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Peru: Despite its Critics ‘Cementerio General’ is a Blockbuster

Cementerio General (General Cemetery), a Peruvian horror movie directed by Dorian Fernández, was a hit in theaters [es] during its debut during Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian National Holidays), where Hollywood hits usually claim the spotlight. The movie, which was filmed in Iquitos -in the Peruvian Amazon- drew long lines [es] in the city where it was filmed when it premiered on July 25, 2013.

To date, Cementerio General has garnered [es] more than half a million viewers, becoming the most watched horror movie of all time in Peru. Nevertheless, in spite of its great success, or perhaps because of it, the movie has not gained much favor with movie critics, at least not on the blogosphere.

Cementerio General. Photo taken from the movie's Facebook page, used with permission.

Cementerio General. Photo taken from the movie's Facebook page, used with permission.

Almost as soon as the movie was released, bolgger MildemoniosCultural expressed reservations, about the timing of the release (during the holidays), among other things. Still, he wished it success [es]:

a lo mejor les liga a pesar de esto y la película es un éxito. Ojalá. Después de todo, ha sido hecha por evidentes fans del género de terror. Además, es necesario que en el Perú se siga desarrollando el cine de género. A ver si así diversificamos un poquito y dejamos de hacer siempre la misma película una y otra vez.

maybe it will grab your attention and become a hit. Hopefully…after all, it was made by people who are genuine fans of this genre. Also, it's important that Peru continue developing its local film industry. It remains to be seen if we can diversify and stop making the same movie over and over.

FrancHis Neumann blogger on Yo voy por el bosque gives a little bit of historical background [es] on Peruvian cinema, calling into question Cementerio General's claim to being “the first Peruvian horror movie: “

Existen ya varios experimentos de terror en nuestro país, como “Jarjacha” (película ayacuchana de Mélinton Eusebio sobre el demonio del incesto) y “Pishtaco”, sobre el ser que chupa la grasa de sus víctimas. “Cementerio General”, al igual que éstas y otras predecesoras, recoge un mito urbano (las posesiones satánicas en Iquitos) como punto de partida. es que si algún país es riquísimo en leyendas y mitos, ése es precisamente nuestro Perú. Es decir, material hay para rato. En todo caso, podemos redefinir a “Cementerio General” como “la primera película estrenada a nivel masivo en nuestro país.”

There have already been many forays into this genre in our country. Works such as “Jarjacha” (an Ayachuchan movie made by Mélinton Eusebio about the demon of incest) and “Pishtaco”, a film about the creature that sucks its victims’ fat. “Cementerio General,” just like all its predecessors, takes an urban legend (in this case that of Satanic possessions in Iquitos) as a jumping off point for the story. If there is a country that is rich in myths and legends it is Peru. Meaning, there is a lot to draw on for inspiration. In any case, we can re-cast “Cementerio General as “the first wide release horror movie in our country.”

Maurizio Silingardi Zapater, writer of the blog El Bofe, was somewhat ambivalent [es] about the film: he didn't like it, but applauded the effort. He was not a fan of the location selection, among other things:

Me explico, mientras que al inicio de la película esta nos indica que nos encontramos en Iquitos, los personajes se comportan como jóvenes limeños de clase alta, uno solo llega reconocer a la ciudad selvática por tomas de algun que otro paisaje o por el reconocido Cementerio General de la ciudad de Iquitos, del cual el film lleva el nombre.

Let me explain: we are told at the start of the film that it takes place in Iquitos, however the protagonists act like young people from Lima of upper class backgrounds. One only recognizes the rustic town from some landscape shots or because of the renowned cemetery that is located in Iquitos and from which the film takes its name.

Colas en Iquitos el día del estreno de Cementerio General

Lines in Iquitos on the release date for Cementerio General. Photo from the Cementerio General Facebook page, used with permission.

According to Juan de Sombras from Rebelión the film becomes problematic when it attempts to become more serious. After listing the reasons why he believes it falls short, he concludes [es]:

Técnicamente está bien. Dorian Fernández sabe cómo mover una cámara, incluso cuando está en modo “found footage” hace tomas interesantes. Y los efectos digitales también están bien, en su mayoría (olvidémonos de cierta mancha de sangre digna de una animación de PSOne). Y si no me equivoco, este es el primer largometraje del director, así que lo considero un comienzo respetable. Con mejores guiones y mejores actores, seguro que llega lejos.

Technically it is well done. Dorian Fernández knows how to work with a camera, even when using “found footage” techniques. There are some really interesting shots. Also the digital effects are good for the most part (not counting a certain blood stain that looked like it could have come straight from a PSOne game).  If I am not mistaken, this is the first feature film from this director, so I think its a commendable first attempt. With a better script and a better cast it I have no doubt that it could go further.

