Over the last few months, I'd heard a lot about the extreme Chilean horror film, Trauma. Most of the reviews I had read compared it to the infamous A Serbian Film in terms of content. Even though I personally feel that A Serbian Film is a rather hollow film that shocks for the sake of shocking, I knew I was in for a rough viewing experience with Trauma. Within the first 5 minutes, I had seen one of the most gut-wrenching scenes ever committed to film. I consider myself rather "seasoned" when it comes to watching extreme cinema and I left this film revolted and shocked, but oddly admiring the work of director Lucio Rojas.
The film begins with a prologue set in Chile 1978, during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. Trauma hits hard right out of the gate as a father forces his son to participate in the torture and defilement of a political prisoner, who happens to be the boys mother. I'll put this bluntly, if you can stomach the prologue, you may stand a chance at making it through the film. From there we jump to 2011 and the film's main story. We're introduced to four women, Andrea (Catalina Martin), her sister Camila (Macarena Carrere), their cousin Magdalena (Dominga Bofill) and Camila's girlfriend Julia (Ximena del Solar) are on their way out to the countryside to spend a few days at a family cottage. Along the way, they get lost and have to stop at the watering hole for directions. Once inside, they're confronted with unwanted male attention until Juan (Daniel Antivilo) steps in, diffuses the situation and the women leave.
Arriving at the cottage things seem to be peachy, the party begins, alcohol flows, and Julia starts dancing seductively and stripping down for both Magdalena and Camila. The fun is quickly halted when Julia discovers Juan playing Peeping Tom outside the window. He and his son, Mario (Felipe Rios), force their way into the dwelling with undoubtedly vile intentions. What comes next is one of the most intense and sickening rape scenes I've ever witnessed in a film. Following a night of sexual assault, the girls involve the local police. Unfortunately, they're not much help and the situation becomes more complicated when Juan kidnaps a local girl and takes her back to his hideout. Realizing they're not getting any help, the women decide to take matters into their own hands.
It's made apparent that Juan is the boy from the prologue and through the years of being brainwashed and forced to commit heinous acts, he's carried on his father's brutal legacy and has passed that brutality onto his son Mario. This lends further meaning to the film's very fitting title. Not only are we subject to the traumatic events that unfold on screen, we witness the lasting effects of childhood trauma and the lasting effects of the Pinochet regime's cycle of violence.
In comparing Trauma to A Serbian Film, I can only say that they correlate in regards to the filmmakers’ discontent with their governments and their brutal subject matter. Other than that, Trauma makes a much more solid point in terms of political allegory and doesn't feel as exploitative or without purpose. I must also point out Trauma's technical merit, it's a magnificently shot and pristine quality film. The film's special effects are also top-notch, highly realistic and insanely effective.
I highly commend the film's cast, as the actors involved (especially the women) must've had a very rough time creating the graphic assault/rape scene. Rojas did not hold back at all. Tension and panic are perfectly perceived through the casts' commitment to their roles. Also, Daniel Antivilo's portrayal of Juan as a vicious and bitter killer is worth hailing as one of cinema's most terrifying villains.
Trauma is without a doubt one of the most graphic, savage, and disturbing horror films ever made. Heightened by the fact that it doesn't sacrifice plot for the sake of exploiting violence. Yes, there's loads of repugnant and vile content throughout the film, but it's with purpose. Rojas pointedly takes shot after shot at the horrible military regime that terrorized Chile for over 25 years and brilliantly portrays the lasting effects of such atrocities. I can't say that Trauma is a must-watch film or even recommend it due to it's shocking nature. If you like extreme horror, it doesn't get more extreme than this. This is a film you can't unsee and it will most certainly test your limits. If you've got the stomach for this kind of cinema, watch it.