Achoura (Achoura: La Nuit des Enfants) (2018) [Cinepocalypse 2019]

It’s only a matter of time until everyone begins to compare “Achoura” to “Stephen King’s It” mainly because they’re so thematically similar and share almost identical story beats. On its own, “Achoura” is a fine horror thriller that explores the loss of innocence, how fleeting innocence is for children, and how the past almost always catches up to us. As a symbol of the very heavy commentary is the rather spooky and interesting monster of the film, the Bougatate, that’s less a figment of imagination, and more a living darkness that devours kids’ joy, and fear.

Twenty-five years ago, four Moroccan kids exploring a condemned—likely haunted—house are affected forever, when one of them disappears under mysterious circumstances. After losing contact with each other as adults, the remaining three are reunited when their long-lost friend suddenly comes back into their lives twenty five years later. Together, they are forced to confront the terrifying events of their youth and fight a monstrous creature born from a horrible legend.

Talal Selhami’s Moroccan language horror film is a solid bit of genre fare that manages to dissect the ideas of childhood,  our all too brief childhood innocence, and how we can almost be consumed by cynicism and the pain of childhood when we become adults. The themes of childhood lost are about as heavy as any Stephen King novel, but “Achoura” takes some considerably interesting turns, all while spotlighting a rarely explored monster of Moroccan folklore. “Achoura” mainly centers on the three somewhat jaded and angry adults that have sprouted from their experience in the haunted house they explored as kids. When we meet them, they’ve not only managed to find little joy in life, but they’re also robbing their own children of their happiness and innocence.

This creates a situation where it’s admittedly difficult to empathize with our protagonists, but thankfully the writers keep us on the fence until the very end. If anything what bogs down the narrative is the foggy motivation of the monster, and why it wants the kids and the adults. I was also never too sure on some plot specifics like why some of the victims needed a mouth brace after confronting the monster. That said I thought the Bagutate’s design was unique and often times very creepy, and its stalking grounds are the stuff of nightmares. Despite the flaws, “Achoura” is a very good horror thriller with strong themes that will appeal to fans of type of emotional character fare about growing up and facing the demons of the past.

Cinepocalypse 2019 runs from June 13th until June 20th.