PussyCake (Emesis) (2022)

Pussycake (Emesis) had its UK première at FrightFest 2022

Pablo Parés’ super-cheap, hyper-gonzo horror comedy Plaga Zombie (1997), co-written and co-directed with Hernán Sáez, was not only Argentina’s first zombie film, and the beginning, followed by Plaga Zombie: Zona Mutante (2001) and Plaga Zombie: Revolución Tóxico (2012), of Argentina’s first and only zombie trilogy, but it would also, after being picked up for distribution by Fangoria Films International, put Argentine genre cinema on the global map, and was the first ripple in a New Wave of Argentine horror. Which is to say that Parés is a very important figure in the national cinema, and even if, with I Am Toxic (Soy tóxico, 2018) and now PussyCake, he has recently been returning to the subgenre that began his career in feature filmmaking, he continues to find ways of reinventing the cinematic zombie.

PussyCake is the name of an all-girl rock band whose members – singer Elle (Maca Suárez), Elle’s drummer girlfriend Sara (Aldana Ruberto), guitarist Juli (Sofía Rossi), bassist Sofi (Anahí Politi) and manager Pato (Flor Moreno) – all look out for one another. Travelling for a gig on the coast where Pato hopes to hook up with her some-time lover Simón (Amanda Nara), they find the venue closed up and abandoned, the populace either incapacitated or possessed, and two very different alien creatures – one a hulking, well-equipped hunter (Rodrigo Ferreyra), the other a parasitic slug – circling a community of human prey. This is in part the story of Elle, still suffering nightmares about a controlling, violent ex-boyfriend and easily triggered by other aggressive men, as she learns to confront trauma and stand on her own two feet in a world when anyone – even those nearest and dearest – can turn on her without warning. And it is in part a bloody, gory tale of extra-terrestrial apocalypse, featuring a zombifying virus spread not through bite or blood, but via the prolific vomiting of those who are infected into the mouths of those who are not (hence the film’s original title Emesis). Either way, it is a saga of survival, where one woman’s struggle through her psychological issues runs parallel to the potential end of the world.

Aside from a prologue in which a teenaged boy (Diego Prinz), investigating the disappearance of his scientist father, reopens a portal to another dimension in the house’s basement laboratory, PussyCake wastes no time on exposition, instead letting overt allusions to Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps (1986) and John McTiernan’s Predator (1987) fill in any narrative gaps (even if the characters never quite seem to grasp, as we do, what is going on and who their enemy is). Instead, Parés cuts to the chase, spewing viscera at the screen left, right and centre, and showing a close-knit group of women losing control of their very bodily autonomy in a world being overrun by those who would reduce them to mere birthing vessels. Really this is just another abusive relationship to escape and overcome, no matter how interspecies, even interdimensional, it might be in nature, and here Elle will go from ‘vulnerable’ victim to protector and fighter as she finally finds her inner strength, refusing to be become once more another’s puppet, plaything or punching bag.

strap: In Pablo Parés’ SF horror, an all-girl rock band must simultaneously face traumatic abuse and interdimensional alien invasion

© Anton Bitel