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article imageReview: TIFF 2017: ‘Motorrad’ trails aren’t safe but no one knows why Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 19, 2017 in Entertainment
‘Motorrad’ turns a leisurely bike ride through the trails into a potentially supernatural nightmare as a gang of anonymous bikers terrorize a group of young motorcyclists.
While genre movies can be a filmmaker’s bread and butter in North America or Asia, there are many countries in which it’s less popular… and more importantly, less respected. Combined, these opinions make it difficult to produce local content as various avenues of support are scarcer. But that doesn’t mean non-conforming creators aren’t still pushing the boundaries of acceptance and targeting niche groups locally and abroad. After all, it just takes one success story to create more possibilities. Motorrad hopes to be the film that opens the door in Brazil.
When you live in an area of rocky hillsides and endless dirt, motorbiking is more than a pastime — it’s a way of life. Hugo (Guilherme Prates) knows this so he’s willing to do almost anything to finish his bike and join his brother, Ricardo (Emílio de Mello), on the trails. When he attempts to steal a part from a local junkyard, he meets Paula (Carla Salle), a mysterious fellow gear head that helps him out. Out for a day of exploring and swimming in the nearby bluffs, Edward’s and Paula’s paths once again cross and she invites the group to a scenic watering hole. However, their tranquil day is spoiled by the arrival of another group of bikers who are unexplainably and indiscriminately out for blood.
The film falls into a subcategory of the horror genre that begins as a road trip and devolves into a fight for survival against violent assailants. Chased through the desert and unable to escape, the group’s numbers continue to diminish as their members meet gruesome ends at the hands of the black-clad bikers. Their appearance is clearly menacing, but it provides no clues of who (or what) they may be or why they’re attacking the group. Similarly, Paula’s coincidental presence is plenty suspicious but never truly clarified.
The terror of their situation is conveyed effectively as the malevolent gang bears down on them no matter where they run or hide. They’re also unnaturally fast or exceptionally familiar with the terrain as they’ll be watching their victims from above one minute then be gone the next then be on their tails before the group can even recover from the earlier sighting. However, their origins are left entirely to the audience to decide and their ambiguity is somewhat more frustrating than appealing. As it appears equally possible that the black-clad death dealers could be human or supernatural, the lack of resolution or decision in this area by the end feels unfinished rather than deliberate. There are also elements of a coming-of-age tale in which Hugo is becoming a man and may have some connection to the gang, but this is also speculation left for viewers to determine.
There’s a fine line between vague and uncertain, and this film unfortunately leans toward the latter. Wanting an audience to actively watch a picture is a noble pursuit, but there must be some sort of payoff for their participation — not a bunch of unanswered questions. The opacity of the movie’s conclusion is unfortunate since the rest is a fairly solid horror film that utilizes its isolated location and scenic contrasts to good effect.
Motorrad had its world premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2017 coverage.
Director: Vicente Amorim
Starring: Emílio de Mello, Guilherme Prates and Carla Salle
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