation of a small town dominated by a brutal business (it’s all about the slaughter) and a cabal of mostly weak-willed beta guys unsuited for their jobs – the soccer team always loses and the priest has an empty church – is actually more powerful and interesting than the fairly standard drawn-into-a-cult plotting. Written and directed by Alejandro Cohen Arazi.