Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Alarido del terror (1991) [filmed in 1989]

... aka: Alarido Terror
... aka: Chaneque
... aka: Shriek of Terror

Directed by:
René Cardona III


Roberto Navarro (Hugo Stiglitz) takes his unhappy, neglected wife Laura (Azela Robinson) and little girl Gaby (Hugo's real-life squirt Sofia Stiglitz) out into the country for a relaxing picnic. Well actually he's primarily there to meet up with his wife's uncle, Carlos (Bruno Rey), and Carlos' sidekick Eladio (Rojo Grau) to look for a hidden treasure. Leaving his wife and child behind in the woods, Roberto joins the other two men in exploring a crumbling 16th Century monastery. They break down a wall with a pick axe and, finding nothing inside other than a skeleton, promptly leave. On their way out, Eladio snatches a few bone fragments and sticks them in his pocket. Immediately after leaving, everyone's chased off by an armed posse who are presumably there to protect the tomb from scavengers. A few men in the posse then go to where the wall was broken down and unwisely take some bones as souvenirs themselves. Because his tomb was raided, a big, centuries-old man-in-a-rubber-suit monster with big claws and fangs emerges to get his bones back. The creature slaughters an entire barn full of goats and quickly kills both of the posse members who stole from him, an entire family and a drunk who's outside taking a piss.








A forest-dwelling mystic named Colibri (Roberto Ballesteros), who seems to know pretty much everything about the long-dormant beast, is on the monster's trail... which isn't too difficult to follow since he leaves green slime everywhere he goes. Colibri is decked out to look like a samurai and they play pan flute music every time he appears, so you know he means business. The creature, called the "Chaneque" and played by Arturo Vencez, was a former monk named Ibar who's been cursed. Not content with simply having a monster on the loose and an easy-to-follow story line, about midway through the writers decide to ignore the set-up and make things as convoluted as humanly possible. Little Gaby is somehow linked to the creature and has been having problems in school because of it. She doesn't socialize much with the other kids, scares them with macabre stories and draws creepy pictures. The fact her parents hate each other doesn't help matters and leaves her more susceptible to possession. Colibri (who can telepathically communicate with the young girl) shows up to give Gaby a magic amulet to protect herself, but mum immediately tosses it in the garbage for no good reason. Chaneque then shows up. He makes knives fly out of a drawer, slaughters their dog and and makes Gaby levitate off the ground and spin around in circles. She vanishes and then starts whining for her parents in an echo voice exactly like Heather O'Rourke's after she's been sucked into the TV in Poltergeist (1982).








Alarido del terror develops an extremely confused mythology for its creature that seems to change from scene to scene. The idea that Chaneque just wants his bones back is dropped after 20 minutes when the monster suddenly stops caring. An elder mystic Colibri goes to visit says the monk's skeleton needs to be destroyed to stop the curse but nothing of the sort ever happens. The monster is also described as a primitive spirit looking for a means to enter our world who needs to possess someone to accomplish this. No one is ever possessed and, as far as evidenced in this movie, the creature has always been lurking in the monastery ruins and clearly has no issue existing in our reality since it kills about a dozen people there! And then we learn the monster lurks in a parallel universe to ours. A couple of characters even go there at the very end through a portal that miraculously opens up in a bedroom wall. There, they face reanimated vines, quicksand, tarantulas, the monster taking on the appearance of other people (including Roberto's dead mom a la The Exorcist) and other "horrors."






Aside from numerous American movies this rips off (especially - of all things - the lousy Charles Band production Troll), there's also an obvious and strange Asian influence at work here. The Colibri character, a scene where Stiglitz has a bunch of fireballs heaved at him and the complicated magic elements all instantly bring to mind Asian genre films of the 70s and 80s. The creature is said to be a gluttonous beast who loves wheat and sugar and things of beauty, so our heroes must make a large offering, cover themselves in mud and sea shells and then call the beast forward by blowing into a conch. Once the portal opens a pot of incense must be kept burning or else the portal will close and those who enter it will be trapped for all eternity. As needlessly complicated, confusing and dumb as all this all is, the film does have an enjoyably zany vibe to it. Stiglitz's character - who's usually beet red from screaming and arguing so much - is so unlikable it's almost impossible to root for him, though I guess he does learn not to be such a douche by the end. There's also a hilarious moment when the usually-conservatively-dressed wife character has to go to an important meeting at her daughter's elementary school and suddenly decides that's the appropriate time to dress like a streetwalker in a skimpy all-leather outfit.






