Avast, landlubbers, today’s movie selection deals with the rarely-seen topic of sea monsters! But before you lay out your harpoons and start double-tracking the vocals on your sea-shanties, this is a Spanish art-film about sea-monsters on the Mubi channel, so don’t expect 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea shenanigans. Lois Patiño’s film feels like what would happen if Russian poetic auteur Andrei Tarkovsky made a Godzilla movie, and if that sounds odd, it’s a fair reflection on what’s served up here.
In a synopsis that can’t help but sound a lot more dynamic than what we actually see, a sea-monster is haunting the inhabitants of a Galician coastal town. A boat has gone missing, and with it Rubio (Rubio de Camelle), a local hero, a mariner of some repute, and the town’s best hope of dealing with the sea beast. Rubio’s mom has a witchcraft hotline set up, and calls on three witches who wear white sheets like ghosties and run surveillance on the town’s hydro-electric dam. Rubio returns from the dead to do the bidding of the witches, but it’s up to the audience to work out where they stand on a battle between the supernatural and nature itself.
What is happening in Red Moon Tide? Don’t look for characters, plot or audience-pleasing fun; instead we have a series of austere images that just about tell a story if you use your imagination. At times, this is more like looking through some holiday snaps than watching a film, although the overall effect is cinematic. The debt to Tarkovsky is evident, but Red Moon Tide also harks back to the pastoral mysticism of Battle in Heaven or even El Topo. ‘The monster is the sea, and we are the monster’s dream’ runs one of the rare lines of dialogue, and that’s about all you need to know in terms of plot resolution; otherwise, it’s best just to let the surreal imagery wash over you.
Those looking for a blast of Post Tenabras Lux weirdness will have come to the right place with Red Moon Tide, which won’t be for mainstream audiences, but will please those looking for contemplative, meditative, dream-like film-making. So many horror movies are lowest common denominator affairs; it’s good to see the art-house crowd put the sense of dread back into the sea monster genre. So watch out, there Be Monsters ahead, or at least, there might be something in the final shot that looks like one, although it might have been my cat’s reflection on the television, it was both dark and late when the sighting occured.
Thanks to Mubi for providing advanced access to this title, out now in the UK.