Medusa from writer-director Anita Rocha da Silveira has more in common with Italian horror -specifically Dario Argento – than the Greek character with the same name. Mari (Mari Oliveira) and her friends broadcast their spiritual devotion through pastel pinks and catchy evangelical songs about purity and perfection. By day they hide behind their manicured façade, and by night they form a masked, vigilante girl gang, prowling the streets in search of sinners who have deviated from the rightful path. After an attack goes wrong, Mari is left scarred and unemployed, while her view of community, religion, and her peers begin to shift.
Visuals pop off the screen and immediately attack the audience. Bright neon with gendered colors that fill the screen are as confrontational as Mari and her friends. It is a sensory overload that comes close to wearing out its welcome but pulls back just enough. Not content to be solely a feast for the eyes, Medusa also uses music to drive home its message. From pounding rock scores to strange musical numbers, what the audience hears can be just as overpowering as what they see.
As creative and unique as Medusa is to watch, it will not be long before it becomes a question of whether it is style over substance. The film tries to tackle a lot of issues – gender, religion, and sex and violence are part of the story being told – but it never quite gels like it should. Part of the problem is the pacing. Running over two hours, there is never the sense of urgency that is required. This is most apparent during the bloated middle section that seems content to take its time.
Even then, there are moments of satirical genius to be found. In one of the movie’s best scenes, Mari’s friend Michelle (Lara Tremouroux) makes an instructional video on how to take the “perfect Christian selfie.” Unfortunately, there is not enough character exploration like this as Mari is the only character that is given any depth. Still, Medusa is a pulsating and memorable watch.
Medusa opens in select theaters July 29
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