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New Release Review - Wild Tales

Anthology of six short tales featuring characters driven to take extreme measures.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Damián Szifron

Starring: Ricardo Darín, Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa



The anthology format has long been a staple of the horror genre, birthing such notable compendium features as Dead of Night, Black Sabbath and the made for TV Trilogy of Terror, which famously gave us Karen Black facing off with a possessed Zuni doll. Outside of the horror genre, anthology films have been scarcer, but with Wild Tales, Argentine filmmaker Damian Szifron employs the format to deliver six short tales sharing a theme of otherwise mild mannered protagonists driven to extreme measures. While none of the shorts are strictly horror, they certainly feature some horrifying behaviour.
First up, pre-credits, is Pasternak, the shortest of the six tales, but the most impactful. In a plot similar to the 1972 ABC Movie of the Week (a series that serves as a clear precedent for Szifron's storytelling here) Haunts of the Very Rich, a group of strangers on a flight discover they all share a connection - a deadly connection.
After a credit sequence that hammers home the film's theme with a rather blunt montage of wildlife imagery, we get the first of the main stories, The Rats, which sees a waitress and cook conspire to poison a diner whose criminal past led to the suicide of the waitress's father. Despite the intriguing set-up, this is one of the more disappointing segments, resulting in a weak and unsatisfying denouement.
The third segment is the movie's highlight. Owing much to '70s American horror flicks like Spielberg's Duel, The Strongest pits a cowardly sophisticate motorist against a psychotic redneck in the Argentine desert. The two engage in a thrilling and hilarious battle of wits that plays out like a live action Roadrunner versus Wile E Coyote duel.
The next tale, Little Bomb, is also a cracker, featuring a great turn from the ubiquitous Argentine star Ricardo Darin as a demolitions expert whose life is torn apart by a dispute over a parking ticket. Darin cements himself as one of world cinema's most interesting performers, and anyone who ever found themselves on the wrong side of bureaucracy will get right behind his character's quest here.
The most interesting of the segments is the penultimate tale, The Proposal, in which the father of a rich kid responsible for a fatal hit and run attempts to use his money to get his son off the hook by offering the family gardener a hefty sum to take the fall for the crime. It's a wonderful examination of the power of money, one that plays out in a manner resembling the first act of a feature length film (one this reviewer would love to see come to fruition), making its abrupt ending something of an anti-climax.
You would imagine Szifron would have saved the best for last, but Until Death Do Us Part is easily the weakest of the six tales, despite being the one most heavily featured in the movie's marketing campaign. Set at a manic Jewish wedding where the bride is made aware of her new hubby's infidelity, the story does nothing interesting with its premise and ultimately peters out sans twist.
The arrangement of the tales is a shame, as had the movie ended with the strongest segment, aptly named The Strongest, it would have made for a far more impactful ending. Indeed, the film could excise completely its current final tale and be all the healthier for it. These anthology films are generally hit and miss, but four gems out of the six tales presented here make Wild Tales one of the more satisfying examples of this format.




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