It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Santa Sangre" is a throwback to the golden age, to the days when filmmakers had bold individual visions and were not timidly trying to duplicate the latest mass-market formulas. This is a movie like none I have seen before, a wild kaleidoscope of images and outrages, a collision between Freud and Fellini. It contains blood and glory, saints and circuses, and unspeakable secrets of the night. And it is all wrapped up in a flamboyant parade of bold, odd, striking imagery, with Alejandro Jodorowsky as the ringmaster.
Those who were going to the movies in the early 1970s may remember the name. Jodorowsky is the perennial artist-in-exile who made "El Topo," that gory cult classic that has since disappeared from view, trapped in a legal battle. Then he made "The Holy Mountain," another phantasmagoric collection of strange visions. And in recent years he has written a series of fantasy comic books, which are best sellers in France and Mexico. Now he is back with a film that grabs you with its opening frames and shakes you for two hours with the outrageous excesses of his imagination.
The film takes place in Mexico, where the hero, Fenix, travels with his father's circus. His father is a tattooed strong man, and his mother is an aerialist who hangs high above the center ring, suspended from the long locks of her hair. She is also a mystic who leads a cult of women who worship a saint without arms - a woman whose arms were severed from her body during an attack by a man. The blood of this saint is "santa sangre," holy blood, collected in a pool in a church, which the authorities want to bulldoze.
The church is pulled down in the opening moments of the movie, while horrendous events take place under the big top. While the mother is suspended from her hair high in the air, she sees her husband sneak out with the tattooed lady. The aerialist tracks them down to their place of sin, kills her and maims her husband with acid before he cuts off her arms and then kills himself.