Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Rey Misterio, Leyla Milani, Jeremy Radin, Adam Huss, Margaret Scarborough, Zack Bennett, Catherine Wreford, Irwin Keyes
Written & Directed by Jesse Baget
As hardcore Mexican pro wrestling fan Steve will tell us, El Mascarado was an enormously popular luchador that legend says was the subject of a Frankenstein-ish experiment by the Mexican government to create the perfect wrestler back in the 1960’s in order to win the gold medal for wrestling at the Olympics (apparently no one bothered to tell them there’s a big difference between amateur wrestling and professional wrestling.) El Mascarado suddenly went insane in the ring and gouged an opponent’s eyes out. Never heard from again, the lunatic luchador was said to have been taken to the Mexican desert and left imprisoned in a walled-up ghost town called “Le Sangre de Dios,” where he’s said to still lurk today.
Yeah, I fully realize how idiotic that all sounds; the stuff really bad Troma movies are made of. But Wrestlemaniac is not Troma-esque in the least. It may have been made for a low budget but it doesn’t look like a cheap production. It may boast an outlandish premise but it doesn’t play out in an insultingly stupid manner. It is, dare I say it, a clever movie – a clever, low budget slasher flick with an outrageous premise. Wrestlemaniac is a breath of fresh B-movie air, a truly creative entry in a genre that generally suffers from a maximum deficiency of new ideas.
Though the basic mechanics to Wrestlemaniac will never be called original: attractive twenty-something’s broken down and trapped in an isolated location with a killer picking them off one at a time, this particular killer is a true original and it’s this killer and how he operates that makes Wrestlemaniac a damn good time. How many slasher movies have you seen about a masked killer that preys on a group of horny idiots, stoners, and nubile vixens? A ton. How many of them featured a masked killer that was an insane luchador (Mexican wrestler) who still, in his crazed mind, believes himself to be competing under the rules of lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), beating his victims to death with his bare hands and then – just as many big wrestling matchs in Mexico come with mask vs. mask stipulations that states the loser gets unmasked – rips the person’s face off and pins it to his wall as a trophy in much the same way collectors of lucha masks display their souveneirs?
A small vanload of budding filmmakers and starlets are heading to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to film an amateur porn movie. You got motor-mouthed braggart Alphonse at the wheel, a former film student living out his Boogie Nights fantasy, having decided porn is much more lucrative than trying to be the next Scorcese. Then there’s Steve, the Spanish-speaking, lucha-lovin’, Mexican-American cinematographer who looks like he could be the kid brother of Lost’s Jorge Garcia. Rounding out the amateur pornographers are the Jon Heder-esque stoner Jimbo, waifish stoner Daisy, who spends much of the film passed out facedown on the floor of the van, and a pair of buxom bisexual porn starlets actually named Debbie and Dallas.
Dallas is played by the quite flexible Leyla Milani, no stranger to wrestling having been a former WWE Diva Search contestant. She can now be seen opening briefcases on “Deal or No Deal” and I’m guessing “Deal or No Deal” required her to sign a morals clause given how she’s the only female in the movie who doesn’t get naked. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of chances to ogle her, uh, talents. The film clearly pokes fun at the horror movie cliché of a hot babe in skimpy clothes being chased by having her already clad in a tight white top and Daisy Duke shorts when running for her life, a chase that will come up with scenarios that cause her to get soaking wet and lose her shorts along the way. It’s almost coy the way it occurs, though the numerous random close-up shots of tight female buns throughout the movie are anything but subtle.
Other than standout Steve and Dallas’ ample bosoms (They most certainly standout!), these characters represent your usual assortment of lunkheads and bimbos typical to slasher movies. I’m willing to give them a pass in this case since the least of the bunch die quickly, all the actors are capable in their roles, and writer-director Jesse Baget’s screenplay manages to avoid the typical slasher victims’ pitfalls of making these shallow characters boring dolts or cringe-worthy in their obnoxiousness. There may not be much depth to the characters but they work just fine here.
Having taken a wrong turn and gotten lost in the middle of Mexican nowhere, the group makes a pitstop at a seemingly abandoned gas station that turns out to be populated by the prerequisite creepy old man who gives potential slasher movie victims an ominous warning they’d best heed. The great character actor Irwin Keyes plays a decidedly non-Mexican Mexican, the hermit who tells them of a shortcut they could take but doing so will lead them past the ghost town of La Sangre de Dios. He specifically warns them not to stop there lest they put their lives in jeopardy. Lucha fanatic Steve instantly recognizes the name of the town from the legend of El Mascarado and insists they stop and check the place out. They’ll do just that; breaking down the locked gates to do so and breaking down the van along the way, too. Alphonse will decide this dusty ghost town is a great place to shoot their porn flick. It also turns out to be a great place to get beaten to death by a psychopathic ex-wrestler.
This could have easily played out like any other routine slasher flick, and for a few waning moments here and there it feels like just that. But once El Mascarado starts fatally grappling with them and tearing their faces off in triumph, it becomes apparent that Wrestlemaniac is not your typical hack & slash slasher flick. Jesse Baget has crafted a fresh slasher flick that combines humor and horror with an eccentric psycho that neatly balances everything into a fun, tidy package – less than 80 minutes in length. It’s stylishly directed without over-relying on hyper editing, washed out colors, or the usual visual bag of tricks that far too many young horror filmmakers fall back on these days. Baget shows discipline, knowing when to go over the top and when to pull back, when to show you the gore in all its glory and when to leave stuff to our imagination; and with El Mascarado he’s got one of the most original movie maniacs to come along in a long time.
Played by real-life lucha libre legend Rey Misterio (uncle of World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Rey Mysterio Jr.), El Mascarado is stubby brute, under six feet tall, yet still a more imposing madman than the seven-foot Kane of WWE Films’ own See No Evil. Kane may be a more physically imposing monster but Rey Misterio imbues his masked madman with more personality and crazed menace than Kane’s Jacob Goodnight. Though El Mascarado may appear a bit silly, what with the way he runs around shirtless in black & white wrestling tights, his crazy eyes highlighted by the wrestling mask he wears, Misterio’s played a rudo in the wrestling ring long enough to know how to carry himself as a genuine threat, accentuated by the menacing ways Baget frames him. El Mascarado is one bad hombre and watching him manhandle victims is a hoot. What goes down during the confrontation with El Mascarado when they find themselves trapped in his personal lair simply has to be seen.
I’m reviewing the just released barebones PAL DVD of Wrestlemaniac (Originally entitled El Mascarado Massacre). I can only hope that an American distributor snaps this one up and fast. With all the uninventive, amateurish, and just outright horrible horror-themed crap that wastes space on video store shelves these days, a movie like this deserves a chance to be seen by the public. This is what WWE Films should have made with See No Evil. This is the sort of unpretentious, entertaining slasher flick that deserves to be showcased by the After Dark Horrorfest, not stale garbage like Dark Ride. It’s not a perfect movie and it won’t set the horror world on fire; just bloody slammin’ fun. Wrestlemaniac is the stuff cult classics are made of.
3 1/2 out of 5
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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