Thursday, October 1, 2009

Halloween Horror Challenge: Day #2

Day two of the Halloween Horror Challenge:

D. Rene Cardona III

BCI/ Eclipse

Full Frame

This 1989 Mexican low budget chiller is part of the now out-of-print Horror from South of the Border Vol #1 box set from BCI (which can be found at some close out stores such as Half Price books for under $10 as of right now. But it's sure to sky rocket to astronomical prices soon, so snap it up while you can, brothers and sisters!). Directed by the grandson of the great (well, to some) exploitation filmmaker Rene Cardona, who dazzled us with films like NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES, and then Rene Cardona Jr who fascinated with the likes of SURVIVE and TINTORERA. While those movies were cheap, sometimes nasty, silly, and always effective, this movie is cheap, never nasty, always silly, and never ever effective. Robert Rodriguiz talked a lot about the Mexican thrillers and action films he watched growing up that inspired him to shoot EL MIRIACHI and how thy were shot on shoe strings. This film must be the horror equivalent to those. Made exclusively for the South of the border market, this is a seriously impoverished production, but kinda charming in its own cheap and clean way.

The movie starts off about two hundred years ago with a witch being burned at the stake. While the locals all damn her to hell (and interestingly keep calling her a "wicked blond" though she clearly has dark hair. I wonder if the subtitles were just wrong?), the town elder arrives with a rather sinister looking doll and curses it. He throws the doll and all her belongings down a well and then sets her ablaze as she vows revenge. Cut to modern times as we see a young man named Julio being told this story by a man from whom he is trying to buy the amulet that was used in the story to curse her soul into the doll. Julio, being a student of the occult arts, trades the guy a Walkman for it and is on his way. Later we meet Fernando, his bitchy pregnant wife and three kids: two twin boys and sullen, single expression daughter Gabby. Seems he has just inherited a summer home and they are off to check it out. They pick up his sexy niece (she and Fernando exchange a couple of not very family-like glances once in a while) and her boyfriend, who is, you guessed it, Julio. After lots of bitching and complaining from the grumpy-ass wife about what a wreck the place is (and it is: THE MONEY PIT has nothing on this place) one of the twins climbs a tree and can't get down, because "the tree wont let him!" Soon Gabby's dumb ass falls down the well and finds the possessed doll and the action begins. Sort of.

The action consists of Gabby looking at the doll, the doll's eye moving to the left or right and the sexpot niece screaming at the top of her lungs. A lot. Occasionally someone with a slingshot from off screen will break glassware dangerously close to cast members heads to approximate the doll's wrath. Then the niece gets locked in a room with a bunch of snakes and rats! Remote control cars and toys crawl around on their own! Julio gets knocked down by nothing at all! Julio gets chased by his own truck, driven by a guy clearly hunkering under a blanket! The mom's unborn baby has a spastic fit that looks like a couple of cats are fighting under her shirt! Julio clearly tells his girlfriend how the amulet will stop the demon doll but the dumb bitch is too busy screaming to listen to what he is saying and he gets dissolved into the mirror! She has crazy poofy 80's hair and bright purple lipstick that for some reason I found kinda hot (flashbacks to my 10th grade year, I think). No one ever thinks to just bitch slap the little girl carrying the doll and then stomp on the damn thing.

Clearly made for about forty dollars, this must have been a hit because there was a sequel before the year's end! The weird thing is this is a completely safe horror movie. No gore, no nudity, not even any bad language. Nothing objectionable happens in the movie outside of Julio getting stabbed a couple of times when the demon doll tosses some knives his way. Kids could easily watch this flick. It is really too bad that someone like K. Gordon Murry isn't still selling packages of Mexican movies to local TV stations for things like Shock Theater afternoon TV because this would fit the bill perfectly. Silly, fun, not offensive and a horror host intruding once in a while would only add to it. But times have since marched on, so stop the DVD once in a while and pretend your favorite horror host has broke in with some funny anecdotes.

I could not find a film clip of this trippu nightmare anywhere, so we have to live with the trailer for Rene Cardona Jr's true crime sleaze masterpiece, GUYANA CRIME OF THE CENTURY instead.

Andy Copp

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