Movie Review: Tigers Are Not Afraid

It’s still a hard world for little things.

Mexico’s ongoing horror renaissance continues unabated with Issa López’s wonderful Tigers Are Not Afraid. It’s a modern-day fairy tale like the gold standard We Are the Flesh, though Tigers is much more upfront, beginning with young hero Estrella (Paola Lara) in school as her teacher asks the class to write their own fairy tale. Estrella soon finds herself living in a grim story after her mother is kidnapped by the cartel-affiliated Huascas gang, and she falls in with a cadre of boys barely surviving in the city’s ruins led by the intense-eyed El Shine (Juan Ramón López). El Shine is none too happy about them admitting a girl into the ranks, but he soon comes to recognizes Estrella’s special strengths — and to say much more would be to ruin the film’s many surprises. The magical-realist Tigers interweaves fairy tale elements and very modern things, such as an iPhone figuring strongly into the plot. The picture been compared to Guillermo del Toro, but it also evokes Charles Laughton’s impressionistic children-on-the-run nightmare The Night of the Hunter. It’s also worth noting that Tigers Are Not Afraid was nominated for nine Ariel Awards in Mexico, and Juan Ramón López won for Best Breakthrough Performance. Unlike the United States, Mexico is not afraid of acknowledging a good horror movie.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.

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