Embrace Me (Y abrazame) is an intriguingly, low key hallucinatory Argentinean thriller. At a brisk sixty-three minutes, the film is fairly straightforward, but its simplicity is paramount to its success; the film is capable of delivering exactly what it promises because it doesn’t take on too much.
Early twenty-something Joaquin (Joaqín Sánchez) is an aloof slacker. He lives at home with his infrequently seen mother, doesn’t appear to have a job and spends most of his time swimming, hanging with friends and/or partying (in the lightest sense of the word. Think: booze and pot). One of his friends, Shica, is sexually interested in him, but he’s already obsessed with enigmatic Josefina. After watching a movie, he and Josefina make out, one thing leads to another and the pair find themselves in bed.
Thus far Embrace Me is more of a 90s relationship drama than a thriller. The first sign of trouble occurs during the sex scene. The accompanying music strikes a tricky balance: it alternates between the suggestion that the sex is ok and inferring that something terrible is about to happen. Mid-coitus, Josefina breaks things off, runs to the bathroom and begins crying. When Joaquin opens the door, he discovers that she is missing, the window open and there’s a large trail of blood lining the tub. Cue mystery.
ENJOYING THIS POST?
Nightmare on Film Street is an independent outlet. All of our articles are FREE to read and enjoy, without limits. If you’re enjoying this article, consider joining our fiend club on Patreon for only a couple-a bucks a month!
The remainder of the film follows Joaquin‘s mildly hallucinatory descent into madness as he attempts to track Josefina down. She doesn’t answer her phone and no one seems to know where she lives, but he continually sees her – at the pool, in his bed, and in the bathroom where she disappeared. A random encounter with a coked up stranger at a club plants the suggestion that he’s been cursed, as does a bottle of blood buried in his garden and a subsequent visit to Luna, a medium who reinforces that Joaquin‘s future can only include increasing disorientation and death.
“[Embrace Me is] an aloof hipster thriller, made all the more cool with low-key horror references scattered throughout.”
What’s most unique about Embrace Me is how laissez-faire all of these developments are handled. If there’s one word to describe the filmmaking style of first time director Javier Rao, is it unobtrusive. The vast majority of Embrace Me is filmed with head-on static medium shots and long takes, which lends the proceedings a leisurely feeling, and allows the actors plenty of breathing room. Aesthetically it’s a little bland, but it helps to distinguish the more fantastic visuals when Joaquin becomes increasingly unhinged in the last act.
Without a strong authorial presence, the film belongs exclusively to lead actor Sánchez. His Joaquin appears in every scene, but remains unflappably calm, despite his increasingly bizarre experiences. In other films this kind of disjunction between protagonist and plot would be jarring, but Embrace Me manages to pull it off.
In short, this is the equivalent of an aloof hipster thriller, made all the more cool with low-key horror references scattered throughout. Posters for The Exorcist and The Hills Have Eyes adorn Joaquin‘s walls and he wears a Scream “Ghostface”-esque t-shirt throughout. Embrace Me isn’t revelatory in any senses, but as a first feature indie horror film, it has a quiet confidence and easy watchability that makes it worth a recommend.
Embrace Me played at the Imagine Film Festival this past week.