The Whistler: Origins (“El Silbón: Orígenes”) (Gisberg Bermudez, 2018) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Cultural folktales seem to be the horror genre’s newest obsession. They’re coming in all varieties it seems, from mainstream supernatural jump-scare-fests like The Curse of La Llorona (Michael Chaves, 2019)to the less conventional slow-burn wide release The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2016) to recent festival-favorite thriller Gwen (William McGregor, 2018). While The Witch is based on a New England folktale, La Llorona and Gwen are based on Mexican and Welsh folktales, respectively. Now, we have The Whistler: Origins, based on a popular South American folktale. I’m glad these films are being made and folktales from around the world are being spread through film and I hope more films continue to be made like these. I think it is interesting to get a glimpse of different cultures and to see what frightens people from different parts of the world.
The Whistler: Origins is a Venezuelan horror film directed by Gisberg Bermudez and starring Daniela Bueno, Yon Henao Calderón and Eliane Chipia. The basic premise revolves around a mystical figure called “The Whistler” who attacks the drunk, the unfaithful and children. Basically, the Whistler only attacks bad people … and kids, for some reason. The film actually follows two separate stories for most of its runtime, that of a father and his disturbed, sick daughter, and another one about a mother and son struggling to stand up to the abusive alpha male of the household. Both stories have so much to tell and could stand alone as movies on their own.
The technical aspects of The Whistler: Origins are all fine and dandy, with one exception. The cinematography, sound design, and lighting are all very well done. Most of the movie is in the dark and the shadows and pure darkness are played off well. There is a limited soundtrack, but the film opts for diegetic atmospheric sounds of the landscape, which are well placed. However, the one technical issue I have with this movie is the transitions from scene to scene. There are two types of transitions used in this film, a slow fade to black with an eerie tune ,which is overused to the effect that it is ineffective and quite noticeable, and a sudden cut from one image to another with a loud stinger/jump-scare sound effect. Neither of these transitions worked for me, and I found myself jumping from one engaging scene to the next a bit uncomfortably.
The majority of the film is spent cutting back and forth between the two different families. Both families have enough interesting issues going on to make both storylines interesting, albeit perhaps too much. Unfortunately, at times when one storyline seemed to be getting very interesting the film would cut back to the other one, leaving the viewer wanting to know what was happening in the other story. The connection between the two storylines was very unclear and a bit confusing, at first. The storylines do connect eventually, but a bit too late into the movie, in my opinion. Being an origin story, the film is loaded with details and information, but the film is very fast-paced and all the events and details speed by, sometimes becoming a bit overwhelming. Close attention is imperative for this film, as there are many “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moments.
I found The Whistler: Origins interesting and suspenseful, if a bit confusing. The film has its fair share of jump scares but balances them well with disturbing and chilling moments. Where this folktale falters is in its loaded premise with a bit too much setup, the sometimes confusing back-and-forth between two stories, and its extremely rapid pace. I really believe there is enough content in this film for two movies and that perhaps some aspects could have been cut out or slimmed down. Also, the ending of this film was very confusing and seemed to come from left field. I would honestly love to see a sequel to this film, as I think they did a good job with the Whistlercreature, itself, and would like to see what they can do in a film that doesn’t concern itself with origins and setup. Overall, I think The Whistler: Origins is worth a watch; just keep your eyes peeled.
In Spanish with English subtitles