Eight years removed from the release of 2010’s A Serbian Film, Srđan Spasojević’s extreme opus has forever changed horror, for better or worse. With each passing year, many filmmakers try their hand at copying the formula of almost pornographic levels of sex and violence. Many have failed. A Serbian Film’s lasting power is an understated benchmark in how far you can carry a filmgoer. Yes, the sex and extreme gore are gut-wrenching and displayed on a level that was rarely touched upon in previous decades, but the true lasting power lies within the film’s technique of showcasing a politically, war-torn world and the brutality that it births. This is something that few filmmakers truly understand, and audiences as well, for that matter. Enter Lucio A. Rojas’ Trauma.
In the film, four friends visit a rural locality of Chile and are brutally attacked by a man and his son. After not finding help in the town, they decide to confront these men with the help of a pair of policemen. But in this way, they will discover that their attackers have in their blood the direct legacy of the darkest period of Chilean history and will have to face the most brutal enemy.
Released in 2017, receiving a stripped-down, unrated Blu-ray courtesy of Artsploitation, Rojas’ film seeks to dethrone A Serbian Film by targeting the thematic elements mentioned above. Quick to pounce upon similar elements, Trauma combines the high production value, sex, gore, and political damnation of its predecessor. Inspired by true stories of Pinochet’s dictatorship, Rojas uses the regime to create an extreme horror film that certainly lives up to its lofty expectations, even with some glaring script issues.
While Trauma certainly has its moments of sheer intensity and has a propensity to go a little too far, the goofiness of extended lesbian sex scenes feels out of place and distracts from the brutality that took place just moments before. That’s not to say that the film is sexist, although most rape-revenge films have a sexist element, the film isn’t really trying to normalize lesbian or same-sex relationships, it uses them as a tool to drive controversy and appeal to a male demographic. This ultimately becomes a bit problematic in its early presentation as it becomes more of an exploitative move rather than something genuine.
When all is said and done, my criticisms of the film are just that. Trauma isn’t a perfect film and I don’t believe it ever sets out to be one. If you can look beyond some awkward pacing issues and plot elements, Trauma is a fantastic entry in the extreme horror subgenre and is certainly a cut above its peers. In fact, this film goes so far above and beyond other horror films that this is a strong recommendation, but only for extreme fans. The casual horror viewer will find enough to be disgusted to the point of shutting it off. If the opening scene is too much for you, trust me, it only gets more intense. It may not be enough to dethrone A Serbian Film, but Trauma is one gut-wrenching challenge to push through all on its own. This is best in class horror for gorehounds and an avoid for the squeamish. Certainly, this is something that will be talked about for years to come.