To Kill the Dragon is an Argentinian horror film rooted in folklore and fantasy. The story is based around siblings Facundo (Guillermo Pfening) and Elena (Justina Bustos), who were separated 25 years ago as children. Elena was kidnapped by an intruder who killed their parents, and Facundo, who now has a wife and two daughters, is haunted by the event. When his sister is found in the forest nearby, he brings her to stay with his family at their lavish home.
It becomes clear that Elena has suffered through trauma over the years, and we’re shown bits of her life in captivity via flashbacks. She existed in a hell of sorts, looked after by a man named Tarugo (Luis Machín), who served a dark witch named Hilandera. The witch gains her power through the blood of young girls. After Elena comes to live with Facundo, he is torn between loyalty to his wife and children versus rebuilding his relationship with his sister. Dark forces are still at work, and Elena’s nightmare has not ended.
I enjoyed several features of this film. It starts with an animation explaining the background of the witch, and this immediately drew me in. It felt like a dark fairy tale of sorts, more of a fantasy mixed with horror. This led to a tense atmosphere with the feeling that something evil was still lurking.
There were also moments in To Kill the Dragon where I truly felt frightened and on edge as a viewer. As far as visuals, the witch was a very creepy character, and her minions, especially Tarugo, gave off an air of danger and their presence left me feeling unsettled. The acting was hit or miss, but there were several standouts. Justina Bustos as Elena, Cecilia Cartasegua as Valeria (Facundo’s wife), and Valentina Goldzen as the eldest daughter—all three of these actors stood out to me, especially the younger one. They all did a great job of conveying emotion, sometimes just with their facial expressions. I also liked the fact that this film has a cast and crew largely made up of women. It’s nice to see an increase in female leads in the acting and production of horror films.
While there were several positive aspects, some holes in this film held me back from fully enjoying the experience. I noticed some plot holes and issues with continuity that were distracting, and it took a while for the action to pick up. We’re shown snapshots of Elena’s ordeal in captivity through several flashbacks, but sometimes they seemed out of place and confusing. The first two-thirds of the film is somewhat slow and lacking in excitement. For me, the tension didn’t build enough early on, but then in the last 30-40 minutes, it was non-stop action and excitement. Seeing more of this earlier on would’ve held my attention and raised my interest.
I can typically suspend disbelief when it comes to horror films, but I had a hard time getting past some questions in this one. The location where Elena was held was not well-hidden, and I had a hard time believing that no one discovered it or the missing girls over a 25-year span. Perhaps this was intentional and meant to be part of a message, but it didn’t come across that way.
I think that there were several allegories at play in this film. Disparities in social class, addiction, and kidnapping all come to mind. However, a lack of cohesion in the execution takes away from the underlying message. To Kill the Dragon is a film buzzing with intent, and there are moments of ingenuity, but it ultimately loses footing and stumbles on the way to its destination.
5 out of 10