No other genre makes moviegoers hearts race like horror. Audiences flock to horror flicks for the violent, bloody, heart-stopping thrills, but the best scary stories are subversive. They use tales of ghouls and ghosts to confront issues too painful to discuss openly. Tigers Are Not Afraid (from writer/director Issa López’) adopts a dark-fantasy premise to highlight the atrocities plaguing the filmmaker’s homeland.
Tigers Are Not Afraid tells the story of Estrella (Paola Lara), a young girl who lives with her mother in a derelict Mexican village. Walking through the streets means entering a potential war zone, as crooked cops, corrupt politicians, and vicious gangs fight over who can bleed the community dry. After a gang fight shuts down her school, Estrella returns home to find her apartment empty. Her mother doesn’t come back, but something dark and sinister does. A terrified Estrella flees her home, and with no place to go, she takes up with a gang of street orphans – picture the foul-mouthed kids from It crossed with the street urchins in Aladdin. Together they struggle to stay out of harm’s, whether it’s from the local cartel or tormented spirits.
López knows how to always keeps her audience on their toes. Sometimes Tigers’ harsh tone lets up; these moments feel like rays of sunshine piercing through storm clouds. This is a bleak tale of survival sprinkled with moments of joy and childhood wonder. Most often, though, the washed-out colour palette, dark themes, and gruesome supernatural images pack a soul-crunching punch. Prepare to walk away from this movie feeling emotionally depleted.
The picture and sound quality are obviously top notch and the special features on this disc are first rate. There’s an extensive 45 minute behind the scenes look at the making of the film, an hour long interview with Writer/Director Issa Lopez and Guillermo del Toro from a screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, a feature length director’s commentary, deleted scenes and a myriad of photo galleries from the film.
Tigers is what happens what happens if GDT directs Sicario. This may not be the all-out scare-fest casual moviegoers expect from the genre, but there are enough nightmare-inducing frights to keep viewers up at night.
Tigers Are Not Afraid is on all major formats and the Shudder streaming platform now.