Medusa is a horror-musical-comedy-fantasy film set in an alternate universe (yet close to reality) about a young woman who grew up in an ultra-conservative environment in Brazil, where she is expected to keep every aspect of her life under tight control. In order to keep control of herself, she must control every other woman around her.
Mari and her friends broadcast their spiritual devotion through pastel pinks and catchy evangelical songs about purity and perfection, but underneath it all they harbor a deep rage. By day they hide behind their manicured facade, and by night they form a masked, vigilante girl gang, prowling the streets in search of sinners who have deviated from the rightful path. After an attack goes wrong, leaving Mari scarred and unemployed, her views of community, religion, and her peers begin to shift. Nightmares of repressed desires and haunting visions of alluring temptation become undeniable and the urge to scream and release her paralyzing inner demons is more powerful than ever before. A neon-tinged genre-bender that gives provocative form to the overwhelming feminine fury coursing through modern life, MEDUSA dares us not to look away.
Medusa was inspired by articles I read in the news—especially reports about violent attacks on young women, carried out by other girls that attack in a group, in most cases because they regard the victim as promiscuous. I also drew from videos made by ultra-right influencers and extensive research into the neo-Pentecostal world. But I want to distance the film from a hard reality and create my own alternate world. I’m not interested in portraying life as it is, but instead, how it can be shaped by our imagination and feelings. I was also inspired by Greek myths, like Medusa’s and Chiron’s, and created a narrative based on horror but combining genres.
Here are 13 films that influenced Medusa:
You can view the full list on Horrorville here.
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch)
David Lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers; I watched a VHS tape of Blue Velvet by accident when I was 9 years old, and it really stuck with me. Mulholland Drive. is a masterpiece. Every time I watch it, I realize something new. It’s also a great example of a film that works across genres and at times makes use of humor to expose the flaws in the sought-after American dream. It also (like most of Lynch’s films) has great use of music and I love the way the actors move and express themselves, in a tone that is a bit over the top but completely consistent with the narrative, as they are only one inch from exploding.
Suspiria (Dario Argento)
Suspiria is the biggest visual reference for Medusa. It has an amazing use of colors and lighting that transports us to a magic universe. I am fascinated by its incredible aesthetics and commitment to the horror genre that is done in a way that is light-hearted, filled with humor and small transgressions, where anything can happen.
Get Out (Jordan Peele)
I was completely blown away after watching Get Out at the movie theater a few years back. It’s an outstanding and innovative script, that perfectly mixes horror, humor and social commentary.
Beau Travail and Trouble Every Day (Claire Dennis)
I am fascinated by the way Claire Denis is able to frame bodies in an intense state of control and sublimation, yet also uncontrollably, ultimately surrendering to hidden desires. Trouble Every Day is one of my favorite vampire films, and in Beau Travail, the legionnaires visuals and movements were an inspiration for the Vigilantes of Sion in Medusa.
Carrie (Brian De Palma)
A gothic high school movie, that perfectly mixes horror and comedy into the construction of incredible tension and with amazing lighting, framing and camera movement. Carrie is also one of the clearest and most beautiful depictions of what repression and humiliation can do to women.
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
Spring break can be a religious experience to many college girls, and Harmony Korine portrays it beautifully. The film has such great use of colors, a bold aesthetic, and a climactic musical number that stays in our minds.
Knife+Heart (Yann Gonzalez)
This 2018 film by Yann Gonzalez unfortunately didn’t get the attention it deserves at the time of release. Set in the late 70s, it plays homage to giallo and uses a detective story as a backdrop to talk about love, freedom—especially sexual freedom—without judging any of the characters. It’s beautifully shot and has an outstanding soundtrack.
Les yeux sans visage (Georges Franju)
This film really haunts me. One of the most beautiful black and white films ever made, in which the use of masks and the obsession about beauty become a fundamental influence for Medusa.
Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Mysterious, tender and poetic, this film constructs its way through alternate parallel universes. The use of the landscapes and some of the hospital scenes influenced the conception of the comatose house in Medusa.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell)
One of my favorite musicals of all time. And maybe “The Origin of Love” is one of the reasons I decided to use Greek mythology and its imaginary as the basis for Medusa.
A mulher de todos (Rogério Sganzerla)
Rogério Sganzerla in this 1969 partnership with the brilliant actress Helena Ignez, constructs a film that is ahead of its time, subversive, authentic, and with a complex and free woman as the leading character – the infamous Angela Carne e Osso. Played by Helena Ignez, her acting is innovative and disruptive in a way that fascinates me.
The Stendhal Syndrome (Dario Argento)
What can I say about a film that starts in the streets of Florence and the Uffizi Galleries—with Caravaggio’s Medusas on display? Asia Argento gives a multi-layered performance, portraying a detective that is affected by paintings, by images, and overwhelmed by them in a phenomenon called Stendhal Syndrome.
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Anita Rocha da Silveira has written, directed and edited three short-films: The Noon Vampire (2008), Handball (2010, FIPRESCI Award at the Int. Short Film Festival Oberhausen), and The Living Dead (2012, Cannes Directors’ Fortnight). Her first feature Kill Me Please (2015) was screened at the Orizzonti section at Venice International Film Festival, New Directors/New Films and SXSW, among others. Medusa is Anita’s second feature film.