DVD: A Monster With A Thousands Heads

monsterdvdSTUDIO: Music Box Films | DIRECTOR: Rodrigo Plá | CAST: Jana Raluy, Sebastián Aguirre Boëda, Hugo Albores, Nora Huerta, Daniel Giménez Cacho
RELEASE DATE: 8/9/16 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: deleted scenes
SPECS: NR | 74 min. | Foreign language thriller | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English with Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video  | Overall

It sounds like a new horror film and in a way, it is, but A Monster With A Thousands Heads serves up horror of a different kind. Set in present-day Mexico City, Rodrigo (Desierto Adentro) Plá’s latest feature examines how people’s actions are less choices made by individuals and more inevitable consequences of a social system set up to favor a few at the expense of everyone else…but it does so dramatically.

Briefly, without spoiling the plot too much: Sonia’s (Jana Raluy) husband is dying, and the medicine he needs is being denied to him by a convoluted health care system designed to minimize expenses. After receiving the big blow-off by the one doctor that could save her husband’s life, Sonia drags her teenage son around Mexico City on a desperate spree that leads to kidnapping, violence, and…

What seems like a genre film on paper is actually a refreshing piece of neo-realist cinema on screen. Beginning with a long, single, static shot that lets the drama build quite literally from total darkness, A Monster With A Thousand Heads makes it clear this is the work of a singular point of view, and not a Hollywood conglomerate. Everything about the film feels fresh: the total lack of a score, the deliberate choices of camera placement that makes you feel like a passive, helpless observer…even the inclusion of full frontal male nudity (with the complete exclusion of female nudity) tells you this is a movie that has no interest in pandering to the audience’s usual wishes. And yet, it’s completely riveting anyway.

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Jana Raluy goes to extremes to save her dying husband in A Monster With A Thousand Heads.

That’s because you are feeling Sonia’s pain and anger from the get go. Everywhere, there are signs of the neo-liberal corporate system that has turned modern life into a Kafkaesque nightmare for its citizens. All Sonia wants is for someone to review her husband’s damn case file, but everyone who could help her hides behind a shiny, clean bureaucracy that lets them stick to their comfy, bourgeois lives. Sure, one can argue Sonia is making what you might call “bad decisions” (as her teenage son reminds her early on), but the film bluntly begs the question “what other path could anyone take, were they in her shoes?” Monster is Terry Gilliam’s Brazil as a low-budget Mexican flick or, maybe, The 400 Blows if Truffaut was a Mexican with an axe to grind.

There’s definitely a Mexican subtext to the film that American audiences might miss. In Mexico, for instance, kidnappings and shootings are less Hollywood fantasy than everyday reality. In this context, Sonia’s story is just another day in la ciudad; Plá is providing us with an artistic backstory to the news reports Mexicans read about every day. Mexico City is, itself, a prominent character in the film, and the daily-life absurdity that comes with the uber-rich living among the ultra-poor is evident throughout, forcing you to laugh on the inside despite yourself. Given the fiasco our own health care system is, however, Americans won’t have to stretch far to relate: it’s the heart of Michael Moore’s Sicko squeezed into Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down. In case you haven’t guessed, the monster with a thousand heads is quite clearly us.

Music Box Films’ DVD includes a few extra scenes; one in particular stands out for justifying Sonia’s actions with some revelations about her case. The fact that Plá kept it out of his cut indicates he likes to keep things ambiguous, letting the viewer struggle with the very question of blame.

Buy or Rent A Monster With A Thousands Heads
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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.