Marc Carreté’s feature debut Asmodexia (2014) utterly inverted the established conventions of possession horror, so viewers ‘in the know’ will approach his follow-up After The Lethargy fully primed to expect the unexpected. This time around Carreté is tackling the tropes of alien conspiracy, as journalist Sara Hamilton (Andrea Guasch) is drawn to deep forestland – and adjoining military barracks – in search of extra-terrestrials said to have crash-landed there decades earlier in 1946. Her guide, the young Park Ranger Joe (Joe Manjón), is more concerned with the local bears which, emerging from their hibernal lethargy hungry and horny, have been preying on anyone who hikes into their woody territory. If hulking, grunting caravanner Ed (Ramon Canals) has any clearer idea of what is going on, he is not saying anything intelligible. Yet when Sara comes under attack from something decidedly un-ursine, she and Joe retreat to the abandoned barracks, whose horrific secrets will finally be revealed.
We know from the start, as a gravid woman (Celia Cordero) flees terrified through the trees before being snatched by an unseen figure, and is shortly afterwards found bloody and dead by the local police, that something is amiss in this wilderness. Strange, filtered POV shots (Predator-style) from the treeline, and glimpses, not long into the film’s duration, of a small, fast-moving creature, leave little doubt that there is an alien presence in ‘Tetis County’, confirming the assertions of the presenter (Mark Scharden) on the VHS documentary that has lured Sara to check out the place for herself. Yet the close encounters which will ensue are not quite of the kind for which Sara was wishing or which the viewer may be predicting.
After The Lethargy is a hybrid film, bringing alien abductions, military experiments and backwoods dysfunction into a perverse union, and seeing what monstrosities emerge. Once again Carreté deftly traverses genre’s shadowy borderlands, locating the most aggressive and invasive brand of otherness in the human, and along the way breeding a novel blend of sci-fi horror.
© Anton Bitel