It’s not summer without a vacation or a horror movie–and In the Shadow, directed, co-written and co-produced by tonight’s guest Nicole Elmer, brings us a taut tale of psychological and supernatural horror set against a beautiful island backdrop. Add in the additional layer of sex tourism, Puerto Rican politics, and colonial imperative, plus the bonus of that rara avis, a female horror director–and well, In the Shadow is a perfect summer FDL movie.
Documentary film director Hilary arrives on Culebra, a small Puerto Rican island, to film an ongoing, grant-funded documentary that seems to be about politics in the Caribbean. Diego catches her eye and she hires him to be her guide. While filming she receives divorce papers from her husband, and sees Diego, who has a supernatural gift, to perform a resurrection.
Diego’s gift came with a price–he was warned of this by a hermit healer, played with great sensitivity by Danny Trejo who is usually cast as a villain or anti-hero. Diego pays for his gift daily. He is chased by a shadowy figure and haunted by horrific dreams. His behavior has caused his wife to leave him. She has moved to Venezuela, taking their daughter. Diego copes by working part-time at a local tavern and spending time on his small boat, or with his girlfriend on hers.
Hilary’s presence disrupts his simple life. First she sees him bring a woman back to life, then she pries into people’s views, she gossips, and she finally forces herself on Diego to get revenge on her husband for filing for divorce. The “arrogance of North America” as Diego’s friend calls it, is in full force with Hilary who has no qualms about suggesting Diego continue traveling the Caribbean with her, without regard for Diego’s girlfriend.
For Diego, leaving his island home might bring an end to the horrifying visions that come with his gift, could give him a chance at a life where no one would know that he can raise the dead, and the opportunity to see his beloved daughter again. For Hilary, why not? To her they appear compatible enough and he’s cute (Diego is played by Jorge Sermini who co-wrote and co-produced the film) She is fostering a relationship where she is completely in control, one that is vagabond in nature, and she is willing to abandon her own daughter to be in charge, and continues to turn away from her suburban lifestyle and the college students she loathes teaching.
Hilary’s thoughtless actions cause tragedy and Diego’s visions turn more violent, forcing both characters’ decisions about their lives and their children into stark contrast.
This is not a traditional horror movie in the slasher/gore vein. It is deeper, more supernatural and psychological in nature, raising questions about the price we pay for the things we love the most. It is also shot in lush, vibrant, saturated colors contrasting the island’s beauty with the story’s dark subject matter.