The Rotten Link (El eslabón podrido) (2015)

Review first published (in a different form) by Sight and Sound

“Welcome to El Escondido” reads the wooden sign which snaps off its supporting chain and brains Roberta (Paula Brasca) at the beginning of The Rotten Link. The rest of the film will be a chronicle of a death foretold, showing the loose links in the chain of events that lead to this accident and its bloody aftermath, as the delicate balance of an isolated Argentine village is upset by small-town superstition, forbidden desire and the community’s own rotten core.

In El Escondido (aptly named after the Spanish for ‘hidden’), everyone has their assigned role, local politics are conspiratorial, and secrets and lies remain behind closed doors. Roberta, a town prostitute, lives with her dim-witted woodcutting brother Raulo (Luis Ziembrowski) and her half-clairvoyant, half-demented mother Ercilia (a formidable Marilu Marini).

Foreseeing her daughter’s doom, Ercilia warns Roberta that there must always remain one man in town with whom she has not slept. But Roberta’s resistance to the lustful Sicilio (Germán De Silva) sets the family at odds with the other townsfolk, who need Sicilio sweetened for a plan (to quote the prophetic words of the priest, played by director and co-writer Valentín Javier Diment) “to give what we have to offer to other towns, to get people to come here.” Something, it seems, must give – but with the situation so fragile, everyone risks being caught in its collapse.

This little village of the damned and the dead is like the mythic Macondo of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s writings – an allegorical zone where the human condition plays itself out as dark, transgressive fable – and it is all the better for lying off the grid of horror’s usual map while still holding on to the genre’s toolkit.

Anton Bitel