REVIEW: Tarumama a.k.a. Llanto Maldito (2021)

dir. Andres Beltran

Director Beltran’s sophomore feature follows a couple whose marriage is on rocky ground. Their solution? A family holiday with their two children to a cabin in the woods. Any horror fan can judge this to be a poor idea, and soon things are going bump in the night as they start to encounter a supernatural presence in the form of a woman mourning the loss of her son, who drowned in a near-by river. The result is a Columbian mix of folk horror, ghost story and marital drama, effectively giving space to each without reinventing any of these subgenres.

Tarumama benefits from a fantastic, oppressive atmosphere that seems to wash over the film thanks to its fog-drenched woodland setting. From the opening moments of a car weaving its way up a forest road a creeping sense of dread takes hold, even before the aforementioned cabin and the folk tale that feeds the horror is revealed (there are helpful locals to let us know about the painful history of the family’s holiday destination).

Horror is a powerful tool for the exploration of grief, and it’s a shame that Tarumama teases more then it delivers on this front. Paula Castaño and Andres Londono have some great early moments as the broken couple, but – despite the central drama being more effective than the spooky set pieces, which have the fingerprints of James Wan’s Conjuring universe on them – Beltran’s film is less interested in their relationship, instead focussing on the chills. There are some strong spooky sequences (the best being a variant of blind man’s bluff in the woods) and genre fans will have fun, even if they perhaps will leave seeking something more inventive.

⭐⭐⭐

Russell Bailey

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