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December 13, 2021

Achoura (2018) Movie Review

Most of you here know that modern horror isn’t exactly my bag. More often than not, today’s indie horror movies suck major donkey dick. So it’s kinda nice to be pleasantly surprised from time to time with a decent horror film made after 1985.

Ladies and gents, I give you Achoura.

SPOILERS: I will do my best to make this a spoiler-free review, but as I’m drinking coffee with Baileys right now, I guarantee nothing.

Achoura is actually the name of a Moroccan religious celebration, also known as Child’s Night. Kids get to run around, play, splash water on each other, dance, gather around a bonfire, and have a night to revel in pure innocence and joy. The movie begins with such a celebration that happened “a long time ago.” A young girl and boy, obviously quite infatuated with each other, run off to the corn field to have a deep conversation. Bashira (who is A CHILD, I will remind you) is married to a man who’s probably older than me. The boy (I don’t think his name ever comes up), promises to take care of her if they run away together. She gives him a flute she made for him, saying he should blow that every time he thinks of her.

Daaawww. Honestly, they’re adorable together.

But before they can make plans to run away, the ball and chain comes looking for the pair. The young kids hide in an abandoned house in the middle of the cornfield. While hiding, the husband, acting like the gross pedophile he is, is shuffling through the house, threatening to beat Bashira when he finds her. Her boy crush bursts forth to fight the old man but gets the man’s belt around his throat for his trouble.

Luckily, Bashira jumps out and hits her husband over the head with a two-by-four. Saving her crush, they smile until…a dark, smoky mass on the ceiling forms, reaches down, and takes Bashira!

And that is the opening of the film, before the credits even begin to roll!

Flash forward to present day. Ali and Nadia are a married couple with issues. Ali is a police officer who works too much and blames himself for not finding a serial kidnapper; Nadia is a teacher exhausted by her husband’s lack of presence; their son, Youssef, is caught in the middle. Their friend, Stephan, invites them to his art exhibit where his work depicts some quite terrifying imagery. Stephan has remembered something from their past and it’s time for them to remember, too.

Kid, you are on my LAST nerve.

And everything comes rushing back to their collective memories once Samir, Ali’s brother who disappeared twenty years earlier, shows up. The film bounces back and forth between this present day and to the horrible afternoon twenty years earlier when Samir vanished and the group encountered the monster that took him, a monster that feeds on the innocence of children. Now, they must work together to figure out where the creature is, how they can trap it, and how to destroy it.


Okay, that’s all the detail I’ll give. I probably gave away too much about the opening scene anyway.

First let me say that this is the first horror movie I’ve watched/reviewed that’s based on Moroccan folklore. The opening scene is spoken in Arabic (I’m not sure which style of Arabic it is, or if it’s Amazigh, aka Berber) and the present day and twenty-year flash back scenes are spoken in French. So there’s just culture flying all over the place here. I also appreciate that the writers created the character of Bashira’s husband. My guess is child marriages were common at the time (even though we don’t have an exact timeframe, based on character development we can infer around 70 years ago), and child marriages do still happen today. Not sure if writer included this as a protesting statement or trying to imply it only happened ages ago.

*shrug* It’s just a cultural difference that many of us, I hope, have little to no experience with.

The whole opening scene built great tension. First we’re scared for Bashira as she and her friend talk about her husband; then the husband looking for them through the house and attacking the boy; and finally the black creature that snatches up Bashira.

The cinematography is great, but I love films that take place in locations I’ve never been. We get to see a country’s landscape – natural and man-made – and how the day/night affects the story within each setting. The original musical score blends well with each scene and never pulls the viewer out of the action.

The acting is fantastic. The two reunion scenes, between Ali and Samir and Stephan and Samir, moved me to tears. Omar Lotfi as Samir does an excellent job portraying a man who’s been captive since a boy and can’t quite pull off being a normal adult. Younes Bouab as Ali is a little one-dimensional, but then I think Ali doesn’t have much depth in general. He’s a typical gruff police detective with anger issues. And that’s okay! Even the child actors playing the four friends in the flashback carried their scenes well.

Do NOT make me use my mom voice.

The pacing starts to drag about halfway through, but most films do to be honest. Once we get to the final third of the film, the action picks back up. I will say, though, the final scenes leading to the climax of the film are VERY reminiscent of the book and movie, “IT”. The whole idea of long-ago friends having to get back together and go down underground to face the monster they encountered long ago…yeah. Just instead of a cosmic spider monstrosity, picture a pale-faced, 10-foot-tall black-eyed demon. Cool? Cool.

The little bits of CGI in the film aren’t great. They aren’t the worst I’ve ever seen but they did knock me off my suspension of disbelief bridge. Though I have to say it wasn’t difficult to climb back on and continue., especially since the demon itself is tits.

One of the best elements of this movie, though, is the story. Not just the Moroccan folklore, but the idea that evil can never be stopped; it can only be contained. As we watch the main characters battling this terrible demon, in the end, there’s nothing they can do but make the most heartbreaking decision possible to save the rest of the world.

Ow. My heart.

So, if you’re not opposed to reading subtitles (not sure if there’s an English dubbed version out there), I highly suggest taking a bite out of this little slice of Moroccan horror. You won’t regret it.

Four hatchets (out of 5)

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