Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Masacre Nocturna (1997)

This Mexican anthology movie features three very lightly connected stories. In the first, a strapping young actor does a Very Bad Thing to learn the secret acting and make-up powers of his very favourite actor. Turns out the secret is black magic, and murdering a black magician for his spell book never ends well.

The second story concerns the attempt of a quartet of criminal punks (oh, Mexican cinema, never change) to rob an aristocratic couple and their butler. But why are these aristos so damn sarcastic to the people with guns? And why is there a dismembered man in the fridge? Are these people from Transylvania or what?

The final story sees an elderly hunter (confounding action movie star Mario Almada) packing his nagging odious comic relief wife into an RV to finally hunt down the large, hairy creature - our hero prefers the name "Yeti" for it - he once encountered as a child.

By 1997, the Mexican genre movie industry had long since made the typical step towards generally indifferent direct-to-video material you can find all around the globe (at least that's how the situation looks from here; it may well be there's a deluge of great Mexican genre cinema of the era that never reached northward or eastward, though I highly doubt it). From time to time, though, someone like prolific director/actor/writer/producer Gilberto de Anda did (re-)stumble into the particular oddness that made up half of the charm of many a Mexican horror movie, and a film like Masacre nocturna appeared (I imagine out of a dry ice fog bank).

Of course, nobody conversant with my tastes or the sort of film to expect under these circumstances will be surprised to hear that Masacre isn't a "good" movie by anyone's definition: the stories are basic and rather stupid, de Anda's direction just not very interesting, and the jokes in the final two episodes - comedic and semi-comedic respectively - are particularly unfunny. This is a film that gets you (or rather me) by way of curious ideas and odd little moments, and not by being an effective horror movie or comedy.

However, if you're willing and able to appreciate a film for its sheer oddness, de Anda has quite a bit to offer. There's the bizarre decision to cast the young, jealous actor of the first story with a balding middle-aged guy (in fact, everyone apart from the thugs in story number two is at least middle-aged, even a band of "rapist indios" tend to the geriatric), the fact that everyone in the story speaks about the old actor's acting as incredible and his make-up as unbelievably realistic when he is in fact hamming it up like a champ, and his monster face looks like nothing so much as a rotting onion. Or the fact the police are absolutely sure the young actor is the killer of the elderly thespian despite their only clue being his fingerprints on a coffee cup (which isn't exactly the murder weapon). Everything in the movie is ever so slightly - or pretty damn heavily - off, as if de Anda (of course also responsible for the script) had never in his life stepped outside of his apartment, ever.

Further moments of greatness include the fluffy bigfoot, sorry, yeti costume, a gang of rapist indios who only seem to appear because Almada's annoying wife had complained of her fear of them three times, turning a bad tasteless joke into friendly lunacy, the adorable and friendly looking dog the werewolf in story number two transforms into (an inspiration for True Blood?), Mario Almada's romance with his friend Yeti (honestly, I would not have been surprised if the two had gone off into the sunset with each other, leaving Mrs Nagging Wife behind), or the sudden and ridiculous influx of bad gore effects when Yeti takes care of that gang of rapists.

"Delightful" is the word that comes to my mind as a descriptor here, so as "the delightful Masacre nocturna" the movie will be known forever more in my household. If you disagree, Mario Almada will complain about his lack of endurance, threaten you with a knife larger than his head, and stare at you disapprovingly.


Todd said...

I'm hoping you've seen De Anda's other "delightful" chronicle of aged cryptid hunters, El Chupacabra. If not, you simply must.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

I have not. That state of affairs has to change.