Look out. Here comes a very scary and very real disaster tale "The Impossible" by Guillermo del Toro favorite J.A. Bayona who directed "The Orphanage" (2007).
"The Impossible" based on the devastating tsunami that struck Thailand in '04, is essentially a horror story in which the natural world is one vast murderous demon without form or ego that pulverizes everything in its salty, viral wake.
At the start, Maria Bennett (Naomi Watts) is on a plane with her three children and her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor). She is nervous and fretful and the camera is as hectic as a Lars von Trier film during the onset of a marital fight. Maria is nervous about turbulence, but all is well after a few jarring moments
The plane lands in Paradise, that is Thailand and the family is welcomed into a tropical yet pristine resort complex that seems like a spaceship on the sand with all the amenities. We see a foreboding caption on the screen:
It hits like a punch.
Lucas, the older son, reaches for a Coke and then puts it back. Even the can looks demonic: forbidden carbonation, a harbinger of things to come.
Then it is Christmas. After the kids attack the presents like a flurry of seagulls in Hitchcock's "The Birds", the young one can't sleep.
In fright flicks, this is invariably a precursor to bad things. When morning rises, the kids plunge into the crystal blue pool and the perspective quotes directly from "Jaws" as the young energetic limbs churn wildly under the surface.
A sudden gust of wind arises, disquieting and unwelcome. Lucas bounces a red ball and it rolls in a deliberate slowness that recalls Damien's churning red tricycle in the 1970's scare "The Omen".
Then there is a roar followed by a glimpse of rushing surf that appears like a flurry of rabid bats. Palms fall like toothpicks. The family stands still as if held under a satanic Polaroid.
The screen goes dark.
What emerges are sequences of pain and gory endurance that are almost as hard to watch as Lars von Trier's "Antichrist". Maria is swept in a maelstrom. She gives unholy screams. Her head is badly bashed and bloody. She quickly holds onto a stump and claws for her life. Lucas is here too and he is fighting for his own survival as well, both of them caught in their unique cyclones that seem individually made in a psychotic, yet sentient design.
Mom is covered in blood and her breast is savagely torn open, revealing some gore underneath to her son's horror.
As bloody as these scenes are, they are riveting and you will be rooting for Maria the whole way through as she screams and hollers and drips with almost as much Passion Play pain as Jim Caviezel once suffered through.
The father's condition, although his legs are streaked with blood, appears a bit better. He's holed up with the two kids and resolves, as most of us would to find Lucas and Maria, although I did wonder why he did not clean his wounds.
The heart of the story though, not to shortchange the role of fathers, is the relationship of Mom to her son Lucas, played with great emotional strength by newcomer Tom Holland.
Beyond that, the energy in the film is in its depiction of a violent earth which is arbitrary but no less malevolent. When Maria gets violently sick at the sight of a bedmate vomiting, the scene could be taken right from David Cronenberg's early body shockers. The retching is as repulsive and upsetting as any Exorcist-like tingler, but praise should be given to Bayona who never allows his story to drift into camp and circumstance.
Perhaps the message of the film is that nature is very much out to destroy us.
The Impossible" reveals a duplicitous parallel world of danger that very possibly, co-exists within our own.
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