May Kryptic Army Mission: Cinco de Mayo!

On May 5th, 1862, General Ignacio Zaragoza and 2000 loyal men, fortified the town of Puebla and held strong against an invasion of 6000 French troops when they attacked the city. At the end of the day, the French retreated. It may not have turned the tables on the war against the French but it was a symbolic victory for the Mexican government and their people. So now on May 5th of each year, people of Mexican descent celebrate their heritage, remembering that great victory. Or for everyone else, to eat tacos and drink Tequila!

Bloody Vampire

What better time to celebrate those of Mexican heritage in the horror film genre! So here’s your mission: You need to find and watch two horror films that you have not seen before that was either produced in Mexico, such as Somos lo que hay (aka We Are What We Are, 2010), takes place in Mexico, such as The Ruins (2008), or was directed by someone of Mexican descent… like, say… Guillermo del Toro. Hell, I’d even accept the Spanish language version of Dracula (1931)!

GdT

Now let’s not get confused with our friends from Spain, since that country’s horror output is quite impressive. But Mexico has definitely made an impact on the genre as well. Plus, you could always go back to the ’50s and ’60s when they were cranking out those old black and white films, like The Curse of the Crying Woman (1962) or Braniac (1962). So I think you’ll have a lot to choose from.

Ruins

You have until 11:59pm on May 31st to find, watch, and report back on the two films you have chosen. Good Luck, Soldiers. Or should I say, ¡Buena suerte, soldados!

28 thoughts on “May Kryptic Army Mission: Cinco de Mayo!

  1. #1: The Curse of la Llorona (2019). I picked this one not because of any desire to see it, but because it was the easiest one to find. It seems like there have been a number of “Llorona” movies in the past few years, and while this may be the one with the biggest budget, that doesn’t make it good. We start out in 1600s Mexico to give a very brief telling of the legend, before jumping ahead to 1970s Los Angeles. Why 1970s? For no reason whatever other than to shoehorn this thing into the so-called “Conjuring universe” and like most of the films in that series, it relies on jump scares and bad effects. At least we don’t have the Warrens this time — though that piece of sh*t Annabelle finds a way to show up nonetheless. (If you’re a fan of the Conjuring films, more power to you, but they’re not my cup of tea.) Why Los Angeles? I think it was implied (though never explicit, as far as I can tell) that the 1600s Mexico and 1970s LA were one and the same. This could have provided an opportunity for subtle messaging about colonialism or something, but this was never done. Instead, it seems the locale was chosen so that the 1970s could involve a nice white family (lead by Linda Cardellini in a disposable role) rather than having to provide American audiences with subtitles beyond the first two minutes. I don’t know how this film played for a younger demographic that might enjoy these polished, shallow endeavors… but it was wasted on me. The only good that came of it was I looked up the Llorona legend to get a better handle on how bad New Line botched it.

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    • #2 Alucarda (1977). This is a movie that I’ve seen on so many lists that the poster became iconic, and somehow this lead me to think I had seen the movie. My notes said I had not, and now I can say my notes were correct. I would have remembered this film. At under 80 minutes, it is a fairly short film, which I actually see as a plus in most cases. But I could have handled so much more of this. We start out with two young women in an almost fairy tale like setting. This hooked me, as I love a good fantasy element when done right. They make the mistake of getting mixed up with a satyr / demon / Satan. And then for the next hour we get blood, devil worship, excessive gratuitous nudity (both male and female)… all the good stuff. The copy I watched had a very sharp image and the effects are simple but quite good. The blood looks right, and the blasphemy is almost shocking (I can only imagine how this played in a very Catholic country like Mexico). A major bonus, as Aaron Aubuchon pointed out, is the extensive sampling from this film in the Thrill Kill Kult’s “An This is What the Devil Does.” Love hearing the sources of Chicago industrial samples. (Another great film for this is Stuart Gordon’s “Pit and the Pendulum.”) A full A+ for this movie. Sitting at 6.3 on IMDb, I’m shocked… this should be much higher; a true classic.

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  2. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh! Another month with a frustrating objective. I have always been a huge fan of Mexican movies, and I have seen so very many of them. The past decade has given up many obscure titles which finally have been subtitled for us non-Spanish speaker’s consumption. And luckily, there were some new acquisitions, and one in my ‘to watch’ queue that saved the day!

    The Castle Of The Mummies Of Guanajuato (El Castillo De Las Momias De Guanajuato) 1973

    Lucha Libre to the rescue! Blue Angel, Tinieblas, and Superzan get involved with a kidnapping of a prominent surgeon. But this leads them to another scientist who is trying to attain immortality. You’ve got dwarf henchmen, kidnapping and torture, a musical number sung by a very well-endowed singer and plenty of the undead! And wrasseling! And plenty of it! It all culminates in a fiery throwdown in the scientist’s hideaway. This stuff NEVER gets old!

    Belzebuth 2018

    I went into this one, with only the knowledge that it involved possession. After a gut-wrenching opening scene where a nurse slaughters newborns in a hospital nursery, this one had me, and didn’t let go. It was a complex tale that was fully explained as we twisted through the labyrinth of horrors. More children’s deaths leads a detective on a trail of demonic activity that center around a mysterious ex-Jesuit priest who is trying to protect the third coming of Christ (that is not a typo) from the forces of darkness that are trying to prevent it. Lots of creepy atmosphere, a possessed carved wooden Christ on the cross, and a brutal exorcism are some of the wonderful things thrown at us along the way. I highly recommend this film. Creative and innovative, this is what most exorcism films can only dream of being.

    Bonus movie!

    The Man And The Beast (El Hombre Y La Bestia) 1973

    My crossover film with last month’s mission. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde south of the border style. Dr, Duval wants to separate good and evil in a man. Why? Science, of course! He downs a formula that turns him into the despicable Mr. Rail. And the nose on this guy! Second only to the beast in “The Man And The Monster”! Soon, he is addicted to the evil side of his personality, and can’t get enough of bedding beautiful cabaret singers, killing obnoxious drunks, and beating up young girls. He tries to give it up, but Mr. Rail is too powerful, and the change starts happening without using the formula. It all ends badly for Dr. Duval, but not after a wild ride for the viewer.

    Dammit, Jon! How about something a little easier for June?

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    • Just remember Bob, you’re not the only one struggling here! Last month it took me forever to find a couple of films as well, and I’m sure this month isn’t going to be too easy either. BUT…

      That being said, I love your determination to seek out some new films, and even going above and beyond this month! So kudos to you. You also picked 3 films that I haven’t seen before either so I do have some new titles on my to watch list!

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    • Hi Bob! I happened to catch Belzelbuth at last year’s Cinepocalypse and enjoyed it quite a bit as well. I especially thought the main lead actor Joaquin Cosio was incredible and I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t used him more (he’s probably best known as the secondary baddie from the 007 Quantum of Solace). Nice to see Tobin Bell playing outside the Jigsaw sandbox as well.

      Since you’re a big fan of Mexican cinema, I’m curious to hear if you’ve seen much in the way of this filmmaker I’ve stumbled across, Carlos Enrique Taboada. His name popped up when I was searching for “Best Mexican Horror,” with titles like Even the Wind is Afraid (1968), The Book of Stone (1969), Blacker Than the Night (1975), and Poison for the Fairies (1984). Are you familiar with his work, and are you a fan?

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      • Hey, AC! Indeed, I am a huge fan of Senor Taboada! I have not yet had the pleasure of viewing Poison For The Fairies, but the other three are superb examples of the kind of ghost stories that get under your skin, and don’t let go. They are moody, atmospheric, and creepy as hell! They are highly recommended!

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  3. RIDER OF THE SKULLS (1965) d. Alfredo Salazar (Mexico) (1st viewing)

    When Unrepentant Cinephile Jason Coffman invited me to a “virtual movie party,” with a group of us watching a movie together online, I had no idea who Alfredo Salazar was. All I knew was that Jason was screening a Mexican horror flick, which was exactly what was needed to fulfill this month’s mission. The flick in question, however, ended up being an incredibly entertaining and rollicking monster mash-up of The Mask of Zorro and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, with a masked rider pledged to “fight evil in all its forms” facing off against a werewolf, a vampire, and a headless horseman, all in neatly divided sections like the episodic serial it clearly started out as. Not sure if it was made for TV or the big screen, but it clearly wasn’t conceived as a whole, because each of the different stories has its own beginning, middle, and end. Not only that, characters disappear without explanation, costumes undergo radical design changes, and even the time periods fluctuate from the wild west of the 1880s to the 1960s with modern automobiles and motorcycles!

    Which brings us back to screenwriter Alfredo Salazar, behind the camera for the first time (and in front, Hitchcock-style, serving as the vampire’s first victim). Who is Alfredo Salazar, you ask? He’s none other than the man who scripted myriad fright flicks from across the border, ranging from the Aztec Mummy outings of the late 1950s to The World of the Vampires (1961) to several lucha libre monster flicks featuring Santo, Blue Demon, and others. Hell, he even co-wrote La Bruja (1954), which served as my Army mission in April! The guy is an unsung legend and deserves a lot more love.

    SANTO VS. THE ZOMBIES (1962) d. Benito Alazraki (Mexico) (1st viewing)

    Speaking of Lucha Libre features, this was the third Santo movie I’ve seen and I gotta say, I’m a fan. I love the fact that Mexican audiences just went along with the notion that this guy’s day job is being a masked professional wrestler and in his off-hours, he’s out there fighting crime (wearing the same duds as in the ring)! Turns out this was actually a rather significant feature for Santo in terms of his screen career, as this was his first starring role (his first two films he was the sidekick to the main hero, El Incognito) that launched a 52-feature streak and a subgenre in the process. The story is pretty basic, with an Evil Scientist controlling some beefy dead guys via their remote control belts, robbing banks, setting orphanages on fire, and kidnapping beautiful women. It’s up to Santo and the cops to track him down and solve the mystery as to who the bad guy is. (He also wears a mask, natch.) The scenes inside the wrestling ring are pretty darn great, which is a good things since the film’s “action” is muddy and the fight scenes outside the ring are way sloppy. All in all, it’s a spirited and goofy surreal romp that’s always fun and never boring.

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    • NO WAY. I just found out that Dagoberto Rodríguez, who plays the title role in Rider of the Skulls, also plays one of the main cops in Santo vs. the Zombies. (But of course I wouldn’t have recognized him because HE WAS WEARING A MASK.)

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      • Those Salazar brothers (Alfredo and Abel) were involved in a CRAP load of Mexican horror films of that era. Just look at their names on IMDB and start making a list! And the two that you watched, I haven’t seen either, so I’ve added them to mine!

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  4. El hombre y el monstruo (1959), aka The Man and the Monster – I had gotten this DVD back when Casta Negro was releasing all those classic Mexican horror films, but for some reason, I never tackled this one, so this month’s mission gave me the perfect excuse to knock it out! It is a shame the monster in this one is a little hokey because other than that, it had all the great trappings of those classic black and white Mexi-horror flicks. So much fun. And always great to see Abel Salazar running around in there somewhere!

    Santo el enmascarado de plata y Blue Demon contra los monstrous (1970) aka Santo and Blue Demon vs the Monsters – A couple of years ago at the Monster Bash convention, they played this on their Mexican Movie night at midnight on Friday. I had been up since 3am to drive out to the show, so I managed to stay awake for about 2 minutes before passing out. So I finally got to see the movie (thank you youtube) and really wish I could have seen this with a crowd. So much fun and just so crazy. If you’re a Santo fan, then this really is a must. Just had a great time with it.

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  5. What a great month this was for my picks! When Jon mentioned The Ruins as an example, I remembered I had never seen it. I think it got scathing reviews when it opened, but lately, for some odd reason, I’ve heard some buzz about it. I loved it! Super efficient and scary.

    Then, The Untamed was a real trip! Sort of artsy, but infinitely disturbing. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I watched it. It struck an emotional chord in me, too, about longing for happiness and then not being able to take it sparingly.

    If you’d like to read full reviews, I’ve posted them on one of my blogs. Thanks for letting me share it here!

    https://www.thereactionshot.com/post/reviews-the-ruins-2008-and-the-untamed-2016

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you checked out The Ruins. I really enjoyed that one and it is a shame it’s not talked about more often. Maybe this will help!

      Never heard of The Untamed but check out the trailer and wow! Going to have to check it out now.

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  6. Don’t be afraid of the dark (written and produced by Guillermo del Toro)

    Synopsis: A young girl comes to live with her father and his girlfriend in the old mansion they are restoring. Discovering a hidden basement, they accidently reawaken the dark fey that live underneath the house, who are looking for a blood sacrifice to their dark god. Preferring a child for the sacrifice they try to tempt the lonely child with promises of a secret friendship.

    Review: Evidently this is a reworking of a made for TV movie from the 70’s. I never saw that version so I cannot compare them but I can tell you what I thought of this one. The plot to the movie was intriguing with lots of little details that has distinctive Del Toro touches. (Tooth fairies anyone?). In addition, the child (which was an adult in the original) really did feel endangered and as always with Del Toro’s movies; on her own and ignored by the adults. I really felt this was a high quality movies with an interesting plot and some unique twists and turns in it. My only complaint would be the tiny dark fey (which are actually warped humans); while affective and creepy in design (looking like a cross between people, rats and scuttling insects), would have benefitted from being more hidden by shadows. For creatures who were afraid of light, they were very well lit in most scenes. Perhaps it’s my preference for “rubber suited” monster or prosthetics, and dislike for CGI talking, but much of what could and should have resulted in creepy and terrifying scenes just came across as action scenes. That being said the movie does deserve a watch. It’s just less creepy than it should have been. Its enjoyable as a compelling story more than a true frightful experience.

    Tigers are not afraid

    Synopsis: This is probably the bleakest movie I have ever seen. In a city that has nearly become a ghost town due to the murder/selling for human slavery of nearly every adult by the local gang, a group of homeless children try to survive the streets. This movie takes nearly every fairy tale troupe and twists it into a dark and horrific parody of itself. The girl who doesn’t know she is a princess and gets to go live in a mansion, 3 wishes, the animal familiar; they are all here along with others but not in their usual form. Anyway, the children draw the attention and wrath of the gang leader when one of them steals his cell phone which has incriminating film of a political candidate murdering someone. Turns out he is the force behind the gang. The story is told through the eyes of the children and includes many horror elements as well. But are any of these elements real? Seeing through their eyes; are the supernatural events, creatures etc. real or just the children’s imaginative viewpoint. The story is artfully crafted so we can never be sure if anything is supernatural or just how they see it. Everything that happens can be attributed either way.

    Review: I knew nothing of this movie but when I found it on Shudder, but found it was Mexican & knew it would meet my mission requirement. I was not a big fan of Mexican cinema (other than Del Toro) as most of my experiences with it have been a bit “out there.” with ridiculous elements that don’t seem to fit making for less horror and more unintended comedy (wrestlers fighting vampires?) Anyway, this movie is truly gritty and dark with a sense of despair in every scene. The “unusual” elements (such as moving graffiti) fit right in with the feel of the story and build rather than detract from it. I really liked it as it was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. However if depressing and unhappy movies aren’t your thing; you may not want to watch it. But if you like original movies, with social commentary mixed in with an unhealthy dose of grim hopelessness and despair, I highly recommend it.

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    • Hey Chris –

      I would strongly suggest you go back to see the original Don’t Be Afraid of the dark. Granted you’ll know the basic story, but it still really well done, especially for a made-for-TV movie. Besides, hard to go wrong with those M-F-TV films from the 70s!

      I couldn’t agree with you more about Tigers. I got to see that at a midnight show, not really knowing exactly what the film was about it. An incredibly well made film, but very hard to watch, only because we know that the situation those kids are in, is probably going on right now. It is a must see, but it will cut deep. Really want to have a crappy day, watch that and then follow it up with The Nightingale! Oof!

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      • I did try to find the original several months back but couldn’t seem to locate a copy of it. I’ll have to try again

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  7. I did try to find the original several months back but couldn’t seem to locate a copy of it. I’ll have to try again

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  8. Brainiac (1962)-I am really surprised that I’ve never seen this one before. I love black and white monster movies! I liked the design of the monster in this one with his giant ears and long forked tongue. I’m always curious how they come up with the designs for these creatures. I really enjoyed watching this one. It was fast-paced with cheap effects and an interesting story. I thought it was hilarious how the Baron had a snack cabinet for his cup of brains. That was pretty cool.

    The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957)- I didn’t like this one as much as Brainiac. It was slower and needed more mummy scenes. I did, however, like the luchador vigilante that helped everyone. That was a nice surprise character that added some flare to this movie. I also really liked the constant fist fights in suits and shootouts between all of the characters. I would’ve liked to see more detail put into the mummy’s costume. That was kind of weak, but maybe I’ve just seen too many monster movies.

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    • Brainiac is a classic and is so much fun! Like you said, such a great design and wacky as hell!

      Would you believe there is actually 3 movies in the Aztec mummy series? They play out almost like a serial. A little slow, especially when you compare it to the Brainiac, but pretty fun.

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  9. This was rather difficult considering we’re both pretty big fans of Mexican movies (especially of Del Toro.) So, we looked in different places than we normally do and dug a little deeper. (These themes of yours are really good, Jon. Have you been thinking of them over all the time since we last gathered?)

    Movie 1:
    “Amityville Horror 2: The Posession”

    It was nice to see Uncle Pauly from the Rocky movies in another role (besides “Back to School” lol.) But, I’ve never really been a fan of the Amityville series. Kind of one of those things where I find out the whole thing is a hoax, I lose interest in it. Especially, one that wrung the towel so hard on all of these sequels. A lot of the scenes were very reminicent of other movies. It had a “Poltergeist” and “Evil Dead” kind feel to it despite coming out the same year as those movies. The other scenes were quite forgettable. The abusive father arc felt shoehorned in and the incest subplot was just &*<%ing gross. I don't think I'd visit it ever again and it definitley did not make me want to venture into any other installments of the franchise either. Nonetheless, this movie had a great look, feel, and atmosphere to it.

    Movie 2:
    "Wrestlemaniac"

    Jeez. The only reason I watched this is because Rey Mysterio Jr. is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers! Credited as "Misterio" for reasons I can only guess tie into legalities from this production company and possible character rights infringments on certain Marvel characters.

    The above paragraph was more fascinating than the duration of the movie itself.

    We got your same TCM/Scooby Doo Quintet making a low budget porno in a van on the road. The film maker character reminded me of someone who might have met Rob Zombie once while he was having a bad day and based said character on that experience.

    The rest was your basic slasher with certain rules that the gang discovered right away. The fights/kills were very lackluster considering the type of choreography Mysterio does so often in the ring, whereas these were usually off screen or just awkward. Probably because of the limitations of physical abilities of the the other actors or stunt people.

    I liked seeing Rey in a film, even if it was as boring as this one. But, the real crime was leaving it open for a sequel. Despite my wanting to see the version of this film I had imagined (Remember when Roddy Piper choreographed the fight in "They Live?!") I wanted them to kill off his Luchador character, so I wouldn't be forced to watch a sequel that would more than likely be a watered down version of this uninspired, yet creative concept of a film.

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    • Thanks for the report, Erich, but I got to ask, what is the Mexican connection with Amityville II?

      As for Wrestlemaniac, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch this one when it first came out. And from your report, that was a good choice!

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      • Regarding Amity 2; Studio shooting was done in Mexico City for eight or nine weeks at Estudios Churubusco Azteca. I had to research why this kept coming up on lists of Mexican movies as well, considering the director was Italian.

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