Like Lord of the Flies by way of Yorgos Lanthimos, this bold, bizarro Sundance sensation takes the feral power struggles of youth gone wild to the misty mountains and lush jungles of Colombia.

The Guardian called Monos "Apocalypse Now on shrooms" - a fitting description even if there isn't an actual scene in the movie depicting our young soldier protags being ambushed in the middle of a mushroom-induced trip. Such hypnotic detours are frequent in the ace new thriller from Alejandro Landes, which owes a debt to William Golding's Lord of the Flies in its feral portrait of corrupted innocence. Here, our ensemble are not castaways but teenage troops, posted on a remote mountaintop to safeguard both an American POW (Julianne Nicholson) and a milk cow named Shakira. Without a lot to do, the group engage in bizarre rituals, hook-ups and campfire raves - at least until a tragic accident triggers a quick descent into chaos.

Director Landes offers little context about the surrounding conflict and largely avoids an overarching plot, instead springing unexpected relocations and role reversals on us at regular intervals. As a result, the film holds a clammy fever-dream quality, aided by DOP Jasper Wolf's sensory visuals and composer Mica Levi's superb score. This is one of the festival's most thrilling discoveries - a tense, off-kilter ride that never quite goes where you think it will. - JF

Colombia/Argentina 2019
Director: Alejandro Landes
In English and Spanish, with English subtitles
102 minutes/CinemaScope/R13 violence, offensive language & content that may disturb

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This screening will be held at the Regent Theatre, 17 The Octagon, Dunedin.

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