Masacre En Rio Grande 1984
aka Massacre in Rio Grande, Chacal 2, Caceria de un Criminal
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada, Cristina Molina
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So this is the sequel to La Muerte Del Chacal, which I reviewed a week back and gave an impressive four star rating. Many sites have both films listed as being released in 1984, which I think is slightly inaccurate (Chacal was 83), but either way, it shows that the producers were keen to maintain the intrigue that the first entry had generated and get a follow-up out as soon as possible. In order to keep up with the pace that they set, I decided to post a write-up of Masacre now, so you could enjoy full coverage of the series.
Chacal’s synopsis included a twist that had a huge impact on the way I perceived the feature and its follow-up continues to run with the ramifications of that revelation. So as not to ruin the surprise if you haven’t yet seen part 1, I’m going to refer to the killer as The Jackal (El Chacal). I strongly recommend that you don’t watch this one first even if it is, unfortunately, much easier to find. I’m so glad that I bought both on VHS together many years back and was able to see them in order.
Following from the events of the last picture, The Jackal survived the confrontation with Sheriff Bob and is picked up in the sea clinging to a buoy by a passing fishing vessel. Once on-board, he (gorily) makes quick work of the two crewmen and mutilates then dumps one of their corpses so that the authorities will believe that he’s truly deceased. He heads back to the abandoned boat that he calls home, befriending a generous vagabond called Old Joe that feeds and shelters him. Before long he’s back up to his old tricks and slashing anyone that he comes across. It’s left up to Bob to put a stop to him once and for all…
As I stated in my review, I think La Muerte Del Chacal is a solid slasher and much like Halloween, I knew would that it would be tough to extend that level of panache into a franchise. That doesn’t mean that Masacre is a bad movie, it’s just that it’s enjoyable in a different, somewhat cheesier, kind of way. The first instalment worked because of the subtle rivalry between the goaded Sheriff and the deadly killer. It’s logical that the screenwriter had run the emotional aspect dry and the attempt to rekindle it here just isn’t as effective. We get to meet Bob’s alcoholic mother who I guess was supposed to fill the void of the authentic bond that we saw with Muerte. Despite the fact that she’s actually quite an enjoyable character and plays a key part in latter events, she’s no substitute for what we had last time and they try a bit too hard for the same undercurrent of intrigue.
Another thing that doesn’t work is that Sheriff Bob refuses to believe that El Chacal is still alive and spends the entire movie aggressively confronting anyone that levels that hypothesis. It could be argued that psychologically he just couldn’t accept that truth, which would make sense, but in that case he should have been removed from the investigation by his superiors. This would have opened up a far more palatable plot pathway that we could have digested convincingly. Throughout Muerte Del Chacal, we had sympathised with Bob’s despair because he was such a genuine and moral protagonist. Watching him deflect clear evidence here and behave like a bimbo from a more basic slasher premise minimises the semblance of heroism that made him so popular. It’s kind of like Rick Rosenthal turning Laurie Stroud into a brother-adoring slut for Halloween II. It just wouldn’t have been the person that we remembered.
Despite these limitations, Masacre is still an entertaining stalk and slasher. Obviously aware that the level of quality had slipped a bar, to compensate, Galindo ups the gore factor with some audacious kill scenes. One guy gets power-drilled through the cranium and there’s a fast-paced triple machete slaughter of three English-speaking models. Their initial introduction leads to an absolutely mind-bending cheese-fest of a sequence, within which a group of six males break dance on stage in a strip club to a synthesiser monstrosity that sounds like it was helmed by an inebriated Jan Hammer. In fact, Nacho Mendez gave us many different shades of musical accompaniment for this movie that consistently interchange as the runtime lengthens. Juxtaposed together, they create a strange aura, because one moment we’re in the realms of Paul Zaza and then in the next it sounds like a clip from a seventies kids show.
The Jackal, who’s given a bit more screen time here, dresses in military fatigues and murders pretty much everyone that he comes in contact with. He doesn’t even spare the few that attempt to help him, which further demonstrates his malevolence. It would have been nice to understand his true motivations and maybe get an explanation as to why he feels the need to kill, because overall he ends up looking a little aimless. It’s hinted that his rage is genetic, because we learn that his dad was also a bit of a loon, but I still felt like something was missing. Sure, we know he wants to murder Sheriff Bob, but he gets various opportunities to do so and waits until the final stand-off to try. When a screenplay lacks the imagination to conceal the fact it’s been structured to fit, well, a screenplay, it can be a bit disheartening. I’m sure that the fact that it had to be written extremely quickly didn’t make things easier. With Chacal, it didn’t matter that victims weren’t given much of an introduction, whereas here, perhaps because of the lesser story elements, it’s a lot more visible that they’re rolled out only to be dispatched. This does remove a level of unpredictability from the overall package and dampens the shock factor.
I was speaking recently about Mexican slashers with Haydn Watkins and they’re an untouched pool that I really need to spend more time investigating. Aside from the obvious entries that are out and out stalk and slash, there are many Crime/Thrillers that include deranged maniacs (A Garrote Limpio/Atrapado con el Asesino etc). Masacre plays like one of those, because it has a drug bust and a lot of elements that were surely included to pad out the runtime. There were moments whilst watching when I felt disappointed with the quality comparison between this and it’s predecessor, but the totally freaky ending redeemed things and left me feeling satisfied. Taken as a stand-alone, Masacre en Rio Grande is a cheesy (and momentarily gory) eighties slasher. It’s putting the two together though that makes them a SLASH above the rest.
Además, si lees mi página y vives en México, me gustaría hablar contigo sobre la posibilidad de escribir reseñas o ayudarme para encontrar películas de allá. Obviamente yo os voy a pagar todo lo que puedo o podéis escribir algo en a SLASH above. Mándame un correo si estás interesado y nos vamos a hablar. Saludos
La Muerte Del Chacal 1983
aka The Death of the Jackal
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada, Christina Molina
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My review of Bosque De Muerte from a couple of weeks ago got me thinking. There’s no doubting that the best overall slasher films are from the United States. However, because America has also unleashed so many ‘challenging’ entries, like Curse of Halloween, Angus Valley Farms and Fever Lake, the quality percentage on average of their entire output has taken something of a battering. It’s unfair of course to compare a country that’s not far from quadruple figures with a country with only a hundred or so releases. My point is that Mexican slashers, in general, are pretty damn good. The few that I’ve reviewed on a SLASH above (Bosque, Trampa Infernal, Dimensiones Ocultas and Ladrones de Tumbas) are all well worth a watch; and La Muerte del Chacal is yet another.
Directed by prolific horror (and slasher) craftsman Pedro Galindo III, Chacal was arguably the first Mexican entry to truly show signs of a John Carpenter influence. Like many of its hermanas from south of the US border, it was unfortunate not to have garnered a subtitled global distribution deal and therefore remains barely seen. I noticed that there has been a recent DVD release, but from the listing I found on Amazon, it doesn’t look to have been dubbed or translated in any way, which I thought was a shame.
A psychopathic killer in traditional Giallo garb is stalking the local port and murdering anyone unfortunate enough to wander close to an abandoned ship where he resides. Sherif Bob is struggling to uncover any clues to the maniac’s identity and so he enlists his brother Roy to help him capture the maniacal assassin. Before long Bob become the target for the boogeyman and decides to set a trap to stop him once and for all…
I feel really bad for saying this, because I understand that the majority of my readers don’t speak Spanish. Well, start writing emails to Anchor Bay and the like right now demanding an accessible copy, because Chacal is an outstanding slice of eighties entertainment. Like many European and South American titles of the peak years (Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche/Shock Diversão Diabolica), director Galindo either didn’t recognise or care to display the subtle differences between the Giallo and the Slasher. The killer’s guise, shadowy presence and the in-depth investigation that follows him are all elements lifted from the Bava/Argento school of murderous motion pictures. On the other hand, the utilisation of the ‘have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and the inclusion of a lone female as the final target are trademarks of the Stalk and Slasher. In fairness to Galindo though, his addition also adds a few of its own unique ingredients.
I’m not going to tell you the identity of the boogeyman because it comes as a shock, even though it’s revealed quite early in the runtime. It was essential for Gilberto de Anda’s script to unmask its antagonist prematurely, because the twist adds a unique level of emotional involvement to the final stretch toward the finishing line. Galindo ups the ante by including a speed boat chase, an asylum break-out and a fair few murders that may lack graphic gore but are still smartly conveyed. Some structured camera placement makes the killer’s lair (an abandoned boat), seem creepily isolated and the fact that he is accompanied by a trio of vicious Doberman Pinchers makes him seem all the more indestructible. A few set-pieces deliver sharp shades of suspense and there’s no better example of this than the slaughter of a female and her mother in a spacious living room. Nacho Mendez’s score is at times reminiscent of the best of Paul Zaza’s work and when he’s not ruining it by incorporating weird sci/fi-alike tweaks, he compliments the overall atmosphere superbly.
Chacal was filmed in Brownsville, Texas and it’s interesting that the characters all boast English-language names, such as: Roy, Bob, Joan, Sally and Jack. With that in mind, it seems strange that producer Santiago Galindo didn’t explore a wider release plan with dialogue translations because the film could have been popular on external shores. Still, they must have achieved a modicum of success because a sequel was released within twelve-months that continued the saga. I’m sitting looking at a copy right now and thinking that I need to pencil a review for you all shortly. In fact, it’s being inserted into my VCR as I type.
I guess the hardest question for me to answer for you is, should you watch Chacal in Spanish if you don’t understand the dialogue? To be honest, I would say, no. It’s not that you won’t be scared by some of the stalking sequences and kept on the edge of your seat when the killer strikes. It’s just that de Anda’s script has invested heavily in adding an authentic undercurrent of shock, rivalry, despair, shame and sorrow to the synopsis that would be ruined without understanding the concept. I am cautious of making the movie sound better than it truly is, but I really bought into the idea of a hero that’s been thrust into a situation that demands so much more than personal sacrifice. It’s also worth nothing that Mario Almada does a superb job of bringing that persona to life. I’m so convinced of its quality that I’ve placed Chacal in my top 50.
Get writing those emails peeps. The power of the slasher fanbase got us My Bloody Valentine uncut, so let’s do the same here (I’m available to provide translations if the price fits ;)) haha
Bosque De Muerte 1993
aka Forest of Death
Directed by: Carlos Ortigozo
Starring: Jorge Reynoso, Sergio Bustamante, Alejandra Espejo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
It’s a shame that there are so many genre films that were never subtitled for English speaking markets. I’m aware of Turkish, Russian, Finnish, Croatian, South and Central American pictures that are solid enough to have achieved success in other countries. Titles like Trampa Infernal and Noche Del Payaso stand out because they inject a level of creativity without taking liberties with the original template.
I have seen some English language reviews of Bosque online but never heard of a subtitled copy, so I wonder if all of those authors were bilingual or there is a DVD available that I haven’t yet come across? If so, I’d be keen to pick it up, because much like my copy of the aforementioned Noche Del Payaso, this VHS is very worn and the sound and visuals aren’t the best. I’ve had some time on my hands of late though and so I watched Bosque with earphones and managed to get the gist of most of what was going on. It helped, obviously, that Spanish is my mother tongue.
Three couples head to a secluded cabin in some dense forest to spend the weekend enjoying themselves. The site holds a few memories for one of the girls, Sylvia, because she grew up there before her mum drowned in the lake and her dad disappeared. Before long they are being stalked and slaughtered by a killer in a rain slicker, but who could be behind the vicious murders??
Interestingly enough, the early nineties in Latin America saw an almost identical trend in horror production that had taken place in the cinema of their northern neighbours exactly a decade earlier. Whilst the slasher cycle was deceased in the US, the Mexicans and to a lesser extent, the Brazilians, were releasing some audacious pictures. This is one of the rarest of those entries, but it’s also amongst the best. It works by successfully mimicking the tone of an eighties slasher with perfection and accomplishing the tasty feat of being cheesy, mysterious, creepy and silly in the space of eighty-minutes. It’s also uniquely intriguing to see so many of the celebrated cliches rolled out so faithfully in el Español.
Director Carlos David Ortigoza leaves a lot of the runtime in the hands of his characters, but unlike the annoying geeks we see in most modern cycle inclusions, it’s hard to find something to dislike about this group. Our final girl Sylvia emits a positive nativity and innocent sexuality that makes you want her to prevail, whilst the macho Forest Ranger, ‘Jaguar’ (played by prolific actor Jorge Reyonoso) is a kick-ass anti-hero that you don’t know initially whether to love or hate. In an all action intro, he uses a rifle to shoot a wood poacher (?) that’s about to steal some trees and blows his leg clean off! Anyway, Jaguar and Sylvia had met 12 years earlier and shared a puppy love, which is conveyed by her discovering a heart that she engraved in a tree back then and Jaguar staring lovingly at a photo that he kept from when she was ten-years-old! (Not that you should find that disturbing in anyway at all).
Everyone is given hilariously OTT dialogue that ups the cheesiness and at times I found myself rewinding the tape to see if they’d really just said what I thought. A fine example is when one of the teens goes missing after swimming in a lake and Jaguar states with deadpan timing, “If he drowned, he drowned!” Also, in a manner that I’m not sure if was deliberate or not, it turns out the most of the deaths are caused by the inadvertently absent minded actions of victims being left alone by their friends. One hysterical chica, called Laura, literally pleads for Sylvia to stay with her in a room, but within two-minutes of our heroine searching for another of her (murdered) buddies, Laura gets an axe embedded in her forehead.
Another thing that I thought was intriguing, was how much of Bosque had been lifted from slasher classics of Mexico’s neighbours. The killer sports a rain slicker (Unhinged), looks on in ‘heavy breath POV’ through branches to survey his intended victims (Friday the 13th) and the kids pulling up in a van and being assisted by a Forest Ranger was reminiscent of The Prey. It’s not all freeloading though because Ortigoza includes some of his own gimmicks like the boogeyman throwing a decapitated head through the window to unsettle those he’s stalking. Also when his identity is revealed, thanks to some fine acting, he has a motive that builds momentary pathos.
It’s true that gore hounds and action buffs may get tired by the amount of time that it takes for the killer to get going (around sixty minutes), but personally I enjoyed spending a while with the cheesy antics of the youngsters and liked Bosque De Muerte. Quite why it hasn’t achieved greater success is beyond me, because it’s a really decent slasher that gets everything just about spot on.
Trampa Infernal 1989
aka Hell’s Trap
Directed by: Pedro Galindo III
Starring: Pedro Fernández, Edith González, Charly Valentino
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Rumour has it that around the time that ABBA – the multi-award winning Swedish disco favourites –’s star had reached its zenith, the band grew disillusioned with singing in English and yearned to perform in their native tongue. Soon after, problems began to emerge in the one-time-wed-locked-watertight partnership and recordings became less and less frequent. The band dissolved, albeit unofficially, in 1982 and pop lost one of its most celebrated artists. Although they have never admitted that there’s any truth in those rumours, the fact remains that ABBA would never have been so successful had they not adapted from their homeland. If you want to appeal to the largest money-making media market in the entire world, then you must cater for English speaking audiences.
It’s amazing for me how such a small island that’s located a stone’s throw away from the European continent could have created perhaps the most recognised, although not most widely spoken, language in the world. Everyone speaks a little bit of English; whether it be simply ‘hello’ or a common swear word – you’ll find someone that can assist you in that tongue almost everywhere. Pedro Galindo obviously didn’t agree, because Trampa Infernal was never subtitled for global consumption until it was released very recently on budget DVD. That’s a real shame, because it’s actually a decent slasher movie that’s a lot better than many of its genre buddies from across the border even.
The film launches in the somewhat unfamiliar territory of a pistol duel. Two unidentified characters are shown sneaking around a dilapidated complex searching out one another for the inevitable final showdown. After some suspense and a couple of near misses, one of the pistoleers, Nacho, emerges victoriously. Next we learn that they were only paintball guns and the two competitors are actually youngsters from the local town. He and Mauricio are fiercest rivals and Mauricio is always trying to prove himself to be better than his soft-spoken opponent, but as of yet he hasn’t succeeded.
Later that night, whilst the victorious gunslinger celebrates his triumph with his girlfriend Alejandra and his buddy Charly, Mauricio enters the bar and says that he has one last challenge for his nemesis. He says that this will be the competition that will prove to the town once and for all who deserves the uttermost respect. Nacho is at first reluctant because Alejandra warns him of the perils of continual competitiveness, but he eventually succumbs to the weight of peer pressure and agrees; much to the distaste of his morally superior partner.
They plan to head out to the remote region of Filo de Caballo, because recent press coverage has reported that numerous people have been butchered by what locals believe to be a vicious bear. Mauricio proposes that whoever murders the animal can be regarded as the greatest and he also promises that it will be the last battle that he wages against his adversary.
After visiting the armoury to stock up on weapons and ignoring the warnings of the elderly store-keeper, the group set out to the remoteness of the secluded woodland. Hunters become hunted as they learn that the ‘bear’ is actually a homicidal Vietnam vet who is still unaware that the war has ended and considers all humans as his enemy. What started as a competitive adventure suddenly becomes a battle for survival as they are stalked and slaughtered by the malevolent assassin.
I picked up Trampa whilst studying in Madrid from a Mexican student who lived in the dorm room next-door to me. I remember that the copy I watched was faulty and the tape ended about 10 minutes before the final credits rolled, which meant I never got to see the final scenes. I still own that VHS today, but thankfully I came across the budget DVD recently on Amazon and immediately added it to my collection.
Gallindo’s slasher is a surprisingly good effort that excels mainly because of its skillful direction and enthusiastic plot, which attempts to cover areas not usually approached by slasher movies. It is in fact so good that I was reminded of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Predator on occasion. There’s something about the way that the creepy-masked assassin jogs through the forest and stalks the panic-stricken troupe as they struggle to escape the maniac’s ability to blend into the wilderness
Despite Gallindo’s obvious awareness of genre platitudes (the bogeyman even uses a claw-fingered glove a la Freddy Kruegar), Trampa attempts to add something different to the standard template. Whilst the majority of the runtime plays by the concrete rules of the category, the final third heralds a significant step in originality, as the maniac arms himself with a machine gun and entices the hero to his lair for the final showdown. From here on, the film rapidly swaps genres and becomes almost an action film, which depending on your taste will either excite or disappoint you. The last slasher that tried to crossbreed the two styles was that shoddy eighties entry ‘The Majorettes’, which made a real mess of the combination
As is the case with many Latin films (especially Spanish flicks by Almodovar and Amenabar), Trampa has a subtle undercurrent of a moral to its story, which is conveyed successfully without being forcibly rammed down the viewer’s throat. Over indulge in the temptations of competitive masculinity and you may not always be the winner. It’s a sugar-coated point, but it’s handled delicately enough not to detract from the fun of the feature.
Trampa may be cheesy, but it deserves to be seen and recognised as one of the better late slashers. The killer looks great in creepy army fatigues and white Valentine-style mask and the attempts at originality just about work. It may lack the gore that most sincere horror fans enjoy, but it has enough in terms of suspense and creativity to warrant at least one viewing.
Final Girl √√
Dimensiones Ocultas 1987
aka Don’t Panic aka El Secreto de la Ouija
Directed by: Rubén Galindo Jr.
Starring: Jon Michael Bischof, Gabriela Hassel, Helen Rojo
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Part A Nightmare on Elm Street, part Halloween with a little bit of The Bogeyman thrown in for good measure, Don’t Panic is a successful crossbreed of those styles which makes for an entertaining ninety minutes of slasher frolics. Latin American entries are always good fun and they were very easy for me to find when I was younger, because my native language is Spanish and many got released in España, my country of birth. Titles such as Bosque de Muerte, Trampa Infernal and La Noche del Payaso are all audacious in their approach and on top of that, they usually boast gore and credible suspense.
