Spotlight on Latino Horror presents Ataud Blanco El Juego Diabolico (White Coffin)

Ataud-blanco

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Daniel de la Vega

Studio: Del Toro Films

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

In the simplest of terms, it is another “save my child at any cost” movie, with a mysterious ritual of sacrifice and some ghostly vengeance tossed in for good measure. The premise, of a mother desperate to save her daughter from some kind of ritual sacrifice, is a good start, but is itself sacrificed for action and driving scenes. The explanatory paragraph for the movie gives very little away, so sadly I’m going to have to spoil a good deal of the plot as we plow ahead.

Spoilers come from all kinds of coffins!

So Virginia (Julieta Cardinali) appears to have up and absconded with her daughter Rebecca, without the consent of her apparently-ex-husband, and the two of them are driving along out in the middle of nowheresville when they inevitably experience a flat tire. This is where we meet the creepy stranger who was never named in the film (but whose name according to IMDB is Mason) for the first time, he comes striding out of the desert landscape like a mirage to help with the flat tire, I dubbed him the Goad for how he has a tendency to further the plot. After the tire is fixed, Virginia and her daughter take lunch at some roadside diner and there, inevitably, Rebecca (Fiorela Duranda) goes missing.

Another woman in the same roadside diner, who appears to be a schoolteacher with a bunch of elementary school kids on a field trip, she has a student go missing and so she’s running around near Virginia, calling for her wayward child too. Here things begin to get weird and ill-defined, a tilted journey through darkness that seems to indicate a confusing death and rebirth of sorts for poor Virginia. And indeed, when she comes back to the light Mr. Goad (Rafael Ferro) has shown back up and is breathlessly explaining that yes, Virginia is now dead but, being given a temporary reprieve back to the land of the living, she has one chance to go save her daughter: find the white coffin.

But nothing is ever that simple, and Virginia has to go through several hoops in order to find that damnable coffin and stop the ritual sacrifice of her daughter. First is the barn where the actual white coffin is located, but of course the place is guarded by a hammerhead wannabe, and yet another desperate woman, Angela (Elenora Wexler), wanting to claim the coffin to rescue her own child. After the tussle with the weaponized carpenter and the subsequent fight with Angela herself, Angela lets slip that she was apparently the one who killed Virginia, so she might get the white coffin first. And at least in this first round, Angela is in the lead, with Virginia attempting to keep up with her for the net task.

Next to be retrieved according to Mr. Goad is the map, very much on the mind of the priest in the Trinity church. And since Mr. Goad has rather forcibly reminded Virginia that she’s already dead and her time is running out and to be absolutely ruthless to get what she wants, well, nothing so small as a priests refusal is going to stop her now.

Some fighting and confrontation and driving later, the last task is to discover the place where the ritual itself is going to be held, and to get the white coffin there by means fair or foul, whatever it takes. The teachers been dealt with, the rival mom is down and now its up to Virginia to do this last, unthinkable, act, to save her child.

Except Virginia doesn’t actually manage to save her child, nor is she really able to save herself, when all is said and done. The background characters that we’ve been noticing around Virginia as she makes her way from place to place, they’ve come to participate in the ritual of child sacrifice and the ascension of the new Chosen, that poor apparently brainwashed and tattooed little girl, Rebecca. As the occupied white coffin burns the backgrounders chant these odd ritual phrases, and the magic that animated Virginia slips away, leaving us to wonder, did the cycle begin anew?

The trouble is simply that there isn’t enough of anything. Had there been more of a supernatural feel to the ritual plot, or more explanation of what the ritual was meant to accomplish, where the necromancy that animated Virginia came from, or how Mr. Goad or any of the backgrounders made their choices in the first place, or what the hell was up with that white coffin, the film could have been more enjoyable. The washed-out look of the film is fine, intending to impart a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel I’m guessing. For unknown reasons the film is only an hour and a half long; I’d really like to see an extended version or a full background story script to read at least.

Dig up Ataud Blanco (White Coffin) on Netflix!

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