Poison for the Fairies directed by Carlos Enrique Taboada – review

Poison for Fairies is a 1985 Mexican, Spanish language movie directed by Carlos Enrique Taboada.

It takes place in Mexico City in 1965. Flavia is new to school and becomes friends with Veronica, who is a bit of an outcast. Veronica lives with her infirmed grandmother and a caretaker that looks after them. She is lonely and the caretaker tells her fantastical stories about witches. After they become friends, Veronica, who believes she is a witch, increasingly imposes upon Flavia to do activities, bring her things, or give her things. The demands increase as their games go from childish and playful to more harmful.

Poison for Fairies is a movie with complex characters and motivations. Veronica is a lonely child who lost her parents and is a little isolated from the world. She really wants a friend but doesn’t always know how to have that relationship. Flavia is a little more timid and Veronica exploits that power dynamic. Flavia too is alone in a different way. They do form a genuine bond even if their dynamics are off balance. One could even say they form a coven of two.

Historically, witch was a label given to those women who were ostracized and marginalized from society for various reasons (they were too smart, they were sexual, they had a certain look, they were not conforming to rigid societal ideals, they had different beliefs, etc.), which directly applies to the little misfit Veronica. Witchiness is also something that women try to re-appropriate into a more positive term. To embrace qualities like having agency, making decisions for oneself, being independent, and controlling one’s own destiny. This applies to Flavia who, by the end of the movie, will assert her own will on the situation by making a bold decision.

“Most girls learn to dissociate early, usually in early adolescence but really whenever we first notice the way our outfits and makeup or lack thereof can provoke reactions. Quickly, we adopt the daily, quotidian dissociation of getting dressed in the morning or prepared to go out at night, a process that involves stepping outside your body to see it from the outside, and dressing it depending on the occasion. We are witches, dissociating into fortune tellers, predicting whether an outfit will get us asked out, or taken seriously, or simply left alone.”

So even though this isn’t an explicitly fantastical or supernatural movie it is ultimately and thoroughly about witches, girls, women, society, liminal spaces, transgressive acts, and who gets to have power. The story is compelling and the child actors are fantastic. This is a kind of PG horror movie that works as a PG story that doesn’t hold back.

Poison for Fairies is newly released on Blu-ray as part of Vinegar Syndrome’s Mexican Gothic: The Films of Carlos Enrique Taboada set which additionally includes the films Darker Than Night and Rapiña.

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