Director: Jorge Riquelme Serrano
Cast: Alejandro Goic, Gaston Salgado, Paulina Urrutia, Paula Zuniga
Watch Chameleon online in the UK: Amazon Instant Video / BFI Player+
Chameleon opens with a brief and indistinct intro to an alcohol-fuelled night of lustful partying between Franco (Goic) and Gaston (Salgado). Then, we cut to a tranquil and picturesque beachside setting the following day. All is normal, as we’re acquainted with couple Paulina (Urrutia) and Paula (Zuniga). The women, in what appears to be a loving, committed relationship, are preparing to spend a final day together in the peace and quiet of one another’s company – until relative stranger Gaston turns up with a bottle of wine and an apology.
With the events of the night before hazy, the young man precedes to charm his way inside, encroaching on the couple’s precious time together. But from the moment he appears, all is not quite what it seems.
Despite a well-worked sense of trepidation, it’s easy to predict this Chilean thriller’s plot and within seconds you can guess what’s happened and what is about to. That said, it still doesn’t make things any easier to endure as a viewer.
Suspicion is aroused almost immediately due to Gaston’s shifty behaviour, but it’s hard to put one’s finger on what exactly is up: his puzzling motives run through the film’s core. Combine that with its title and you’ll constantly be questioning people’s reasons and reactions and looking beyond what’s shown on the surface.
As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that Gaston’s intentions are anything but pure. During Chameleon’s 80-minute runtime we see only these four characters and no one else: the idyllic locale offers some gorgeous, artistic shots and respite, which ultimately serve as a cloaking device for the depravity that takes place within the walls of the beach home.
While packaged as a drama-thriller, there’s an enormous amount of psychological horror thrown in. From the start, Chameleon misrepresents itself as a run-of-the-mill drama that transforms Paulina and Paula’s farewell day into something totally unexpected and grizzly.
Gradually, we learn the true nature of all our characters, as perceptions are shattered and an uglier side to human nature is revealed. The events that unfold are alarming and often difficult to watch; the sudden and graphic moments that may be relatively short in duration but are painfully drawn out for maximum emotional effect. Central relationships are explored and unravelled to skewer our own thought processes on how we react to violent crime.
Chameleon grips and terrifies, as Jorge Riquelme Serrano directs a methodical and foreboding tale of what drives a person to do what they do. While the slow build-up to a number of inevitable yet disturbing incidents works brilliantly, though, there’s little resolution or consequence. Therefore, it leaves you ultimately questioning the film’s message or intent. The events and consequences certainly offer an eye-opening spiral into the human psyche, but ultimately feel unsatisfying with a lack of clarity.
In a world of injustice, Chameleon does nothing to send you away feeling hopeful or upbeat. It’s grim viewing, zapping all possible positive energy by its final, eerie shot that breaks the fourth wall and concludes on a most chilling point. Chameleon could easily slot into the horror genre above all else, as you’re encumbered by a numb, cold feeling of regret and dissatisfaction that is arguably a sign of the film’s success.
Chameleon is available on BFI Player+, as part of £4.99 monthly subscription.