Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
A Ghoulish Masterwork of Camp
In Legions, Antonio Poyju has lived his life as a magical shaman while exercising and fighting the evil forces of Argentina; whether it is in the jungle or in the city. Antonio has a bloodline that is incredibly powerful. When he was younger, he had a daughter named Elena and he made her a necklace that would keep her faith in the bloodline, Antonio’s ritualistic ways, and the fight against demons strong forever. But a powerful demon named Kuaraya kills Antonio’s wife and steals Elena's necklace.
Now in the modern day, Antonio is middle aged (and played by Germán De Silva) and is trapped in a mental institution; likely because his fight against demons was seen as gibberish laced insanity. Elena is now an adult (played by Lorena Vega) who is married and works at a marketing firm. Kuaraya intends to use Elena’s sacred blood in order to be reborn. With the help of someone from their village and a few inmates, Antonio breaks out of the mental institution to not only try to save his daughter but also prevent a demonic creature from reaching his full power.
As a subplot to the main storyline of Antonio battling Kuaraya, the mental institution is putting on a play of Antonio’s life. The costumes and set designs are fairly impressive while the performances are over the top and ridiculous. The play is an excuse for the film to dive into Antonio’s past, which is what Legions has to do in order to know why Elena isn’t around and the type of threat Kuaraya is. It also serves as the meeting ground of humor and supernatural in the film, with horror seemingly getting the upper hand at the end of it.
Legions feels like a horror comedy that nearly keeps its comedy and horror elements completely separate the majority of the time. All of the comedy aspects of the film come from the patients at the mental institution while everything involving Kuaraya and Antonio’s magic is more supernatural horror. The two eventually collide in one sequence where a man’s jaw is ripped off and then he’s decapitated soon after, but the fact that there is no blood makes it not only mesmerizing but also somewhat comical.
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As a whole, the film is strange. It feels extremely low budget, but Argentinian filmmaker Fabian Forte and cinematographer Mariano Suarez know how to make a demon look incredible on a budget. The lack of funds mentality of Legions comes from a selection of its special effects. Most of the visual sequences that utilize smoke have CGI that looks almost hand drawn. The color isn’t quite right and the way it moves in the air doesn’t look as natural as it should. Cigar and cigarette smoke is an integral part of nearly every ritual in the film, so it’s a common occurrence.
However, Kuaraya is amazing. He’s almost werewolf-like in appearance with hair all over his body and long claws. Legions teases his reveal by only showing his hand the majority of the film and keeping most of his body out of focus or in the dark. There’s a scene when he’s in Elena’s bedroom where he is almost completely engulfed in shadows, but there is just enough light to show the outline of his snout and claw-like hand. He’s incredibly cool and you wish there was more of him, but the way he’s utilized is also part of his charm.
The voodoo doll sequence is also a highlight. In order to escape the institution, Antonio uses a voodoo doll on one of the security guards to distract him. Antonio sticks a pin in the dolls eye, bends it in half, and even burns it. The performance of the security guard is what sells the entire sequence. Not only is he believably terrified, but the way he contorts his body (it looks legitimate and not CGI) and runs sizzling down the street in the middle of the night is disturbingly memorable.
Massively campy at times with a deliciously ghoulish villain that you can’t get enough of, Legions is a ceremonial plunge into preposterously entertaining horror.
© 2022 Chris Sawin