On the surface, 'Tremors' is a story that has been told many times before: a seemingly perfect family man harbours a secret and by living his truth - being gay - "destroys" his family. There is a reason this type of film keeps being made and keeps remaining relevant, and it comes down to location. Sure, we've seen it in middle-class America and in Western Europe for year, but what makes 'Tremors' unique is its setting in Guatemala.
Guatemala is socially a very religious country, dominated by the Catholic and Protestant faiths, and although homosexuality has been "legal" since 1871 (right?!), due to the religious nature of the society it is still largely unacknowledged and objected.
This is where the 'Tremors' begins, as we find Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) at a crossroads between his faith and his family, his truth and his heart. Usually a film following this premise will come to its central conflict at the point where the truth comes out, with a taboo romance and lead-up to the inevitable truth bomb. But not 'Tremors,' which starts at the point where Pablo's family confronts him and leading on from there.
There is a very dark tone set from the very beginning and is carried through the whole film, both design and cinematography don't paint a particularly hopeful picture for the protagonist. The gravity of his situation is present in every scene, one his partner Fransico (Mauricio Armas) cannot shift, no matter how hard he tries.
There is one moment of the film that will stay with me for a while: Pablo, after his parents have equated his sexuality with pedophilia and banned from his children's school's and swimming lessons is desperate to see, speak or hear from his children. Francisco, after some carousing of the family maid, gets him a video message for his birthday. In this one moment, where we don't see and only hear the recording is a complete summation of all the character's motivations in one moment. Heartbreaking, for both Francisco, who is expressing his love for Pablo in the most thoughtful way possible, and for Pablo who is deciding if his personal truth should outweigh his family's happiness.
There is a very dark tone set from the very beginning and is carried through the whole film, both design and cinematography don't paint a particularly hopeful picture for the protagonist.
Sadly for us all, his family's happiness wins out.
The last 45 minutes of 'Tremors' detail some haunting conversion therapy, where Pablo both spiritually and scientifically tries to pray the gay away. There's no painted criticism in how it is portrayed, it's just there - stark and dark and void. Not to ruin the ending, but the final shot doesn't really allude to what is going on under the surface at all, for any of the characters. I was a little shaken, feeling like it was almost pro-conversion therapy. But maybe the criticism is a tacit nod to how we all know we should feel. A high drama that paints a grim picture of a religiously driven Guatemala, 'Tremors' is sure to leave you shaken.