It’s a great day whenever you discover a new mythological creature, and thanks to writer-director Monica Moore-Suriyage’s horror short La Ciguapa Siempre, today is one of those wondrous days.
The film, which is part of this week’s Fantastic Fest as part of the genre festival’s shorts program, follows a young, frustrated couple trying to work out familiar issues on a camping trip.
I don’t think you need me to tell you it doesn’t end well. Milagro (Cheyenne Washington) has recently found out there are no records of her birth parents — a last ditch effort to find somewhere to belong. Perhaps because of this devastating setback, this non-answer, Milagro is convinced Davis (Michael Bonini) is cheating on her. Davis doesn’t do a convincing job of proving he isn’t an adulterer, especially when he weirdly insists on walking a stray hiker back to her car in the middle of the night, a maneuver that strains believability from multiple angles.
La Ciguapa Siempre is plenty effective in its FX and sound design, but there is another gear to unlock here. As it stands, it’s hard to truly feel Milagro’s displacement amid rampant bickering, even if it’s clearly a byproduct of that. While I’m there for the ending, it also comes off convenient based on the runtime. This feels like a proof of concept for a larger feature, one that would allow for more characterization of Milagro and a more in-depth look at the titular mythological figure. In a life of uncertainty, I’m certain about one thing when it comes to this film: I’m hungry for more.
Because there’s more to mine with this subject and theme, even as La Ciguapa Siempre is undoubtedly a worthy introduction to the titular Dominican folkloric legend and a talented young filmmaker. After the credits, my partner and I went down a rabbit hole on Wikipedia to discover more about La Ciguapa. That is a huge victory for any movie, especially one that bodes so well for the future of the horror genre.
La Ciguapa Siempre is now part of 2021 Fantastic Fest. Stay tuned for a release date.