TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: GRAVE ROBBERS (1989)

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GRAVE ROBBERS aka LADRONES DE TUMBAS (1989)

Another Mexican horror from Rubén Galindo Jr. This one opens in Mexico at the time of the inquisition. The church’s executioner (Agustín Bernal) has turned against God to worship Satan and himself is killed by his own axe before he enacts a sinister ritual. With his last breath, he proclaims that some day he will return and finish what he started. In modern (well…1989 Mexico) times, a group of youths are robbing graves and stumble upon the treasure filled crypt of the monks and the executioner. They remove the axe from his chest and soon he is walking the earth once again, slaughtering anyone in his path, while searching for a virgin to complete his ritual. The only one standing in his way is local police captain Lopez (Fernando Almada), a descendant of the archbishop who originally slew the executioner, whose virginal daughter Olivia (Edna Bolkan) is exactly the maiden the fiend is looking for.

Fun and gory horror is directed by Rubén Galindo Jr. from a script with Carlos Valdemar. Much like their Cemetery of Terror collaboration, this flick is atmospheric, very bloody and very 80s. Galindo knows his tropes well and we get creepy old graveyards, cobweb filled crypts, fog shrouded churches and an abundance of well rendered gore. The plot is a bit loopy, with an axe wielding walking corpse looking for a maiden to knock up in Old Scratch’s name, but Galindo directs it seriously…but not too serious…and simply knows how to present the horror traditions well. The 80s fashions and electronic score give the film some fun 80s nostalgia, and even if it gets a bit silly, it is visually atmospheric and does have some very spooky moments, along with some gruesome kills. The undead executioner makes for a solid fiend/villain complete with supernatural powers and the cast are all fine for this type of horror hi-jinx.

Grave Robbers might a bit goofy at times and it’s story might be more silly than scary, but it’s the skilled direction of Ruben Galindo Jr that keeps it spooky and bloody fun. He is very aware of the classic horror film traditions and knows how to use those elements very well. The film takes itself seriously, but not too serious to not have a good time. The film is visually impressive and atmospheric, the cast just fine for what they have to do and the gore effects are abundant and well done. Another solid Mexican horror from Ruben Galindo Jr and another obscure title available on Blu-ray from the awesome folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) axes!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: CEMETERY OF TERROR (1985)

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CEMETERY OF TERROR aka CEMENTERIO DEL TERROR (1985)

Mexican horror takes place on Halloween night with a group of youths going to an abandoned house to party. In the house they find a book of occult rituals and spells and as a prank, decide to steal a body from the morgue and try to raise it from the dead at a local cemetery. What could go wrong? Of course, the teens pick the body of Satan worshipping serial killer, Devlon (José Gómez Parcero) and soon Devlon is back from the dead and slaughtering the partiers back at the abandoned house. The only person who stands in the way, as a group of young trick or treaters finds themselves in the undead killer’s path, too, is Dr. Cardan (Hugo Stieglitz), a professor who knows all about Devlon’s powers and might be able to stop him.

Flick is directed by Rubén Galindo Jr. from his script with Carlos Valdemar and while it is a hodge-podge of films we’ve seen before, it is spooky fun. Galindo knows the trappings of a horror flick, especially one set on Halloween, and fills the flick with creepy trees, fog, spooky old houses, tombstone filled graveyards and plenty of gore. There is a lot of blood and the FX are well rendered and Devlon is a scary enough villain along with his horde of zombies, which burst out of their graves in the last act. It’s nothing new, but is a lot of fun and is also very 80s. Part Spookies and part Halloween, this is an entertaining horror for All Hallows Eve, as long as you don’t mind subtitles and that the switch of focus from teens to kids, in the last act, makes the film more kid-centric for it’s finale.

Cemetery of Terror might evoke some flicks you’ve seen before, but is made by a filmmaker who knows how to have a good time with the familiar tropes and use the familiar story elements well. Dumb, sex crazed teenagers, reanimated killers, zombies, gore and graveyards are all put to good use in this tale of horrors on Halloween night. We have both kids and teens in peril and the Mexican version of Dr. Loomis racing to the rescue. It’s a good time Halloween horror from South of the Border that fits in nicely with any All Hallows Eve flick. Available on Blu-ray from the awesome folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) jack o lanterns!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 MEXICAN HORROR FILMS TO WATCH ON CINCO DE MAYO!!!

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Mexican Halloween horror Cemetery of Terror

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 MEXICAN HORROR FILMS TO WATCH ON CINCO DE MAYO!!!

The annual celebration of the fifth of May reminds us of all the wonderful things that come from Mexican culture…including some great horror films! So, without further ado, here are 10 Mexican horror films to watch on Cinco de Mayo!

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A ghostly boy from Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: MEXICO BARBARO (2014)

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MEXICO BARBARO (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Mexican anthology horror has eight short stories told by eight different Mexican directors and despite how intriguing that sounds, sadly the flick is a disappointment, overall. There are definitely some effective moments and there are some disturbing and spooky sequences peppered throughout, but none of the stories really stands out or grabs you as a whole. There is also a startling lack of variety in tone and telling, almost negating the effect that it is made by eight different filmmakers. Very few tales seem to really go anywhere and a couple of stories seem to just exist for the sake of being gross, vulgar or perverse…or all of the above. Maybe a lack of deep understanding of Mexican culture or folklore may have hindered the enjoyment of some of these tales, but a well told story should still make it’s point and have effect regardless of cultural differences.

As a side note…It was interesting in how women are portrayed in some of the tales. There seems to be some attempt at social commentary about the abuse and mistreatment of women in the final tale called Día de los Muertos, though earlier in the anthology that message is seriously contradicted when the mistreatment is portrayed in an almost gleeful manner such as in La cosa más preciada, about the gruesome loss of one pretty teen’s virginity by a strange creature. Not only is pretty Valeria (Sara Camacho) raped repeatedly by this horrid being, she is also vulgarly accosted by two vile gas station attendants earlier on. Her final fate almost seems to be played as a joke. Valeria never seems to be treated as a human being at any point of the story, even her eager boyfriend just seems to be concerned with getting in her pants. In other tales women are portrayed in a number of unflattering ways, too,  as either victims, bitches, killers, or murderous spirits…as in the film’s most effective story, Jaral de Berrios. In Lo que importa es lo de adentro, a mother is cruel and verbally abusive to her handicapped daughter while languishing affection over her son. Not sure if this is an attempt at some overall commentary about how women are treated or viewed in Mexican society or something that happened through happenstance, but it was troubling to see how women were portrayed by the different filmmakers or the implications of how they are viewed by their culture. I found this aspect of the film perhaps more interesting than the film itself.

There were high hopes for this, but, overall, it was a disappointment. There are some shocking and disturbing moments and some spooky bits, but the film seems more about violence, gore…which is abundant and well done…and some unsettling perversity. That would all be fine if it’s stories were more involving and effective, instead of just being violent, vulgar and gross for the most part. Perhaps a little more variety in tone and story would have improved this a bit, but the films could have been all made by the same director, which is the most disappointing aspect of all, as one hoped to see at least a few promising talents among those assembled.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 skulls.
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