Medusa: Consistently trippy satirical art-house horror takes aim at Brazil’s evangelical cults

The film’s ideas about women as religious enforcers, complicit in their own subjugation, are fascinating

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Director: Anita Rocha da Silveira
Cert: None
Genre: Horror
Starring: Mari Oliveira, Lara Tremouroux, Joana Medeiros, Felipe Frazao, Thiago Fragoso, Bruna G, Bruna Linzmeyer, Thiago Fragoso
Running Time: 2 hrs 8 mins

A violent Christian girl gang take to the streets at night. Wearing eerie doll masks, eight young women descend on a perceived sinner with the words: “Slut! Jezebel! We’ll nail you to the cross!” They finally beat a promise out of their victim to “become a devoted, virtuous woman, submissive to the Lord”.

The consistently trippy Medusa concerns Mari (Mariana Oliveira) and Michele (Lara Tremouroux), the queen bees of a church choir, called Michele and the Treasures of the Lord, who rework such musical standards as House of the Rising Sun to feature lyrics such as “I shall be a modest and pretty housewife”. By night they turn vigilante against “Delilahs”.

Michele, a YouTuber, makes videos about how to take a “perfect Christian selfie” and how to cover bruises with make-up. These are not as popular as the nocturnal beatings that the girls orchestrate and film.

When one of the gang’s marks fights back, Mari’s face is left scarred, an attack that recalls Melissa, the “homewrecker” and celebrity who was allegedly the first victim of this group’s violence. Mari, who is fired from her job at a plastic-surgery clinic because of her injuries, takes work at a nursing facility. Her goal is to track down and photograph the elusive Melissa, whose face was burned to purify her soul.


João Atala’s striking cinematography pays homage to Suspiria and Twin Peaks, as Mari’s search among comatose patients yields unexpected results and a forbidden romance with a male nurse, Lucas (Felipe Frazao).

Anita Rocha da Silveira’s second feature is a satirical art-house horror with Brazil’s evangelical cults in its crosshairs. The oppressively neon musical numbers and ominous pastoral pronouncements that “secular government was a mistake” are more convincing than the film’s late swerve into Giallo terrain. But the writer-director’s ideas about women as religious enforcers, complicit in their own subjugation, are fascinating.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic