Back in 2002 I reviewed Vakvagany for Film Threat. The fantastic James Ellroy lent himself to the film to present his take on what is being displayed, and that is what initially drew me into it. What I saw, however, left me reeling ... sort of.
After watching this documentary, which consists of found footage of a family from the 1940s and current footage of the children, whom the filmmaker tracked down, you can't honestly say you know what happened to this family. You can't honestly say you know what went wrong. At the time of my review, eight years ago, I wrote that what you bring into it is what you take from it. For me, my distaste for humanity translated over.
I've seen the film once in eight years and I still think about it.
It's not that the images I saw were so disturbing. In fact, I can't really recall a single image, but what you see on the screen is totally open to interpretation (and different narrators, including Ellroy, do come to different conclusions). What isn't so open, however, is the fact that when these children are found decades later they are the product of a family gone wrong. That sticks with me, much in the way Just Melvin, Just Evil, another documentary about a family gone wrong (and shot here in Humboldt County), stuck with me (and everyone else who has seen it).
Vakvagany isn't nearly as well known as Just Melvin, Just Evil despite having Ellroy on board. It is just as horrifying, but in a subtler way. (There is no denying what went wrong in the case of the Just family from Humboldt County. The documentary makes it fairly clear that a man who engages in molestation, rape, incest and murder is going to destroy his family.) The hints of what may have happened, heightened by the viewer's own experiences and thoughts, means this documentary gets in your brain and stays there. It flits around, unnoticed for months at a time, until finally surfacing again and giving you pause to think. Powerful? Very. But now that my view on humanity is even worse than before I think I may steer clear of watching it again.
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