This is your spoiler alert, the following article is loaded with clanging spoilers from The Old Ways that is currently streaming on Netflix.
The Old Ways is directed by Christopher Alender, plaguing viewers’ nightmares and terrifying their daily activities because of its extremely sinister and creepy premise. It deals with the old traditions of a Spanish-speaking Nahuatl tribe as they try to exorcise an American journalist who, according to them, has been possessed by a strange and dangerous demonic entity.
Played by Brigitte Kali Canales, Cristina Lopez is a journalist, originally from Veracruz, who is kidnapped after she visits La Boca, an ancient and mysterious cave ruins, despite repeated warnings from her local cousin Miranda. She is held captive by Luz and Javi, who believes that she has been possessed by the dangerous Postehki who feeds on “broken souls” and is thriving inside Christina’s body due to the immense grief she nurses inside her due to her mother’s tragic death in an exorcism.
She is fed goat milk and tries to let go of the pain by doing drugs that she hid in her bag. While she initially does not believe the old, terrifying-looking bruja Luz and her son Javi, strange occurrences begin plaguing Christina that convinces her about the entity residing in her. She tries to understand their old ways and traditions. Although she has long forgotten the past traditions of her people after she escaped to America following her mother’s demise, she is willing to help the people get rid of the demonic possession.
Christina soon realised that the demon had taken the shape of a little boy who kept inhabiting the house and appearing whenever she was alone. They perform the exorcism, which is a success despite Luz’s sacrifice.
However, Christina soon realises that the ritual has not been a complete success as the demon has crept its way back into Miranda’s body through the gashes Christina left on the latter’s hand previously. Miranda begins to act in an unusual manner, and Christina, who has lost one of her eyes like Luz during the ritual, detects the demonic entity present in her cousin. To close the gateway and help save Miranda, Christina as the new bruja, must carry on the exorcism without the help of Javi who has left the village, unable to cope with the grief of his mother’s death.
Christina smears her face with paint and blood and assumes the role of Luz. She taunts the demon and lures it out of Miranda’s body, knowing that the Poshteki is probably still lusting after her soul. As the demon falls for the trap, she grabs its heart and stabs it to incinerate the evil.
Gradually, as the new bruja, Christina begins to assume Luz’s role. In the final sequence, her boss Carson is captured and brought into the house just like Christina was, in the first scene. He tries to buy his way through and even tries to offer her drugs to be set free. Christina spies demonic possession in Carson, indicating that the Poshteki inhabits any and every soul who is vulnerable, making them the perfect target for possession.
Just like she was offered goat milk, she does the same and starts preparing to exorcise the demon from inside Carson’s body.
The film has been terrifying viewers due to the eerie atmosphere that has been dexterously created by the production team. With ominous sound effects, sudden jumpscares and an overall sinister horror looming large over the fate of the journalist bound in chains to the bed, the film is not just mere, mindless horror. It reflects the depravity that plagues our minds in general and the greed and curiosity that often leads to our subsequent downfall.
When Carson attempts to lure Christina with the drug, the demon finds a way to feast on his moral degradation and lack of ethics. Christina goes to the caves to search for something greater as the past trauma lies rooted in the same. As the newest bruja, devoid of the lust and greed for material possessions, Christina transcends the materiality of life and can no longer be used as a vessel by Postehki. Since the ending of the film feels almost like a time loop where Carson is stuck in a similar predicament as that of Christina’s, the filmmaker ends on an ambiguous note.
Will Carson be able to finally defeat his lust and hunger for power and wealth like Christina and defeat the demon? Or will he succumb? We are left questioning all this while marvelling at the brilliant juxtaposition of the themes of greed and lust against the greater context of horror, traditions and occult practices.
Watch the trailer below: