Magic Magic (15), starring Juno Temple and Michael Cera, is inspired by an urban legend of what happened to a girl vacationing in a hostel in Brazil.
What’s It About? Alicia (Temple) is an American girl who’s travelled to Chile to visit her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). Whilst staying with her cousin’s friends, insomniac Alicia starts to lose a grip on what’s real and what she’s imagining, leaving the audience to wonder who the real bad guy is.
Verdict? Marketed as an intense psychological horror, Magic Magic has all the ingredients to make a fantastic film. And the concept of the story being told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator (Alicia), means you aren’t sure whose side you’re supposed to be on.
When Alicia arrives in Chile, her cousin Sarah is called away almost instantly, leaving Alicia to spend two nights alone with Sarah’s friends, Brink (Michael Cera), Agustin (Agustin Silva) and Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno). The friends seem cold from the offset, with Cera nailing a particularly disconcerting performance as Brink, who manages to appear creepy without even saying anything particularly offensive. However, as the film progresses it becomes a struggle to see what the group are doing that makes Alicia scream down the phone to Sarah that they’re ‘sadists’.
For example, while the fact the boys shoot a bird when they go hunting would upset many people, it isn’t far-fetched to think an American teenage boy with a shotgun would shoot an animal. The film also tries to use the fact the boys tease Alicia and laugh at her misfortune as evidence of their cruelty, but again this isn’t exactly unusual behaviour for teen boys. The fact Alicia is paranoid makes these overreactions a little easier to swallow, but more could have been done to make these characters the sinister threats they’re meant to seem at the time.
Over time, it becomes evident there is something seriously wrong with Alicia; her cousin joins them but Alicia is struggling to sleep and her behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre. This is when the film really starts to pick up. There’s enough to keep you tense and watching to find out what’s wrong with Alicia, despite the lack of jumps or scares.
The biggest problem is the film’s conclusion. The final scenes gradually become more ridiculous, and are reminiscent of the goat scene in Drag Me To Hell. However, it’s incredibly out of place in Magic Magic, making no sense in relation to the story and bypassing the tone of the majority of the film. This decision was probably made in a bid to shock or surprise, but any realistic ending would probably have made the film a more compelling watch.
A positive note in the film is the strong performances; Juno Temple gives the part her all and truly embodies the madness and paranoia of Alicia, which becomes more and more apparent as her mental state deteriorates. Emily Browning also does her best to add some realism amongst the madness and gives an equally strong performance, despite being underused.
Final Words: Strong performances are not enough to cancel out the film’s flaws, and an interesting concept is ruined by a ridiculous narrative, creating an underwhelming watch.
Magic Magic is in UK cinemas from 18 April 2014.