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HomeEntertainment‘Medusa’ Review: Liberated Women - The New York Times

‘Medusa’ Review: Liberated Women – The New York Times

In “Medusa,” a pop music-scored spooky story about women’s liberation, a group of churchgoing gals in Brazil play Christian Stepford Wives by day, and by night, rove the streets wearing white masks, terrorizing women they deem tramps into repentance.

The writer and director Anita Rocha da Silveira takes a visual approach that feels played out, deploying the same blood-splattered fluorescent backdrops and techno-inflected bodily grotesquerie of recent feminist horror films like “Titane.”

Yet these extremes also feel appropriate given the South American nation’s increasingly zealous movement against L.G.B.T.Q. individuals and sex positive culture. U.S. audiences might find this familiar, though in Brazil, where the rate of homophobic hate crimes is one of the highest in the world, there are in fact Evangelical gangs seeking to violently cleanse their communities.

Rocha da Silveira lays hard on the creepy nature of indoctrination as it plays out in modern times: Mari (Mari Oliveira) and her girlfriends perform catchy worship songs for their congregation, and the queen bee Michele (Lara Tremouroux) makes YouTube beauty tutorials that demonstrate how to snap Christian friendly selfies.

Mari undergoes an awakening after one of the gang’s midnight crusades leaves her with a facial scar. Fired from her cosmetic surgery job and certain of her eternal spinsterdom, she begins working at a clinic for people in comas, hoping she can make herself useful by taking a picture of the mythical Melissa, a sinful celebrity whose face was set on fire by a religious warrior.

Eventually, with help from an attractive co-worker, Mari begins to realize the pettiness of her ways.

Though dressed in shock-value clothing, “Medusa” is also a straightforward character study, tackling issues like the scourge of Western beauty standards and the difficulties of leaving an abusive relationship along the way. Most important, Mari’s evolution feels real, her triumphs genuinely moving. It’s here that “Medusa” presents an astute idea: The righteous mob is terrifying, but equally nerve-racking is leaving it.

Medusa
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. In theaters.

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