I wasn’t going to review London Film Festival’s New Order for The Horrorcist as it wasn’t overtly a horror film. However, it’s extremely disturbing and timely use of a social uprising in Mexico to stage a hyper-real nihilistic and bleak commentary on class, wealth and power is almost certainly one of the most horrific and harrowing things I’ve seen for quite some time.
The film opens with a long-drawn out sequence of a family wedding at a luxurious home in Mexico City as an incredibly wealthy family, and their equally as wealthy guests have gathered to celebrate the wedding of Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) and Alan (Dario Yazbek) blissfully unaware from the implied comfort of their lavish home and the false safety protection of their status that a riot has broken out in the city and is drawing near.
Then, about thirty minutes into the film everything is upended as the private wedding venue is assailed by the violent, uprising underclass and begin robbing, ransacking and murdering the upper-class revelers without discrimination, hesitation or emotion. As a spectacle this sequence is gripping, unbelievable and harrowing all at the same time. From the shock of the first initial gunshot to various reveal scenes of established family member characters being unceremoniously executed, it doesn’t relent.
As a depiction of the lower classes usurping the upper classes it’s a cathartic yet heavy-handed sequence but it does a pretty effective job. If the film had chosen to extend this scene or make the entire film the interaction of wealthy and poor during the wedding siege it might’ve been better for it. However, the violent uprising and the murder of the wedding party is over as soon as it has begun, making way for the film to truly get violent, nihilistic and bleak in ways we might never have imagined from that point.
That’s because Marianne and one of her family’s employees Christian (Fernando Cuautle) have made the mistake of showing kindness when they leave the wedding before the bloodshed starts to help another former employee Rolando (Eligio Meléndez) pay for his wife’s much-needed heart valve replacement surgery and find themselves at the whim of a the fascist and cruel ‘new order’ that has risen out of the ashes of the violence.
Marianne in particular suffers a litany of indignities and monstrous acts as she’s captured and taken to a compound run by nameless military figures that is full of several other captives. She’s numbered like an animal and treated like one as she’s tortured and raped repeatedly, many instances of which are graphically depicted on screen. Marianne and the others are being held there by this organisation as it awaits a ransom from the wealthy families for each of their prisoners.
There’s very little in the way of hope throughout the film, and every time a glimpse that the handful of sympathetic characters are going to be okay surfaces its only so that it can cruelly stamp it out and pull the rug out from underneath you over and over again. By the time the film has finished and the whole ordeal is over, you’re exhausted at the banal and unnecessary Michael Haneke-like nihilism of it all.
It’s easy to see why some describe this film as ‘Mexico’s Parasite’ however, where Parasite went to great lengths to create empathy for its characters on both sides of the class divide and humanize them to an extent, New Order isn’t really interested in any of that. In fact, New Order foregoes almost all character development, nuance or intricacy in favor of portraying a both-sides argument between rich and poor, the powerful and the subjugated, order and chaos resulting in a sheer disdain for human life. It’s distressing, brutal to the point of disengaging, but riveting in the same way that you can’t look away from a car crash.
It’s clear that director Michel Franco’s actual disdain is aimed towards the systems that govern us and bind society, the corruption and callousness of capitalism and the resulting feudal class system created by it, the futility of any sort of action or rebellion in the fact of it all and the coldness with which all of this regularly blows human life away without a second thought.
He highlights the fact that it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, kind or not, you still get swallowed up by it all in the end. It’s a poignant and vital message, albeit one that I don’t necessarily agree with or find unproblematic, but I’m just not sure if New Order successfully conveys it as well as it wants to, even if it is a film that I’ll likely not forget for quite some time.
Please check out our reviews for the rest of the horror films that screened at London Film Festival this year here