Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Goatherd (2009)

I always knew something was up with goat herders

Two women and a guy go trekking in the Chilean Andes Mountains. They're high, full of life and are taking their trip in casual stride when right away one of the women falls and breaks her ankle. They go for help and find a farmer who, instead of giving them hospitality, clobbers them over the heads with a shovel, ties them up and tortures them over a series of days that "actually" feels like days the way the bare bones story, if you can call it that, revolves in circles. "Why are you doing this?" says the male character, except with the audience wondering the more important question, "Why should we care that he's doing this?" You watch the goat herder, or as they call him "The Goatherd," go on rants, get drunk, yell at the animals, eat the male's body parts (implied) and abuse the women with some groping and off camera shenanigans. And then guess what? Let's do that all over again till an anticlimactic ending from getting one too many false hopes in between where the captives make pitiful attempts to escape. It's desensitizing and too random rather than inducing feeling.

When they get more dialogue to say in the beginning the acting is atrocious, as if they just went for it without practice or prewritten lines. Then after they just monotonously yell, cry, squirm and plead for help. It's a film that primarily attempts to show rather than tell, but the issue is they don't have enough interesting elements to reveal for a full length feature. The farmer goes about his peasant ways but then suddenly lashes out and has nightmarish visions of a past event that involved his own family members' deaths. They make him troubled but partially sympathetic, as if he's fighting off his own demons with the occasional one getting the better of him. This is supposed to translate how desperate and desolate their situation is and how possibly out of touch the goat herder is to civilization but there isn't enough range to steadily carry it and there are too many filler shots with the audience expected to fill in the gaping blanks for themselves. The Andes themselves are periodically shot but not enough to become another dark character all their self. This isn't going to be the "Stranded" documentary that shows the harshness of the area that's ready to swallow you up if a false move is made. This could have been any remote area with a psycho waiting for three innocent people--something you'd dream up, rather than actually happen in real life.

The verdict: "The Goatherd" is a chore to sit through with all too similar situations shuffled around to the point of redundancy.

Writer's note: This was filmed in Chile, so I'd imagine certain restrictions don't apply. A small goat is stabbed in the neck, only to cut to another scene with its skin removed, and three others are hog tied and carelessly thrown on their backs in a pick up truck. This was stated at the end of the film: "No animals were harmed during the production of this movie. The production of this movie only used animals husbandry, managed by their owners on their usual purposes."

Rating: 1/10

From Black to Red recommends instead: "Roadkill." This short film has an unwashable atmosphere that manages to effectively show a demented person that lives alone, kidnaps and tortures humans and doesn't let their flesh go to waste.

Director: Leon Errazuriz (Mala leche)
Link: IMDB

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