Sebastian Silva’s psychological thriller Magic Magic is an unsettling journey of isolation and desperation. Based on the trailer, I had been expecting a straightforward horror film, but this is more of a fish-out-of-water story turned nightmare. Juno Temple stars as Alicia, a young girl who finds herself stranded in a foreign land where nothing is as it seems. This unnerving character study is well-crafted and acted as it takes the viewer on a frightening journey through the unexpected.
Alicia travels to Chile with her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). They meet up with Sarah’s boyfriend Augustin (Augustin Silva) along with their American friend Brink (Michael Cera) and their other friend Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno). As the group drives to the remote location of the house they are staying in, Sarah is unexpectedly called away, leaving Alicia alone with a bunch of strangers. The film does a great job of playing up the uncomfortable feeling of not belonging. Barbara is annoyed by Alicia’s presence, Augustin would rather be with Sarah, and Brink is just plain weird. Everyone speaks Spanish most of the time, leaving Alicia with the awkward feeling they are mocking her.
Cera’s portrayal of Brink is a surprising departure from his roles in films like Juno and Superbad and couldn’t be further from his Arrested Development character George-Michael. This only works to his favor. Brink weaves back and forth between fun-loving and total creep—with more emphasis on creep. Unable to take anything seriously, Brink relentlessly hits on Alicia, though he is obviously more interested in Augustin. Despite Brink’s weirdness, Alicia attempts to make friends with him only to have it backfire miserably. With no one on her side, Alicia is alone and frantic as her perception of reality and fantasy begins to waver.
To say much else about this film would spoil it. Magic Magic take some very unexpected twists and turns that I never saw coming. It disposes of any thriller conventions in favor of exploring the mental torment of Alicia as she deals with what seems like an impossible situation. This film is uncomfortable the moment it starts, increasing in intensity until the shocking end. It’s worth seeing alone for the excellent performances of Cera and Temple.
Magic Magic is currently only available on a no-frills DVD. The only special feature is a short, but fairly informative, “making of” piece detailing the production of the film. The documentary offers some behind-the-scenes footage along with interviews from the cast and crew. While this is not a premium package, Magic Magic should not be missed.