And now for my third pick of movies that affected me most in this last year. Even though all three affected me for very different reasons, I did list them in escalating order of difficulty to watch. First, there was One Cut of the Dead. Second, the divisive Midsommar. Third, was the film that cut to my core more than any other recently, the amazing Tigers Are Not Afraid. When horror connects with something real and ugly in our current society, it rises to a whole different level. Tigers Are Not Afraid is not only a horrific movie, but it’s also an important one. It’s insanely difficult to watch. It rips your heart out and stomps on it. But it needs to be seen. What makes this film both so gut wrenching, as well as phenomenal, is that Tigers Are Not Afraid is about, and stars mostly, children. Orphaned children to be more precise. Orphaned children that are the victims of the growing drug war in Mexico to be exact. This film centers on what happens to the children left behind after so many parents are killed in a seemingly ongoing drug war. From the very beginning you’re thrown into a situation that most people have never even thought of. When there is no family left, and no money, and no one to help, where do you turn? In the case of these children, they turn to each other. Tigers Are Not Afraid follows a young girl who learns her mother has been taken by a roving gang of drug thugs, most likely to be sold into slavery. It’s devastating from the get go. She meets up with, and eventually joins, a rogue gang of young boys, who range in ages from 6 to maybe like 11. Together they help each other survive in the bullet-riddled Hell that are the slums of their former home. But what makes Tigers Are Not Afraid even more unique is that it isn’t purely horror, it’s also fantasy. From the idea that the main girl is given three “wishes” at the beginning, to the graffiti that seemingly comes alive, to the metaphorically haunting stream of blood that leads our main character to numerous bloody truths, it’s this fantastical aspect that makes this film intoxicating. Make no mistake, what you watch on screen is devastating, but it’s also a showcase of the human spirit. Watching these kids do everything they can to escape their situation, while not falling into the same kind of violence that their adult counterparts partake in, is gut-crushing but beautiful. Now, this film will not be for everyone because, point blank, there is violence against children. This film does not shy from the horrors of their reality, nor should it. This is exactly why this film is so important. It makes us all confront something that should be confronted. In a lot of ways, the tone of this film reminded me of The Babadook from a few years ago. MUCH different films and themes, but a very similar feel. Neither are easy films to watch, but both are emotionally resonant. After circling the festivals for a few years, Tigers Are Not Afraid is finally streaming on Shudder right now, and I highly suggest you check it out. It’s a powerful watch.