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Anhell69 is a Heartbreaking Meditation Out of Colombia

Theo Montoya’s Anhell69, which played at SXSW, is a horror movie, a documentary, and a sad exploration of urban hopelessness all at once. 

Colombian filmmaker Theo Montoya’s Anhell69 doesn’t look like any other movie I’ve ever seen. A Venice Film Festival premiere last year that played this month at both South by Southwest and the True/False Film Fest, the film is many things at once: A horror movie, a documentary, a memoir, and an examination of urban horrors in Medellin, Colombia. 

Montoya’s film, just 72 minutes, mashes together all of those ideas and does so very well. And the film is very bleak and, at times, quite beautiful. 

Anhell69 begins with a funeral hearse driving around Medellin, the Colombian city synonymous with the drug cartel of the same name and very much remembered that way in the popular imagination (Montoya shares that he was born just a year before Pablo Escobar died.) It soon begins clear that the filmmaker is presenting himself as a corpse. 

Eventually, what the filmmaker is doing becomes clear. Montoya set out to make a dystopian zombie movie set in Colombia, in which the premise is that people are having sex with ghosts. (“Spectrophiles” is the name for humans who are into that sort of thing) 

Anhell69
Image: SXSW

But Montoya’s lead actor, Camilo Najar, who had also starred in his previous film, died early on production at the age of 21— Anhell69 was his Instagram handle —  scuttling the plans.

And as it turns out, Najar was one of an incredible eight people in the film who have since passed away, primarily either to drugs, suicide, or street violence. 

So instead, in between material meant to be part of the zombie movie, there are numerous interviews in the form of auditions. 

Najar and other young people from Medellin, many of them LGBTQ, tell their stories. In addition to its violence, we’re told, Medellin is also a very conservative city and not particularly friendly to queer people. 

The rest of the time, Montoya tells his own story, mostly in meditative voiceover. There’s a great shot where he describes his childhood as the camera pans through his childhood bedroom, and a key revelation hits just as we see his picture of Britney Spears. 

 A co-production of four different countries (Romania, France, and Germany, in addition to Colombia), Anhell69 deserves wide distribution, although the plan for that remains unclear as of now. 

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

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