A different type of horror.
While marketed as a horror movie, Magic Magic should really be classified more as a psychological thriller or suspense piece. It revolves around Alicia, an American girl with a shrouded past who joins her cousin Sara and a group of friends who are vacationing in southern Chile. Right from the start, plans get mixed up and she is forced into an uncomfortable situation amidst unfamiliar people and surroundings.
Tension begins building as Alicia (Juno Temple) has auditory hallucinations brought on by insomnia and is oddly antagonized by her cousin's friends, especially Brink, played by Michael Cera, who walks a fine line between eccentric and sociopath. Cera and Temple really give the standout performances with everyone else fading out as background noise. They manage to build a ton of anxiety without ever really doing anything particularly wrong. It's that excellent brand of suspense that makes you start guessing who "the bad guy" is, or when something really awful is going to happen.
Unfortunately, this is where Magic Magic runs into issues. After a constant stream of escalating events, including a bizarre scene where Alicia may or may not be hypnotized, there is no pay off. Writer/director Sebastián Silva does fine work building things to a fever pitch, but ultimately doesn't deliver. The movie becomes a character study in mental illness, and never really seems to go anywhere, outside of the finale that steers things in a slightly different direction. This is one of the cardinal sins of horror/suspense/thrillers. Good stories go somewhere. If you're going to build up massive tension then there needs to be a catharsis for the audience, otherwise they'll end up feeling cheated.
Non-ending aside, Magic Magic is still an engaging film with excellent atmosphere and a good soundtrack. It definitely held my interest through the end, so I wound up slightly disappointed (and frustrated by the studio's deceptive trailer marketing) but not hating it. If you're looking for something that's downbeat and frightening in a less traditional way, give it a shot.
Reviewed on DVD via Red Box. Running time 97 MIN.