Review: The Rotten Link

In a little village with 20 houses, isolated in the countryside, lives Raulo, a 50 year-old retarded lumberjack, with Ercilia, his senile witch doctor mother, and Roberta, his sister, the town’s young and favourite prostitute.

Also released as El Eslabón Podrido

One of FrightFest 2015’s more offbeat selections, Valentin Javier Diment’s THE ROTTEN LINK will most definitely not suit all tastes, but didn’t struggle to find an audience at the festival. A curious mixture of violence, pitch-black humour and surprising levels of emotional gravitas, it succeeds mostly on the score of its ability to juggle its disparate elements with an impressive level of poise, and doing so without too much in the way of tonal confusion. It’s a film that is by turns sad, funny, moving and unsettling, with a final third that will linger long in the memory. Familial discord takes many forms here, and while much of the early scenes examining this theme are played for laughs, it’s only when the characters encounter genuine adversity that you truly appreciate how subtly The Rotten Link invites you to invest emotionally here.

While its deadpan eccentricity begins to wear a little in the second act, the lean, sharp script and strong central performances prevent there being too much in the way of a sag at the halfway point, and The Rotten Link’s final half hour is awash with talking points. Without going into too much detail, all of the film’s themes and elements are taken to their extremes, with an end result that has as much in the way of genuinely uncomfortable viewing as it does grim, gory laughs.

Clocking in at just 75 minutes, The Rotten Link is content to burn slowly for much of its brief runtime, focusing for large spells on the petty arguments, strained relationships and everyday lives of the handful of townspeople who make up its central cast. It manages this without seeming unfocused, with Diment writing and directing with a steady hand in terms of structure. While it loses its balance a couple of times along the way, it’s impressively unique stuff, and with Diment sadly predicting afterwards that it will struggle to find an audience even in his native Argentina, the opportunity to see it at the festival may prove an important one for curious UK viewers.

Valentin Javier Diment’s The Rotten Link is certainly one of the strangest and most uncomfortable films that I saw at Fright Fest 2015. A mix of social realism, over the top eccentricity and incest.  The film focuses on a strange and remote community in rural Argentina in a tale that bounces from character driven confrontation to the full-blown breakdown of morals and the human mind. At its centre the idiosyncratic family of the towns prostitute, wood salesman and mother; a dementia riddled fortune-teller. For the first two-thirds the film deals with the relationships between the different townsfolk and focuses on the sexual tension between Roberta (the daughter) and Sicilio (the only man she has never slept with). In portions it feels like a very restrained and carefully placed powder keg just waiting to explode. At points the film meanders slowly and at others nails a little comic aside or sequence perfectly before blossoming into a horrifically uncomfortable softcore sex scene. As the film hits its third act it unexpectedly and out of nowhere changes from its slow and meandering pace filled with some of the best performances of the weekend, into one of the most violently over the top sequences that I saw that day. The last 10 minutes were a pure joy to watch, however getting there at times felt like a little bit of a slow burning trek. All the more surprising when I found out the film clocks in at only 75 minutes.

Ultimately I’m unsure what I felt about Rotten Link, the fact that they are expecting to struggle to find the audience isn’t surprising considering the graphic violent and sexual content of the film. In films dealing with socially repulsive themes (something that shows up a lot in horror films), there is usually a very fine line for the filmmakers to walk without repulsing and losing an audience. Ultimately Rotten Links graphic and detailed sex scene towards the end of the film went too far, causing winces and gasps among the hardened horror audience. This sequence ruined the film a little for me and I just found it off-putting, but that is not to say the rest of the film isn’t well made – it’s just not for me.





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