In Adrián Garcia Bogliano’s follow up to 2012’s Here Comes the Devil, the director trades atmospheric supernatural horror for a Coen Brothers-esque dark comedy thriller. Actor Fancisco Barreiro also returns, this time as lead Aram, a meek accountant who seems to be the punching bag for those around him. He’s unappreciated at home and the office, having been passed over for a promotion despite being the hardest worker at his firm. Even his son barely tolerates him. Aram alleviates his life’s monotony and disappointments by meticulously planning a kidnapping, though even the best laid plans can go straight to hell.
Aram might be the tamest kidnapper ever. His accountant career factors in to his approach, as he methodically follows his target, a high school girl. He carefully lays out her daily route and eating habits. It’s very dark on paper, but Aram’s numb nature distracts from just how icky it is. Aram also extensively studies the best method of incapacitating his prey, via chokehold. He even practices on the perfect guinea pig, his dementia suffering father. There’s a very dry, dark humor about Aram and his actions. Nothing affects his demeanor, and his scheme lacks vindictiveness; it’s simply a means to an end for him. Aram’s apathy seems indicative that he’s sociopathic, incapable of having the foresight of anticipating the emotional repercussions of his actions.
While Aram’s unfeeling, meek persona lulls you into distraction from the serious consequences looming, it also makes it difficult to fully invest in Aram’s story. Despite the necessity to the plot, Aram’s lack of interest makes it difficult to remain engaged at moments. It’s intended to keep you under the spell of Aram’s indifference for so long that the insane, explosive climax blindsides you. The unexpected would normally be appreciated, and the violence certainly is, but it feels a bit unearned.
Perhaps that has more to do with his victim, Anabella (Daniela Soto Vell), than Aram. While Vell handles the work of petrified, confused victim well, her portrayal of Anabella isn’t nuanced enough to effectively foreshadow the brutal turn in the story. The result is an out of left field, brutal finale that’s also a little hard to swallow.
Most effective, however, is the use of the scherzo piano piece on which the film takes its name. It’s as integral to the plot as it is a parallel for the narrative. The music piece is front and center for most of the running time, and offers up more foreshadowing than any of the characters. Music is always integral to film, but rarely is it so intertwined with the plot.
Bogliano again opts to explore morality themes with a simplistic approach, presenting really clever ideas and pitch black humor. There’s an austerity that feels authentic, but it’s bogged down by certain unnecessary plot elements and actors that don’t quite deliver what’s needed of them for such a carefully constructed thriller. Though purposeful, Aram’s detachment from reality bleeds over onto the viewer; I found myself detached from his life’s woes as well, making it difficult to care about his story. It’s an interesting spin on the revenge tale with a bleak ending, but just misses its mark.
Scherzo Diabolico will be available on DVD and VOD this Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016.
Scherzo Diabolico [Review]
Adrián Garcia Bogliano spins a Coen brothers-esque dark comedy thriller that offers an interesting approach to the revenge tale, but doesn’t quite make its landing. The brutal, violent climax is fun, though unearned.