I have been trying to watch Tigers Are Not Afraid since it’s limited theater release a few weeks ago. Yet, the theater schedule and The Universe absolutely conspired against me and things kept impeding me from watching the film. So imagine my absolute delight when I discovered that I could enjoy the film on Shudder from the comfort of my couch.
*Before you keep reading, I should emphasize that if you can, you absolutely MUST WATCH this film in a movie theater.
Tigers Are Not Afraid, by Writer/Director Issa López uses horror and fantasy to tell the story of the forgotten children that are left orphaned by the drug war in Mexico. It’s the premise that originally made me gravitate towards the film. If it were not for the premise, I would have otherwise stayed away from the film. Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the horror genre as much as I should have. It’s the jump scares that I truly hate but I decided to power through my anxiety and I am so much better for having experienced the film.
This film has its roots in the reality that Mexico faces daily, while it uses fantasy and fairytales to navigate the storyline the brutal truth still finds a way unto the screen . Every shot feels thought-out, every angle looks precise, every scene is strategically placed and the story pushes through the horror and moves into an emotional rollercoaster quite effortlessly.
The magic was entirely due to the fact that the story was mainly told from the children’s perspective. Though their innocence had been traumatically taken from them, it was in the few moments of levity that I found myself yearning for an ending in which these kids went on to live fulfilling lives.
I didn’t expect to cry in the middle of a horror film and yet, I mostly found myself crying throughout. Mexico has felt like home for most of my life (we visited every summer for all of my adolecense) and my mom has always done a phenomenal job at guarding me from the cruelty that plagues the country. However, she is no longer able to keep the reality away and I’ve come to discover that currently, the place that holds my dearest memories, has also become a place that isn’t safe at night.
My tias have started calling my mom every week with a new update on how many deaths have occurred in their town (my town). That normalization of death is so beautifully expressed in Tigers Are Not Afraid. You see it in the first few minutes of the film; school children playing with caution tape from a crime scene as a dead body lays only a few feet away from them. Issa López did not hold back in her brave narrative; the social commentary was strong throughout the entire film and she expressed things that are often only whispered about (the fact that the police and politicians are often complicit in the atrocities that happen due to the cartel).
This film served as reminder of how absolutely dire the situation in Mexico is. So yes, the jump scares were plenty but if you work through the anxiety you find your way into the heart of this film and that makes it all absolutely worth it.
“Tigers are not afraid, they went through all the bad stuff and came out on the other side. They are Kings of this Kingdom of broken things”