Review ACHOURA (2018) – Cinepocalypse 2019
Achoura, is a religious celebration in Morocco, Children’s Night. This year it’s taking on a sinister tone as several children have gone missing in the days leading up to it. A group of childhood friends will have to come together again. They must face their past and an ancient creature to stop the disappearances.
Achoura begins with several sequences set in the past and present. A child bride and her friend try to hide from her sadistic husband and encounter an evil being. In the present, a detective, Ali (Younes Bouab) obsessively investigates the disappearances of several children, even as his relationship with his wife Nadia (Sofiia Manousha) and son disintegrates. A young boy finds a strange man and his chained, almost feral captive in an abandoned factory. And an artist, Stéphane (Iván González, Cold Skin, The Divide) tries to force Nadia to confront a traumatic childhood event involving the three of them and the disappearance of a friend.
But when that friend, Samir (Omar Lotfi) reappears at the site of a present-day abduction the four of them realize they have to confront that event. And that what they faced wasn’t a sexual predator but an ancient evil of another kind.
The similarities to Stephen King’s It are obvious. And the film’s demon, Bougatate, sounds like something he’d write about. A creature that feeds on the innocence and happiness of children. But director and co-writer Talal Selhami (Mirages) has created his own take on the theme. One that’s certainly a lot of fun to watch. Granted I may be biased as I’m not a fan of Pennywise and company but I found Achoura more entertaining than any of the versions of King’s book.
Probably because Selhami’s film doesn’t have all the ponderous detail and irrelevant side stories. It takes the concept and crafts a much leaner exercise in horror. There’s just enough background to establish the leads and the creature. Or maybe it’s just because I find weird-looking demons a lot scarier than clowns.
Achoura finished shooting in 2015 and, from what I can tell, was held up due to problems with the film’s effects. The delay was worth it as the creature itself is well-designed and executed. It’s obvious CGI was used, but it’s well done, especially for a low-budget film. The unfamiliar Moroccan settings help make these scenes feel even more sinister.
Achoura is currently playing festivals, including Cinepocalypse. You can check for other screenings on the film’s Facebook page.