I’m really not sure how I feel about La Sombra del Gato AKA The Cat’s Shadow. I went into it blind and certainly wasn’t expecting a sort of The City of Lost Children with Satanists. Overall, it’s a quirky fairytale, with magic and evildoers and the heroes triumphing. I’m just left a little confused as to the intended tone of the film.
Emma is a young girl living on a farm with her father Oscar, who sometimes goes by Cat. Also living with them is Shadow (played by Danny Trejo) who I assume is a shaman. Along with the men are two women, the older one seemingly running the farm. They sell jams and other goods to the city and live a simple life. Emma spends her days helping out with chores and playing with toys she creates, like a handheld camera made of cardboard.
After hitching a ride to the city and enjoying a parade, Emma finds a smartphone on the ground and brings it home with her. It’s quite cute seeing her eyes full of curiosity and wonder as she tries to figure out how it works, like using a flagpole to elevate the phone and get a good signal. And eventually, she takes a video of herself and her beloved pet chicken.
This is the catalyst that sets the events of the film in motion, as the video is seen by Emma’s mother’s family. They soon whisk her away to their luxurious and sprawling mansion. Under the impression her mother was dead, Emma accepts the offer easily and leaves her father a simple note, calling him a liar. Cat and Shadow soon travel to bring her back.
We’re given many flashbacks to Cat’s courtship and marriage to Emma’s mother, Celia. Her family resides in the mansion and performs strange rituals we only see brief glimpses of—red cloaks, strange liquids, daggers…Uh-oh! Understandably, once Emma is born he gets the heck out of dodge with the baby in tow.
Throughout the film, there are many comedic moments, from Emma’s innocence to a troupe of drag queens flocking to Shadow and asking him to make predictions for them to a duo arguing over who is a better football player. Then, it will cut back to the cultists or implied human experiments, leaving me baffled as to the general tone. Is it supposed to be light-hearted in contrast to some of the darker elements? They feel like separate things rather than pieces of the same story.
One thing I absolutely loved was Emma stealing a PDA-like device from a nurse…which I instantly recognized as a Sony PSP, complete with a big, chunky plastic case for holding games. She carries it around while it displays “escape route this way” and a map. I appreciate using whatever you can for a low-budget film. This isn’t a detractor—it’s just funny.
Emma crawls through tunnels looking for a way out and gets knocked unconscious by a brick, leading to some interesting dream sequences featuring her grandfather, a dwarf dressed as a baby, and a room of snakes. I definitely feel like some of this was purely for visuals and had no further meaning, and I can appreciate that. (Also, Danny Trejo does a dance with the drag queens here!) There’s also a complete homage to the garbage disposal scene from Star Wars, which adds to the strange fairytale angle.
As with most films involving Satanic cults, there comes a climactic scene of human sacrifice, thwarted at the last second when Shadow and his new drag queen friends show up and beat the living snot out of the cultists. I can’t believe this really happened; it feels like a Mad Lib.
After the dust settles, Emma and Cat head home and mourn the loss of Shadow, who was tragically stabbed during the fight. Emma’s life returns to normalcy, but now she kept her phone. A news report describes the tragic massacre at the mansion.
I’m wondering if this combination of genres is what threw me off about the film. I wasn’t expecting it to be so funny. All in all, I enjoyed my time with it. All the actors did a great job with their characters, especially Maite Lanata as Emma. Director José María Cicala also has another film coming out using many of the same actors called Sola, which I’m now curious about.
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