[Grimmfest Easter] EGO Review – A Queer Horror Film Exploring Isolation and Identity
Ego is a Spanish psychological thriller directed by Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas and written by Jorge Navarro de Lemus, changing how audiences view dating apps. Cortés-Cavanillas invokes fear by creating a tense atmosphere in a world that isn’t a far cry from reality. Amid forced isolation, people become desperate to connect with others, ultimately leading to their downfall.
The film follows 19-year-old Paloma (María Pedraza), who lives with her mother, Psicóloga (Alicia Borrachero), during the COVID-19 lockdown in Spain. She goes on a same-sex dating site to meet women in her area. While scrolling through profiles, she comes across a user with her photo for their profile. Paloma confides in her friend Jorge (Pol Monen), who tells her just to report the account, but she wants to take it a step further.
In an attempt to confront the user behind the fake profile, she creates a new account to match with them. The two exchange a few words before Paloma requests their number for a video call. When the two come face-to-face online, Paloma discovers the profile belongs to someone who looks exactly like her, a dopplegӓnger. The evil double concept is reminiscent of Daniel Goldhaber’s psychological thriller Cam (2018), where Madeline Brewer plays a cam girl who sets out to unmask the look-alike who stole her account.
Ego encompasses life inside the walls of isolation, mirroring the experience of many during the COVID-19 lockdown. Pedraza, exceptional as Paloma, is a queer woman struggling with her mental health. She expertly portrays the thoughts and feelings of someone forced into a lonely never-ending quarantined lifestyle. Paloma’s carefree personality slowly deteriorates throughout the film as she fights back against her dopplegӓnger.
In one of many scenes where Paloma breaks down and informs her mother of the situation, we watch Pedraza as someone completely vulnerable and desperate for someone to understand her. It was riveting and heartbreaking. I could feel everything the actor felt at that moment, which made watching the film all the more enjoyable. Her performance was probably my favorite aspect of the film by far.
The remarkable cinematography also added to the viewing experience. The editing was clean when it came to transitions. The events of the film span a week, and each time it changed over to a new day, the screen would go black and show what day it was in Spanish. The subtitles were well-done and in perfect time with the film, which is a credit to the exceptional editing. In addition to this, I found the setting interesting as I got to see a snippet of how Spain was at the beginning of the pandemic.
Furthermore, the score by composer Carlos M. Jara paired well with the film’s suspenseful moments. There was a particular jumpscare where from absolute silence, there is a quick crescendo of music that compels us to react physically. The moment caught me off guard in a good way.