Carlos Esquives from the blog Fotograma Gourmet thinks that the film underestimates its audience, and paradoxically is quite funny, but not particularly scary. He adds [es]:

En trama, Cementerio general absorbe los clichés del cine de género, desde los estereotipos de una infante poseída hasta los giros argumentales producto de una antigua promesa. Filmes como The grudge (2002) o Actividad paranormal (2007) se confunden en esta historia que no provoca tensión desde su antesala,

As far as the plot goes, Cementerio General adopts all the horror film cliches, from the stereotypical possessed child, to the plot twists that arise from some ancient legend. Films such as The Grudge (2002) or Paranormal Activity (2007) get tangled up in this story that fails to create tension from the very beginning.

According to Jimmy Ce, writer of the blog No hay futuro, it is a simple fact– the movie is bad [es]:

Lo primero que hay que hacer al salir de ver “Cementerio General” es pedir el libro de reclamaciones (?), nos ofrecen “Cine de terror” y no hay cine y menos terror. Un insulto para el género de “metraje encontrado”. Porque, seamos sinceros, están las películas malas, pésimas, bodrios y Luego está”Cementerio General”.

The first thing that you have to do when you leave the theater after watching “Cementerio General” is log a complaint. They claim to offer a “horror movie” but it is not the least bit frightening. It is an insult to “Found footage” style films. Because, let's be real here: there are bad films, disastrous films, films that are complete duds, and then there is “Cementerio General.”

Gustavo Faverón shares the same opinion [es] on his blog. He tries to explain why he, as a lover of horror films and bad cinema, thinks that Cementerio General is so exceptionally bad:

una película puede ser mala y a la vez estar llena de hallazgos, descubrimientos imprevistos, a veces incluso casuales, o ser mala pero decir algo sumamente interesante, o puede ser pésima de manera grotesca y en medio de su vulgaridad encontrar un lenguaje propio y distinto: una mala película puede ser una fuente extraordinaria de ideas, dejarlo a uno marcado con imágenes que un cineasta más consciente o más pudoroso o menos refrenado o más sutil jamás se hubiera permitido filmar. [...] Bueno. No esperen nada así de Cementerio general,

A movie can be bad and yet still be full of surprises, unexpected revelations, even some that are completely unintentional. It can be a bad movie but still have something interesting to say. It can be a clumsily made disaster and yet still have its own unique logic and meaning. A bad movie can be a playground for extraordinary ideas, it can leave you with images that a more diligent, restrained, or perhaps less risky film maker would have never dared to make. [...] This is not the case with Cementerio General.

Cartelera de un cine con todas las funciones de Cementerio General agotadas.

Movietheater sign with all showings of Cementerio General sold out. Photo from the Movie's Facebook page used with permission

Invazor C also believes that the movie is bad, but that does not make it a bad film. He explains [es]:

no disfruté Cementerio General, pero debo reconocer que al igual que Hans deseaba que me gustara, en principio porqué esperaba que una película nacional de género bien lograda pudiera sacarme el mal sabor de boca que me dejó Asu Mare. Sin embargo, debo ser justo y dejar claro que no soy el público objetivo de esta película; Es una película de horror adolescente tradicional y está pensada para un público de esa edad. Si puedes meterte eso en la cabeza, o si disfrutaste sin prejuicios con la saga de Destino Final o la Bruja Blair, tienes un motivo para ir y apoyar al cine nacional.

I didn't enjoy Cementerio General, however, I have to admit that just like Hans [es] I wanted to like it, at first because I hoped that a well-made movie done entirely in Peru could rid me of the bad taste that was left in my mouth after Asu Mare. Nonetheless, to be fair I have to state upfront that I am not the target audience for this movie. It is a teen horror movie and it is intended for an audience of that age. If you can keep that in mind, or if you were able to enjoy movies such as Final Destination or the Blair Witch Project, then you should go out and support national cinema.

Eduardo Adrianzén, a television and theater writer and producer, thought that the film was entertaining, well filmed and acted, as he posted on his Facebook profile [es]:

El público sale satisfecho: grita, se ríe, está atento. Excelente sonido -bueno, es de Guillermo Palacios, de lo mejor que siempre hemos tenido en nuestro país-y en general, una película peruanísima que merece darse su lugar. Y sin ánimo de polemizar: vi bastaaaante más chamba de lenguaje cinematográfico y uso de recursos visuales, que en algunas otras películas nacionales con propósitos artísticos. Insisto: 2013 es el año en que se está re-pensando el cine peruano…

The public isn't let down: they scream, laugh and they are engaged. The sound effects are excellent – after all they are done by Guillermo Palacios, the best we have ever had in our country. In general it is a very Peruvian movie that deserves its place in our cinema's history. At the risk of starting a debate, I must say, I saw a lot more cinematic language and visual effects in this movie than in other locally made movies that claimed to have serious artistic intentions. I insist, 2013 is the year when we are beginning to re-think Peruvian cinema…

You can read more opinions on the Spanish language blogs La Nuez [es], Terrorífilo [es], Solo fanáticos del cine [es] and Cineros [es].

If you would like to know more about the film you can visit its Facebook page [es] or follow it on Twitter [es]. You can also see some of the behind the scenes footage on the AVFilmsPerú [es] YouTube channel; and if you still haven't seen the official trailer as yet, here it is:

Originally posted on the blog Globalizado [es] by Juan Arellano.

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