Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pesadilla fatal (1990)

... aka: El intruso (The Intruder)
... aka: Fatal Nightmare

Directed by:
René Cardona III

With the passing of René Cardona III earlier this year came the end of the nearly-century-long Cardona family film dynasty, which started all the way back in 1929 in New York City with his grandfather and namesake, René Cardona. Born in Havana, Cuba, Cardona the First and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1926. Starting out as a film extra, the elder Cardona quickly moved his way up the ranks to become the very first director to make a Spanish-language film (1929's Sombras habaneras / "Havana Shadows") in Hollywood. After learning the ropes of the filmmaking business in America, he returned to Mexico in 1932 and became one of the most prolific of all Mexican filmmakers, churning out one title after another until the early 80s. Son René Jr. followed in dad's footsteps with over 100 directorial credits and Rene III (who started out acting in his father's films as a kid, often using the name "Al Coster") would begin his own filmmaking career in 1988, amassing over 80 directorial credits himself.

All three of the Cardona's also frequently produced, wrote and edited their own movies and made quite a few horror films between them. However, Rene III's output did not receive the same kind of international distribution that his grandfather and father often enjoyed. In fact, the only Rene III-directed genre film I'm aware of that received an English-language release was his 1989 haunted house film VACACIONES DE TERROR... and that didn't even occur until the film was nearly 20 years old!

The top-billed star here is the pretty Tatiana, who was born Tatiana Palacios Chapa in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but returned to Monterrey, Mexico at a young age, where she would start her show business career as a teenager. After releasing numerous traditional pop albums, she found her real niche in the world of children's entertainment and, to date, has released over 20 top-selling kid's albums, which have netted her over 9 million album sales, numerous #1 hits and five Latin Grammy Award nominations. In addition to that, she has hosted several children's TV shows and taken on the occasional film or TV role. Tatiana starred in this, as well as VACATIONS OF TERROR 2 (1989), several years before delving into the more family friendly / kiddie stuff.

Once an Olympics gymnastics hopeful, Marisol (Tatiana) had an accident on an apparatus when she was eight years old and has been blind ever since. Now a teenager, Marisol's affliction is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to her problems. While attending a Valentine's Day party, her father Ramón ("Victorel" / Víctor Badillo) gets into a heated argument with a shady, possibly mafia-connected man named Sergio Alatorre (Guillermo Buigas), who's also his "business partner," though it never tells us just what business that is. Gossips at the party suspect that Ramón has been having an affair with Sergio's much-younger sexpot wife Vera (Patricia Álvarez), whom the gossips claim "sleeps with everything that crosses her path." After leaving the party, Ramón stays up late to work on their car and ends up getting slashed to death in the garage. And, just in case you were wondering about the title and how it brings to mind another famous film, the killer's weapon of choice is a Freddy-like clawed glove.

Marisol, who found her dad's body and heard the sound of the metal nails of the glove clinking together, hears that same sound at her father's funeral and freaks out. Heading up the investigation is Lieutenant Javier (Arsenio Campos), who gets to work right away questioning everyone who attended the party... though it probably would have been far more polite and professional of him to wait until AFTER the memorial service to start drilling everyone in sight! Javier goes to his friend, Dr. Edgar Santos (José Manuel Fernández), a psychiatrist and criminologist, for help. Edgar hatches a plan to hypnotize Marisol, which may unlock parts of her memory that were trauma-blocked the night her father was killed. Even though their session provides no additional information, it does provide Edgar with the info he really wants: Marisol's phone number! Some more of that strictly professional behavior for ya.

The psycho then starts terrorizing Marisol at home. They sneak in and move furniture around so she'll trip over it, clink the nails of the glove together and grab and scratch her. Even cops posted outside the home 24 / 7 aren't able to stop the person from gaining entry. Because no one actually has to contend with the intruder aside from our heroine, the shrink, cops and even her own family start to doubt her sanity. As not to worry her, she starts hiding things from her frequently-absent mother, Magdalena (Nuria Bages), and convinces their maid / nanny, Lupe (Alicia del Lago), not to inform her mom she's been having encounters with the psycho. Lupe is eventually sent out of town to care for her ailing mother, leaving Marisol alone a large chunk of the time.

Meanwhile, Vera strips down to a lace teddy and stockings to seduce her husband's bodyguard, Guillermo (Guillermo Henry). The killer sneaks in, knocks Guillermo out, ties Vera to the bed and shoots her to death. He then places the gun in Guillermo's hand to make it look like he did it. Guillermo is then falsely arrested and charged with the crimes, though the real killer is obviously still out there and continues stalking and terrorizing Marisol. Whoever that person is, they have a sepia-toned childhood flashback to witnessing their own mother shoot and kill their father and his mistress to "save them from sin" and then committing suicide.

So this is basically A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET if you reduce the production values greatly and then take out the nightmares, the special effects, the body count, the comedy and all of the gore and replace that with a bunch of people sitting around talking endlessly, boring police scenes, gratuitous shots of feet walking around and the glove (which is only used to kill ONE person at the very beginning) and a lame killer reveal that's insanely easy to predict. This isn't incompetently made or anything, just really dull and entirely forgettable.

Pedro Galindo III, who directed the slashers THE DEATH OF THE JACKAL (1984) and HELL'S TRAP (1989), was one of the producers. This has been released several times on home video. There's a VHS from B&M and a DVD release from Imperial Films, though neither come with English subtitles. Fan subs are available, though.

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