Bacurau A.K.A Nighthawk is a Brazilian horror adventure movie released in 2019, directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho. External and evil forces threaten a little community in northeastern Brazil.
Hello, there! I’m dos Santos, and this is Ulven Reviews, with Movies and series from all over the world and all eras. Today’s review is of the 2019 movie Bacurau.
After studying and working in other parts of the country, Teresa (played by Bárbara Colen) is returning to her birthplace, Bacurau, to attend the funeral of her grandmother, Carmelita (played by Lia de Itamaracá).
Carmelita was a respected figure in the community, making the funeral packed with people. Domingas (played by Sonia Braga), however, got drunk and went there just to shout and offend the dead one.
Pacote (played by Thomas Aquino) was a criminal, apparently a hitman, but is now trying to live right. In this new way of life, he prefers to be called by his actual given name, Acacio. He and Teresa have a thing.
Besides the violent water dispute that Bacural is going through, after Carmelita’s death, things are getting even worse. The community is no longer on Google Maps, a drone with a flying-saucer appearance is lurking the region, and a string of horses from a nearby farm invades the place.
One day, the water truck that brings water to the community is full of bullet holes. Almost at the same time, a couple from the southeast region of the country (played by Karine Teles and Antonio Saboia) arrives there. The two put some device in the bar that jams the phone signal of everyone in the city.
Simultaneously, two locals find the bodies of an entire family on that nearby farm. While rushing to warn people in Bacurau about something dangerous going on, they are met by the southeastern couple and murdered by them.
The couple then goes to a place where they meet a bunch of gringos led by Michael (played by Udo Kier). They’re typical gun-loving gringos and plan in hunting the locals as a sport.
Pacote, who was already suspicious of all the strange occurrences, find all those bodies and decides the people must do something to defend themselves. He turns to Lunga (played by Silvero Pereira), who’s in hiding accused of being an outlaw for trying to get water to Bacurau.
Pacote, Lunga, his gang, and Bacurau’s population must try to defend the community or become a prey of the gringos’ sick game.
As you might have noticed in the calendar, it’s now October, the month of Halloween. So this whole month, I’ll bring more-or-less horror movies. Let’s begin with a Horror Adventure from Brazil.
Bacurau is, more than anything else, a western. The human hunting thing, the gore, and violence are the most in-your-face aspects of horror. However, adventure and action are more predominant in the movie.
The community of Bacurau is part of the city of Serra Verde, both fictional, are located in the real state of Pernambuco. West Pernambuco, to be exact, probably a reference to the Western genre.
Another nod to the Spaghetti Western genre is the noticeable presence of coffins, a possible reference to Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, that was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.
Talking about Kurosawa, I definitely see some parallel with Seven Samurai. Instead of experienced Samurai helping the villagers defend themselves from bandits, we have a local gang supporting the community against foreigners.
By the way, the plot’s premise is not really original. We’ve seen this human-hunting being done several times in different fashions, this time, it has a northeastern-Brazil twist to it. However, the homages are really compelling, especially the ones to Spaghetti Western.
Another problem with the movie’s story is that it leaves too many things vague or unanswered. I felt like they created a little universe inside the reality, but half-assed it. Imagine Mad Max: Fury Road but without building that world clearly, leaving most of it to the audience’s interpretation or confusion.
The movie is full of symbolism about Brazil’s history and present, but let’s keep it relatively simple in the explanations, and maybe in the future, I can work in a more in-depth analysis.
The division the movie presents between the Brazilians are the Northeastern and the Southeastern. The Northeast region has a history of resistance, while the Southeast is more submissive to external interests and the status quo. The movie symbolizes it with Bacurau’s community on one side and the couple on the other.
The nameless couple considers themselves better than the northerners, and they are absolute ball-lickers of the foreigners. We can’t generalize, of course, but that’s the same posture of these people, saluting and marching in front of a replica of the Statue of Liberty in the state of São Paulo.
Brazil’s President is part of those who despise his own nation and its people but love the foreigners. Bolsonaro, who already called his own country “garbage”, said “I love you” to US President Donald Trump at last year’s General Assembly of the United Nations.
Talking about the Brazilian president, he’s a fan of the Military Dictatorship that ruled the country from 64 to 85, has close ties with the paramilitary militias of Rio the Janeiro, and is a worshiper of guns and violence. This cult of violence is also symbolically criticized in the film.
I don’t like violence in the real world but, in films, it’s usually fine. In Bacurau, that’s one of the best things about the movie. Not the violence per se, but the action. Like the original Spaghetti Westerns, Bacurau is a very entertaining movie, even if you don’t know about the allegories.
Another pleasing thing is the community itself. Since Tereza’s arrival, we see their sense of cooperation, shown by the people handling her baggage. It’s like Bacurau is a character by itself. It’s also very interesting the community relation with psychotropic herbs.
As for general roles, I liked Pacote and Lunga, but unfortunately, none of the other individual characters captivated me. The villains are all bland and generic, the English dialogue is really bad, so when the gringos are talking to each other, it seems like a different film.
Udo Kier’s performance is great, though. He made his character exceed the genericness. Another gringa I enjoyed was Alli Willow, who was really natural. The others didn’t stand out. I didn’t like Julia Marie Peterson’s performance too much, it sounded a little amateurish to my liking.
Silvero Pereira is awesome, making Lunga really look a deranged killer. Thomas Aquino is very satisfactory as well. And I would also highlight Sonia Braga, Karine Teles, and Wilson Rabelo (as Plinio) in the acting, even though their roles have less screen time and likability.
The remaining cast is positive enough, but nothing specific that I feel should be added to this review.
The cinematography is a high point of the movie. I love the camera work, with its zooms and pans making a reference to the Spaghetti Western. The colors are marvelous as well, emphasizing the environment in which the story unfolds.
The special effects are really decent. The opening shot shows a space view of the earth, zooming to where the movie set, and I found it flawless. Then, there’s all the gore, also really on point. I love fake decapitated heads, and I hope to have one of myself in the future.
Bacurau is a compelling film, better understood by those who know a little about the context, but enjoyable enough for those who don’t. Its flaws prevent the movie reaching higher levels. So, I’ll give Bacurau 8 Moons.