Tremors is a horror movie; though not in such an obvious a manner as the Kevin Bacon creature feature it shares its title with. Rather than an underground beast, the monster here is the rampant homophobia present within the churches of Guatemala. Jayro Bustamante’s latest feature focuses on Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager), an affluent businessman with a loving wife, Isa (Diane Bathen), two adorable children, and a perfect life. Things come crashing down when he’s outed by his family for having an affair with a massage therapist, Francisco (Mauricio Armas Zebadua). Pablo strikes it out on his own and embraces his homosexuality, living with his lover and frequenting gay bars, until his family and the Evangelical Christian church forces him to decide between his children or his very own identity.
The church has turned Pablo’s family into bigoted hypocrites, causing a struggle within his soul to accept his own sex orientation. Shot in moody, despairing colors and lighting, the film carries a heavy sense of dread as Pablo forces himself through conversion therapy, that is shown as a blandly evil institution led by a pastor in a grey dress. It’s a film about the aftershocks of a radical event (such as being forced out of the closet), as it trickles all the way down to Pablo’s children, who whisper about the “disease” that their father has. The pained look on Pablo’s face when he’s taken away from them says it all. Homophobia is more than just a string of slurs and ill-timed jokes; it’s a destructive force perpetuated by many who claim to be going to Heaven. Featuring literal earthquakes at more than one point in the narrative, Tremors is a celluloid nightmare about a man being stripped away of his freedom and identity, by the controlling forces of prejudicial organized religion.
Tremors screened at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the Cinemas of the Americas, Global Currents, and Out-look Competition programs. Tremors will screen again on October 19th at 2:15pm at AMC River East 21