Thursday, August 29, 2013

FOREIGN HORROR: Run From The Border


The quesadilla is a much more complex dish than one would think. While simplistic, it is imperative to correctly balance all the ingredients to create a very satisfying culinary experience. The same can be said of Mexican horror films and much of the other countries that create Horror South Of The Border.

Ok. So, that was a cheesy (hah!) introduction to one of the greatest contributors in the genre. It is a culture ripe with authentic horror folklore. According to legend, la Llorona is a Mexican demon woman that drowns children and el Cucuy fucking eats kids. I mean...Jesus! I feel bad for the little Mexican kids having to grow up with that kind of story to motivate them into sleeping. It is no wonder that such imagination flows so heavily into the horror landscape from that country.

My introduction to the Mexican horror came when I first watched Juan Lopez Moctezuma's Alucarda  back when I was about 13ish. It was actually called Sisters of Satan  back then...and, well...my hormones forced me to pick up the VHS tape because of that very title. I mean...seriously...how could you go wrong with a film called Sisters of Satan?? I was a little disappointed with the film, actually. It didn't really blow me away like most of the old Italian titles when I first watched those. It was a film that needed an older version of me. So, I returned it the next day and forgot about the film...until much later in life. 

I found the title again when when I was entering my 20's. This time...it was called Alucarda, it's original title, and the cover looked amazing. I was all about Danzig back then...so, the inverted red cross on the sinister looking girl was fucking metal, man! This time...I purchased the damn thing. When I brought it home and watched it...it all came back to me. However, this time...I fell in love with Tina Romero in the lead role. Because I was able to attach myself to her character, I was able to enjoy the hell out of Alucarda  in all of its satanic glory. To this day, the film stands among my favorites of Mexican horror cinema...opening a door to an entire world of great independent horror films. And because of my chance revisit of Alucarda, I purchased another Mexican horror film sight unseen. A film called Cronos.
 

Guillermo del Toro was completely unknown when he came out with Cronos  back in the mid 90's. And why should he have been known? Cronos  was his feature debut. The guy was making short films and directing television shows before that film. But, goddamn...I was fucking hooked! Cronos  brought a certain emotional investment to a pretty well-known premise. The vampire story. I felt for Jesus and his granddaughter, Aurora. The relationships in that film feel so genuine and del Toro weaves an interesting story of betrayal and an age-old battle between the light and darkness. I was a del life-long Toro fan from the very moment that the credits rolled on Cronos.

His American debut, Mimic, though superior to many other horror films at the time, was unfortunately fumbled by the studio. Forgoing his brilliant cut for a much more simplified version. Good thing the studio had the good sense to rectify that blunder over a decade later. Then came El espinazo del diablo...otherwise known as...The Devil's Backbone. My absolute favorite of del Toro's. While I love all of his films, and believe Pan's Labyrinth  to be a perfect fantasy/horror film and representative of del Toro's work at his absolute best...it is the haunting tale of Santi's revenge that stole my heart. I love, love, love The Devil's Backbone...mostly because of the eventual pay off after the amazing build up. But, I relate to all the characters in the film and I can't get enough of that genuine del Toro black humor that populates all of his films. Most definitely among the best filmmakers working in the industry today, Guillermo del Toro is a living legend who is also a huge fanboy...and he will continue to push the limitations of the genre.

 
Mexican horror is a unique blend of simplistic ingredients creating a very complex and heartfelt cinematic experience. Kinda like the quesadilla example that I gave earlier, it is the important balance of it all that determines the uniqueness of a horror film from South of the Border. I was a big fan of the recent We Are What We Are (Somos lo que hay) and the amazing authenticness that Jorge Michel Grau was able to ring from the story and all the great actors in the film. Midway through the film...I was actually blown away that I was watching a film about a family of cannibals. Fuck.

While not as prolific as some of our European filmmaking friends, Mexico still continues to create horror films that provoke the soul and manage to employ its scares from a deeper place. Hell, even films further south like the The Silent House  from Uruguay and Cold Sweat  from Argentina are creating fresh new takes on some of the usual genre concepts.

Beware, Deviants...horror is invading our country from South of the Border with no end in sight. And the best part is...we love it!

Here now is the lovely La Casa Muda...complete with no English subtitles what-so-ever...for your bilingual viewing pleasure...
 






Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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