If you pay attention to Horror Obsessive on social media (and you should), we sent out a “rogue transmission” that came from the Soho Horror Film Festival this past weekend. The film festival, whose thematic Shockdown Saturday was “Lost and Found” asked us to help promote their extremely fun gimmick and add a QR barcode to a secret film playing at the festival this weekend. If you did the exact opposite of what the details asked and scanned the barcode, you were treated to found footage film 1974: La Posesión de Altair, a found footage horror film unlike any other. Not only was it a lot of fun to be on the other side as promotors, but I hope anyone that did watch the film saw how easy it was to access the films at Soho Horror Film Festival and will likely join me through the final few weeks.
1974: La Posesión de Altair is a film I was happy to promote. Victor Dryere’s debut feature film about a recently married couple’s disappearance is told through an old Super 8 camera lens. The film begins with a short news story introduction in which a reporter is hounding anyone to give him any new information as police, neighbors, and even the family doctor (Rubén González Garza) are making their way through the property. If you really listen to what is said right from the start, there are a lot of clues being placed in that reveal the film’s surprise ending, but more on that later.
Once the found footage begins, the viewer is instantly brought back to the ’70s. The grainy camera footage, costume design, and set design are so meticulously on-point that even though (thanks to the controversy surrounding The Blair Witch Project) we know that 1974: La Posesión de Altair isn’t documentary footage, you question it momentarily, given the authenticity to the era the film has chosen to tell its story in. Seriously, even if you watched the film and do not agree with parts of this review, you need to give it up for this little independent film that really looks the part.
The story concerns newlyweds Manuel (Rolando Breme) and Altair (Diana Bovio) who are very much in love. Manuel, a stop motion filmmaker, has set up his new camera to capture Altair receive the puppy he’s got her for her birthday. Adding to their family seems to be the catalyst for Altair’s possession: after her birthday party she wakes up crying in bed, having seen angels. Strange things begin occurring in the home, like Altair painting bricks to build doorways in the couple’s bedroom and basement, or the disappearance of their puppy only to be returned as a much older dog. Plus, Altair starts becoming increasingly distant from her husband. It isn’t long before Manuel begins seeking help from friends (Guillermo Callahan) and family (Blanca Alarcón) to find a reason for this severe change in his wife.
There is a lot of nuanced story development throughout 1974: La Posesión de Altair that feeds into obvious religious ideals and themes of depression and guilt deriving from the idea of motherhood. As the story progresses, we find that a tragic event befell Altair’s baby brother when she was young. She felt such responsibility for this tragedy that a doctor (Garza) had to hypnotize her into forgetting the event. Now, from the onset of the puppy being brought into Altair’s life, she’s met with the vision of angels and a new sense of fear and dread. This puppy may be a test of her future motherhood capability, and it’s brought her back to the guilt she feels from the loss of her brother. The film weaves this theme so seamlessly into the narrative that Altair’s actions in the woods, in the end, seem shocking but justified, given the characters’ belief that they are involved in a Rosemary’s Baby meets The Exorcist situation.
I loved the concept of the two doorways, as well. Whether this was an attempt to feel more like Poltergeist’s closet situation, I’m unsure. We never really see how the doors are used, just that Altair disappears and reappears next to them, but the use of the bricks against the wall is menacing. From far away, the camera’s resolution makes them look like doorways, and this effect created this lump in my throat that made me consider that something was going to magically pop through at any moment. The real testament to this simple set piece is that nothing ever does jump out—the effect is personal fear in the belief that something can. From a practical effects angle, when the camera does get closer to the wall, the audience sees individual bricks again instead of the doorway, and that can also mess with a viewer’s perception.
Usually, I’m kind of a jerk about surprise endings. I had M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village dead to rights in the theater before the credits had finished. I wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to my date in the theater—then she got increasingly mad throughout the film because she looked at the paper, thinking I would be wrong. What I mean by all of this is that I can usually see where the story is going rather quickly, but 1974 was not like that at all. The movie trolled me so hard into thinking that it was exactly what it looked like on the surface, so when that ending felt like it came out of nowhere, my face lit up from disbelief, and I audibly said, “Wow” like an Owen Wilson meme. The more I thought about the film, the more I realized that all of the clues were there. The film just masked itself in a way that the possibility was never considered.
I love found footage horror films. I have this ridiculous affinity for them because they always find a way to scare the hell out of me, be it the silent static jump scare endings of Paranormal Activity that keep me up all night or just the voyeuristic idea that I’m watching someone’s persona erode on camera as their struggle becomes harder for them to get through. Dryere considered all of this in creating 1974: La Posesión de Altair, which I find stands out in the genre as a unique one-of-a-kind experience. It’s fun, freaky, and at times intensely nightmarish. If you’re a fan of found footage horror films at all, 1974: La Posesión de Altair has my recommendation on it.
Three weeks remain for Soho Horror Film Festival’s Shockdown Saturdays, with Bright Hill Road and gross-out creature feature Cyst, which I’ve been wanting to see since its premiere at Fantastic Fest last year, coming this Saturday along with the return of the I Spit On Your Grades Live Podcast. If you’d like to be a part of the festival, all you have to do is become a member of the festival’s Facebook page and click the links in the announcements section when the films become available on Saturday. All showings are based on local time in Soho, England—check with their website and Facebook page for times (often they leave the links open until Sunday at midnight). The festival is completely free, but Soho Horror Film Festival is operating solely on viewer support donations and entirely without sponsors. So, if you like what you see, I’d strongly encourage you to support them so we can all indulge in future events.