Film and TV

Sorrow Takes You Into Darkness and Keeps You There

In Sorrow a young woman finds herself not only being held and assaulted by a group of demented serial killers, but also by a system that is designed to ignore her suffering even when she escapes. In a sense the scariest thing about it is not the screams but the silence.

Vanessa Vasquez stars as Mila Sweeny, a brilliant but mentally troubled woman who through a series of mishaps ends up the constant prisoner of a murderous couple and their friend. She's chained and tortured for days, all while hearing them bring home more victims to abuse and murder in an elaborate mental fantasy where they are representatives of the devil. There will be a single showing tonight at the River Oaks Theatre.

The biggest knock against Sorrow is its pacing and progression. It starts strong with out Melissa Mars as Detective Salinas coming across the bloodbath left over after Mila finally confronts the monsters that held her captive. It's a gripping scene that Mars plays to the hilt, but what follows is a jumble of non-linear narrative and flashbacks that makes the movie somewhat hard to follow. From an explosive and terrifying beginning the middle muddles back and forth across atrocities.

It's little more than an arena to watch Millie Loredo explore various horror tropes, none of which has dulled. Watching the degradation of Mila at her captor's hands has as hard a punch in 2015 as it did in Last House on the Left in 1972, which tells you a little bit about how far our fight against the targeting of women by killers has not gotten.

Indeed, the fact that women are still more likely to be stalked and hunted by serial murderers is part of a powerful underlying theme of the movie, not to mention the propensity of victims to be blamed for their crimes or outright disbelieved. In that Vasquez turns in an amazing performance as her Mila furtively hides from the authorities, convinced that they will be less than helpful. Even the presence of a fellow woman in Salinas, who is actively pursuing her to understand what happened, does not dampen the righteousness of Mila.

It's a righteousness that turns out to be highly justified when it becomes clear that the actions of her captors are condoned by an entrenched power structure. It's when that revelation comes out that so much of Sorrow falls into place. A strange second act where Mila holes up with the owner of a strip club to try and figure out her next move becomes an exploration of how disposable life can be for the marginalized and how fragile society is when the people tasked with protecting us care only for protecting themselves instead.

"Cops only come here to pick up the dead bodies," a woman named Octavia tells Mila, leaving the girl just off a brave and daring escape feeling more chained in than when she was in literal chains.

Sorrow can be sort of a hard film to watch on several levels. Its narrative is fragmented and its violence feels as pointless as it is stomach-turning. The scenes that make up what we traditionally call horror are unlikely to satisfy gore hounds or please people more attuned to police drama than torture porn.

Where it succeeds and what makes it something that you definitely want to check out is how it draws back the curtain on just how rotten the system can be. It's not enough that there are killers among us, it's that too often those killers are enabled and shielded by a society that allows victims to go unmourned and disregarded. And because of that, it's scary as hell in a way few movies can ever be.

Sorrow screens at 9:30 p.m. the River Oaks Theatre with the director and members of the cast in attendance.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner