Not Quite Horror: “Pelotero” (2011)

Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There more than one way to watch a movie.

Pelotero (2011)

The Monster: The System. In day-to-day life, people often find themselves at the mercy of larger, more powerful groups of people. Aspiring baseball players in the Dominican Republic are no exception.

Able to sign contracts with Major League Baseball when they turn sixteen, potential ballplayers (“pelotero” means “ballplayer”) can make millions of dollars for them and their families. Because of this, many players lie about their age to increase the amount of money they make. Baseball has to identify and punish these offenders.

The Horror: What do you do when The System insists you aren’t who you say you are? In the documentary Pelotero, Miguel Sano is told they can’t confirm his age is 16, like he claims it is. He’s told he’s actually much older. He’s told he used the birth certificate from a child of his mother’s that did not survive. He’s called into meeting after meeting. A meeting with his agent is secretly videotaped so the family can prove to others what they’re being told in private. Pelotero may be a documentary, but it feels like a novel by Kafka.

The Shared Fate: As anyone who’s ever had problems with the law, a bank, or an insurance company can attest problems with The System can warp a person’s entire reality.

Watching Sano and his family have their identities redefined by The System, any member of contemporary society has to feel some solidarity. Whether a person’s gotten junk mail to a misspelling of their name to unscrambled miscommunications between insurance companies, most of us have been told by The System that our reality is simply wrong.

After the process drags on and Sano’s career in Major League Baseball is jeopardized by the investigation, the horror is not conveyed with violence or screaming. The horror lives in the frustrated, broken look eyes of Sano and his family.

Isn’t there a point, for all of us, when we fear losing the will to fight and simply become whatever The System says we are?

Additional information for this article was accessed at The American Society for International Law. For more information on where the real life Miguel Sano is now, check out friend of the author Seth Stoh’s Twins’ Prospect Guide!

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen