October 17, 2004

Mucho Queso Gracias!

I recently had the pleasure of getting reaquainted with old friends: Mexican horror movies. These were a staple on late-night TV when I was growing up, usually coming on after Monty Python and the bullfights from Mexico City.

"Mexican horror films are, without a doubt, the closest thing to a cinematic acid trip you are ever going to encounter." Keith Crocket - Cinefear Video

Like Japanese monster movies, there's a certain atmosphere and quirkiness to these flicks, a "feel" that is recognizable and (to me) much more accessable than the Japanese flicks. Keith Crocker pegs it with his definition: simplicity. These are no-frills, straightforward efforts. No tongue-in-cheek, no broad overacting, no subtle messages or morality plays, these movies are simply meant to entertain.

The movie that fired me up again is called The Brainiac. It was part of a three-movie collection I found digging through the WalMart bargain bin.

In the movie, a Baron is condemned to death by the Catholic Inquisition in Mexico. As he's being burned alive, he looks up and sees a comet passing overhead. He then proclaims a curse whereby he'll return when the comet appears again and wreak his revenge upon the court's descendents.

And that's just what happens, except with typical Mexican-style surreal twists. It's 1961 and 300 years have passed. The Baron doesn't just come back with the comet, he comes back *from* the comet, as a brain-sucking alien monster who can assume his human shape as the Baron, turn invisible and hypnotize people with his eyes!

That 'brain-sucking' description is literal, in fact, the medical doctor who does the autopsies on the victims describes it just so:

"Two puncture wounds are here at the base of the skull, and the brains are sucked out."

I love technical medical terminology.

During the movie, you see a lot of this monster, there's no fleeting subliminal glimpses here. Obviously, the makers of this movie are proud of the mask they created (it is pretty cool), so they show it often. You might think that he's got massive fangs to make those "two puncture wounds", and you'd be wrong. The monster has this giant dorky-looking forked tongue that flops out when he's about to kill someone.

And he goes about exacting his revenge, being the charming Baron to meet the people he later kills, and occasionally snacking from a bowl of brains he keeps in a locked cabinet in his castle mansion. Mmmmm, tapioca!

Just as he's about to feast on his last victim, two policemen who've been hot on his trail - sort of - show up and just happen to have flamethrowers handy. Bye bye Baron Brainsucking Alien.

I left a lot of plot out so's not to spoil it for you. The Braniac is a great introduction to Mexican horror, and an excellent example of the genre, but there's so much more to explore!

Here's a blip from The Astounding B Movie Monster archive:

Let's browse through the musty catalog of video categories. What am I in the mood for? There are B-movies. There are horror B-movies. There are Mexican B-movies. There are Mexican horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling WOMEN horror B-movies. That's the one! Just what the doctor ordered.
All of the Mexican Bs seem to star the same actors and were apparently all made by the same director, producer, writer and crew. More significantly, they all have essentially the same plot. (Mad doctor murders women. Wrestlers to the rescue.)

If you get a chance, these are fun movies to watch. Three of the best from this sub-sub-sub-genre are Doctor of Doom, Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy (one of my all-time favorite titles), and Night of the Bloody Apes.

Wrestling women Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell

"Well, I think we better be careful! Maybe that stupid mummy has fits, and undresses! Who knows what he has beneath his clothes?!?" - Wrestling Women Vs. the Aztec Mummy

Why wrestling? Well, wrestling used to be big time in Mexico. Like American kids dreaming of growing up to be NBA superstars, Mexican kids used to dream of becoming wrestling stars. In pre-WWF days, American wrestling was fun but kind of bland. Mexican wrestling, on the other hand, added huge portions of schlock Hollywood to its product.

A typical match: To the beat of drums, ten beautiful Mexican ladies in brass bikinis would come down the aisle, dropping rose petals and waving feather banners on long poles. Next, four brawny men in loincloths would carry a gilded litter to the side of the ring, and out would step - The Aztec God. He would slowly and majestically climb into the ring, where some of his bikini-clad maidens would remove his headdress and perform silly purification rituals with incense and more dancing and drumming. When they finally withdrew, the Aztec God would be standing alone in the ring, stoic, arms crossed, waiting for his opponent.

And what an opponent! The cameras would suddenly pan upwards as bright beams of light shined down, and a UFO flying saucer would hover down on cables, belching smoke and flashing colored lights as it was lowered, until it rested on the ground. After a moment, the door would open, and two beautiful Mexican women in silver bikinis would step out. They would lay out a red carpet and suddenly a bright light would shine from the doorway, illuminating from behind a figure standing there. The Alien had arrived.

When he finally made it into the ring, they'd have a regular ol' wrestling match. And when it was over, the next match would be announced, and it would be more of the same wonderfully tacky theater, maybe Doctor Love against Snake Charmer.

For more about Mexican horror films, I highly recommend reading this article at Cinefear.

I took some trouble to format this one a little nicer than the normal Rocket Jones post. Two reasons: first, because I can use the html and css practice, and secondly because I'm truly fond of these movies and they deserve a little something special.

Posted by Ted at October 17, 2004 12:20 PM
Category: Cult Flicks

That makes me want to go digging around in the Wal Mart discount bin myself! I love kitschy B-movies and I love Mexican TV shows, so these look right up my alley. Thanks for the pointers.

Posted by: JohnL at October 18, 2004 11:35 AM

Hey Ted - What a great introduction to a genre I never even thought of before. Thanks for the great links! Excellent!

Posted by: Liz at October 18, 2004 12:26 PM

Mexican horror movies? Who knew?

Posted by: Catt at October 18, 2004 09:59 PM

While not about Mexican B-flicks...
You mentioned a few cult flicks posts ago that you saw Lord of the Strings. Which was hilarious, I laughed out loud throughout the whole thing. You might want to check out Misty Mundae's latest offering "Bite Me!" which has much better production values and comes in more in the classic Scream Queen B-movie genre. Funny, boobies, quirky, boobies, cheesy special effects, boobies, obvious use of minatures made to look larger then life size, and did I mention boobies?

Posted by: Kin at October 20, 2004 11:21 AM
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