★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
This independent Chilean sci-fi/horror feature serves up gore galore and an intriguing approach that should appeal to fans of The X-Files and similar fare.
Directed by Patricio Valladares
Influenced by both The X-Files TV series and Cronenbergian body horror, Chilean offering Embryo (Embrión) lies somewhere between a narrative feature and a portmanteau film. The result is an intriguing, chilling, and often disturbing, if occasionally uneven, work with plenty of mystery and gory mayhem on display.
In the main story, Kevin (Domingo Guzmán) and Evelyn (Romina Perazzo) go camping in the Snowdevil Mountains, supposedly a hotbed of UFO activity. Evelyn disappears during the night, and Kevin finds her naked and covered in goo. When they visit a doctor’s office, impregnated Evelyn attacks and begins to eat the physician after some well-done body horror effects take place. The couple’s attempt to escape from the scene of the crime lead to other dangerous encounters for both them and those with whom they come into contact. The other stories, shot in cinéma vérité style, involve the misadventures of another couple visiting the area, a small group on a film shoot that goes horribly awry, and the family of a young girl who draws aliens that finds itself battling tentacled creatures.
Director Patricio Valladares originally intended for Embryo to serve as a pilot for a television series, but COVID-19 and budgetary issues caused him to have to change his plans, which led to the cinéma vérité/found-footage-style segments. The main segment boasts strong technical work, with the other segments having a jarringly different feel, especially cut as they are between sequences of the main story. The special effects and gruesome practical effects and makeup work are consistently impressive, however.
Valladares, who cowrote the screenplay with regular collaborator Barry Keating (the pair has teamed up for Downhill  and Nightworld: Door of Hell , with at least two future projects announced), ties up the different stories with an exposition at the beginning of the feature and a TV news report at the end. This greatly aids in making sense of the film’s attempt to build a cohesive world out of its patchwork pieces. Fans of science-fiction horror should find many enjoyable, eerie elements in Embryo.
Embryo screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s Digital Edition 2, which ran from October 21st–25th, 2020.