In the outset we meet Michael (Jon Michael Bischof), our protagonist, who has recently moved down to Mexico with his alcoholic mother away from Beverley Hills and his unsympathetic father. He’s celebrating with his newly found friends, which include Tony (Juan Ignacio Aranda) – a smart-ass wise cracker – and the gorgeous Alexandra (Gabriella Hassel) whom he has the hots for. It’s Mike’s seventeenth birthday and as a present the gang have got him an Ouija board (Only ever really needed in moviedom if people want to get possessed or die!) and even though at first Michael refuses to take part, the gang force him to join in on one of their séances. They all gather round in a circle and join hands around an eerie looking candle lit table as Tony attempts to call up a medium known as ‘Virgil’. They make contact, but Virgil isn’t very talkative and instead lifts up the arrow to point it at Mike in a threatening manner. All of a sudden, the door flies open and in bursts the birthday boy’s inebriated mother who soon sends the group packing and Mickey to bed.
Soon after that night Michael begins to have strange dreams that an unseen psycho holding an ancient dagger is viciously murdering his friends. When it’s revealed that the teens are actually being bloodily butchered, he begins seeing premonitions of someone warning him who is next on the killer’s list. With this knowledge, he is forced to attempt to save them from the maniacal assassin. But who is it that is slaughtering the hapless group and what are their motives?
About two weeks before I saw this, I watched the more recent British slasher Long Time Dead and it looks as if Don’t Panic may have been the inspiration for that flick because the two plots are almost interchangeable. Director Ruben Galindo Jr. – who was also behind slashers Cemetery of Terror and Ladrones De Tumbas– has given us an unique picture, which despite sailing a tad too close to being an Elm Street dupe, managed to keep itself within the traditional slasher template. It makes a refreshing change when one of these crossbreed efforts actually works, because films like Girl’s School Screamers or Pledge Night have either pushed themselves outside of the slasher branding due to their OTT supernatural elements or just ended up a bit of a mess. Although It’s obvious here that the performances aren’t the best, what the film lacks in that area, it more than makes up for with a decent premise and a good dose of originality.
This was the full-uncut copy that I purchased many moons ago in Spain and it includes some tacky but effective gore effects that I really enjoyed. In one scene, a victim gets stabbed through the chin with a giant dagger, which protrudes through his mouth! There are also a couple of great chase sequences, which include a pursuit through a hospital that was vaguely reminiscent of Halloween II. The killer stalks in traditional slow-mo Michael Myers manner and taunts his victims viciously. You won’t get bored whilst watching, because Galindo maintains a good pace and even gives us the chance to play whodunit for the first half. He doesn’t spend too much time on the investigative stuff though and chooses instead to reveal the maniac’s identity early on, which gives us an on-screen bogeyman for the rest of the feature
For all its attempts at extremity and creepy horror though, Don’t Panic never manages to escape the dairy and is overwhelmingly cheesy in so many places that I honestly lost count (in a good way of course). For example Jon Michael Bischof spends three quarters of the runtime in a pair of groovy pyjamas and I must confess that I don’t remember any other movie ‘hero’ that has battled tyrannic evil forces in an embarrassing pair of jim-jams. Also watch out for a whole lot of incredibly silly dialogue that occurs during the character development bits, like when Michael and Alexandra head out on a date in the beginning of the feature. Even if the things that they get up to whilst out and about are comical enough (riding bikes and letting go of balloons simultaneously etc), nothing can beat the advice that Tony gives Michael when he returns later. He tells his buddy that if he really loves her he should ‘give her a rose‘, but not just any one mind, it must be ‘the magic rose’. He then walks over to a giant bowl in his room, places a towel over the top and then he pulls out a thorn covered stem and offers it to the confused looking character. What is this guy? A relationship advice guru..? Why does he have a bowl of fresh roses in his bedroom…? The mind wanders…
It’s been a little while since I’ve watched a slasher that I’ve truly enjoyed and this high-tempo Mexican extravaganza is a great roller-coaster of cheesy thrills. Don’t Panic may be too campy to be scary, but it has been put together with thought and it adds supernatural touches to the age-old slasher clichés better than most. Yeah, I honestly recommend this and it rivals the extremely good (and from the same director) Grave Robbers from 1989
Final Girl √√