Sunday, August 9, 2020

Muertes violentas (1990)

... aka: Violent Deaths

Directed by:
Miguel Marte

This three-part anthology has flown completely under the radar because it's multi-genre (there are two standard crime stories plus one horror tale) and it's not usually listed under the horror genre on movie sites (if they bother listing it at all). The first segment revolves around thug Asensio Martínez (Manuel 'Flaco' Ibáñez), who wants to give up his life of crime. Or so he claims. He's managed to get millions of dollars but had to leave a friend bleeding to death to get it. He's also fallen in love with a beautiful prostitute he frequents named Susana (Jacqueline Castro) and wants to marry her. She however is resistant and you can soon understand why as he's short-tempered and violent, screams at her, slaps her around and pulls her by the hair. Asensio promises to use his newly-acquired fortune to start a new life, buy a house, marry Susana and live a normal life. However, a (comically clumsy) police sting led by Sergio Sánchez is closing in on him. They manage to track him to his hideaway, where they surround the place and then... simply start open firing! I guess had any innocents been inside they'd have just been collateral damage. Asensio manages to gun down several and kill two with a grenade, plus forces Susana to shoot one of them. Then, using Susana as a hostage and threatening to shoot her, he's able to get to his car and take off. However, things take a turn he's not quite expecting. This runs 30 minutes, is rather talky and drawn out.

Story #2 features two men, Javier (Claudio Rojo Rojo) and his father Diego (played by Rojo's real-life father, Noé Murayama), who plot a bogus kidnapping of Javier's sexy girlfriend, Paulina (Nora Torrero). Turns out Paulina's rich parents don't like Javier much so he's devised this scheme to try to extort money out of them. In broad daylight and with lots of people walking around, they slip pantyhose over their faces, approach Paulina in the park, chloroform her and then throw her in the back of the van. They drive off to a remote house and then have a change of heart about what they're doing once Paulina wakes up. Still, they're at a nice location so why not just enjoy themselves for a few days, right? Paulina starts behaving strangely, including flirting with and then trying to seduce Diego when Javier isn't around. When Javier finds out what's going on, Paulina suggests they battle for her affections during a game of Russian roulette. Whoever wins gets her. Things don't pan out exactly as she's expecting. This runs 25 minutes and, like the first story, is talky and mediocre.

And, finally, we get to the horror segment. This is the longest bit by a hair and, unlike the first two tame segments, actually justifies the title! Beret-wearing mercenary commander Armando Diaz (Ángel Sancho) leads a small platoon of freedom fighters consisting of Carlos, big guy Alberto (Walter Fuentes), Peque, Eagle and the dressed-in-cut-off-denim-shorts-while-the-guys-all-wear-jackets-and-fatigues lone female, Lourdes (Lourdes Tapia), through the woods to a foggy, abandoned monastery with an adjacent cemetery. They're trying to escape enemy troops and make it to the beach. Seeing how no one appears to be around, they decide to take sanctuary there to rest. While the others are sleeping, Alberto wanders off and comes into contact with a demonic spirit floating around. Soon he's possessed and transforms into a flaky-faced, bloody, laughing zombie killer. He spits up foam, can disappear and reappear at will and has supernatural powers.

Clearly inspired by the Evil Dead, with lots of invisible entity POV shots stalking the cast, this has a great shooting location, takes place entirely during the day and contains some surprisingly gruesome moments sure to wake you up after the first two stories. A man gets a hatchet to the head, baby snakes erupt out of a gunshot wound and the zombie rips off a guy's dick and chews on it! During the most disgusting bit (yes, even more disgusting than noshing a dick), the commander becomes infected with snakes and then chops himself up trying to get them out, which includes opening up his own stomach and pulling out his intestines. As a warning, real snakes get killed here. One is chopped up with a hatchet while the man playing the zombie actually puts one in his mouth, bites it in half and then spits it back out! While this is nowhere near as good as ED when it comes to camerawork, special effects, inventiveness or, well, anything else, it's still fairly entertaining.

Most of the actors who appear as cops in the first story also play the guerrillas in the last segment. The opening credits cast list is either screwed up or they filmed a fourth story that was later dropped. There are only three female roles in the film though five actresses are credited. Abril Campillo, who's given third billing, is nowhere to be found and neither is Claudia Fuentes. I'm not sure what happened there. Director Marte isn't someone I'm familiar at all with though IMDb credits him with directing over 100 films, some under the name Miguel Ángel Martínez. The site only classifies five of these as horror but there may be more. For instance, this one's currently labeled a "thriller" when it really should be "crime / horror" so it's entirely possible some of his others may also not be properly classified. There are a lot of direct-to-video Mexican films, many of which were shot-on-video, that still need sifted through to see just what turns up.

To my knowledge, this was never released outside of Mexico and there's no English language version available. All that's available are bootleg DVD-R's sourced from the VHS.

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