René III, grandson of René and son of René Jr. (both of whom were responsible for their fair share of schlock through the years), does the family proud with this one. He also was associate producer (along with Stiglitz) and co-wrote it. Veteran Mexi character actor Carlos East shows up in one scene as a detective, as does the pretty Edna Bolkan (from Cemetery of Terror) as a school psychologist. Filmed in 1989 but not released  until 1991, this was first issued in Mexico on the Video Alfa label. The only known American distributor (Million Dollar Video Corp.) carried just the un-subbed Spanish-language version.

★★

Muerte de un quinqui (1975)

... aka: Death of a Hoodlum

Directed by:
León Klimovsky


Here's your chance to see "El Hombre Lobo" play a human monster for a change. After a jewelry store hold-up that leaves two people dead, the violent-tempered, leather-clad, childhood-trauma-victim Marcos (Paul Naschy) and his more even-keeled partner Samano ("Paco" / Francisco Nieto) flee into the streets and are picked up get their getaway driver (Pedro Mari Sánchez). The men all work for white-haired criminal kingpin run by Martin (Frank Braña) but unbeknownst to his brothers-in-crime, Marcos plans on selling the jewelry to someone else. He learns the potential buyer he's lined up won't have the money for an entire month, so he decides to flee town and hide out until the two can make their exchange. Before he takes off, his girlfriend Isabel (Eva León) shows up and he insists he take her with him. He calls her a cheap slut and she makes the grave mistake of calling him a "son of a bitch." You see, Marcos is something of a mama's boy and keeps his dead mother's framed picture at his bedside; talking to it and confiding in it. In a burst of rage for sullying his mom's "blessed name," Marcos slaps her around, throws her to the floor and stomps on her head. The mean bastard knows how to make quite the exit.








With Isabel in a coma (she'll later die from the attack and be unable to help in tracking him down) and both the police and members of the criminal underworld searching for him, Marcos flees to a small village he'd lived in 5 years earlier. After shooting two motorcycle cops who start trailing him, he shows up at a tavern run by his ex-wife Irene (Mabel Escaño), whom he abandoned along with their young son. Irene isn't too happy to see him (she's since remarried Raphael [Lorenzo Robledo] and moved on with her life), but she agrees to hook him up with a hiding place if he agrees to get out of her life for good. Luckily, a couple; Marta (Carmen Sevilla) and Ricardo ("Henry Gregor" / Heinrich Starhemberg), who own a large, isolated house in the country, are in need of a servant. Because Ricardo suffers from a debilitating spinal injury and is confined to a wheelchair, Marta and their teenage daughter Elena (Julia Saly "La Pocha") have been overloaded with work so they could really use a man around. Perfect. Marcos stashes his car and the jewelry at a abandoned old home and then moves in with the family.








Marcos has frequent childhood flashbacks that attempt to explain his behavior. As a young boy, he caught his father in bed with a hooker so dad hit him over the head (causing to him to be deaf) and then stabbed his mother to death in a rage. But Marcos is not the only one with psychological issues. Lonely and frustrated Marta hasn't had a minute of happiness since her husband crippled himself after falling off a horse six years earlier. Full of bitterness over the accident and a terrible attitude to boot, depressed Ricardo is paranoid and distrustful of any man in the house and cannot perform sexually for his wife ("I'm a wretch of a man... a sorry impotent!"). He's also made sure his daughter - who still sleeps in a room full of baby dolls - has maintained her virtue into womanhood and hasn't had a chance to live a normal life or date boys. Marta's long overdue for some passion, just as Elena's long overdue for her sexual awakening. Thankfully for them, Paul Naschy scripted this (using his real name Jacinto Molina Alvarez), so nearly every attractive female in the film finds him irresistible. At least in this particular scenario - unlike in many of his more traditional horror flicks - it somewhat makes sense. Martin and his hoodlums eventually track Marcos down and lay siege on the home, which results in a few shootouts and many people dying.






I've seen this title listed on Naschy's horrorography numerous times, but it's actually mostly a straight drama with some bloody moments and various psychological unpleasantries. The story seems too familiar and is ultimately predictable, but the acting isn't bad, it's well-made and entertaining and the tension is nicely ratcheted up before the violent finale. It was one of many Naschy / Klimovsky collaborations. The two had also paired up for THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (1971), Devil's Possessed (1974) and The People Who Own the Dark (1976). Co-star Starhemberg (who'd previously starred alongside Naschy and León in the very bizarre THE PASSENGERS [1975]) was a wealthy real-life Austrian Prince whose family permanently relocated to Spain when Nazis were closing in on their country during WWII. He went on to act in and sometimes financially back a handful of movies; including three others for Klimovsky. Though not blessed with movie star good looks (then again, neither was Naschy), he's actually not a bad actor.






Never released in America (either theatrically or on a home viewing format), Death of a Hoodlum is an OK view for Naschy completists but I wouldn't go too far out of my way to see it. Both he and the director have done better.

★★1/2
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