Fantasia 2018: LA QUINCEAÑERA Review – Gigi Saul Guerrero Brings Body Bags to LA QUINCEAÑERA

Starring Patricia De Leon, Veronica Diaz Carranza, Gustavo Gomez

Written by Shane McKenzie and Gigi Saul Guerrero

Directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero

Reviewed at Fantasia 2018

La Quinceañera screened at Fantasia Film Festival on Friday, July 27th, 2018.

No girl wants to kill, especially on her quinceañera. No girl wants people to die, especially on her quinceañera. But there is a movie where this happens, and you should see it, especially on somebody’s quinceañera. La Quinceañera, directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, begins pure but quickly becomes a spectacle of how love and leadership become blood baths and body bags.

It begins with Alejandra Santos (Mia Xitlali), who in a few minutes will leave her second floor bedroom to celebrate her quinceañera in her backyard. She sits. She looks through the window at family and friends below. It is time for her speech. She approaches the stage and begins thanking everyone for coming. Her father Reynaldo (Mauricio Mendoza), absent at the beginning of the speech, stumbles through the crowd, bloodstained and short of breath. Also, he is oblivious that cartel leader Chavo (Mathias Retamal) and his goons are on their way to greet the party with gunfire. They are in search of something, and they will kill anyone at this celebration who prevents them from retrieving their property.

La Quinceañera begins like a peaceful drama of a girl unsure about the next phase of life, but it rapidly shifts to Guerrero’s signature grindhouse fun. With majority of the gore spilling at a 15-year-old girl’s birthday party, I instantly identified this as one of the most jacked up places to ever have a killing spree. And the gore was more than gunfire. It included knives, chains, cars, coolers and even a wand. Horror action films full of bloodshed typically lose heart; however, La Quinceañera never suffers in that area.

Additionally, the film features captivating characters. Your infatuation with them rises or falls as their true nature surfaces in critical moments. Chavo, the first villain, owns the first half of the movie. He commands the attention from those who oppose him– and from anyone watching the film. Conversely, Alejandra begins as a quiet young lady but develops into a blood-spilling powerhouse out of necessity. Most likely, this oddity courses through her veins, especially after seeing her grandmother (Gabriela Reynoso) masterfully work on a few bad guys herself. From what I heard from other viewers, grandmother Abuela also stole their hearts.

I enjoyed the chapter format of La Quinceañera. It bookmarks the movie perfectly, offering a Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill vibe. Sometimes this format can be bothersome, but here it excels and bestows titles that intensify the viewer’s anticipation. I would only suggest a quick editing of a few transitions from one chapter to the next. After this, for me, La Quinceañera would instantly find a place on my shelf next to Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. The last chapter of the film ends on a cliffhanger with what I expect leads to a sequel. I want nothing more than to get that installment soon because I desire closure and more of Guerrero’s carnage.

Written by Shane McKenzie and Guerrero, La Quinceañera lures you to love characters and leaves you to long for them when they are viciously murdered. Though this storytelling format has existed for centuries, storytellers have adopted this much more since 2011. It has almost become a necessity that writers include this to create impact in today’s viewers. With this recurring theme, many viewers have become hardhearted, often reluctant to get attached to characters. But La Quinceañera plunges you into its story and controls your feelings for its characters, especially for the older generation. McKenzie and Guerrero excel in appreciating the wisdom of the older women. The film plays out almost as a battle of seasoned minds conveyed through the actions of the younger generation. Often, elderly experience is disregarded, but the writers put it at the helm of this story, showing strong women as the main leaders of these families.

I am looking forward to seeing more from this storyline and this director. Both will have a place on my shelf next to an empty spot until the series is complete. So you better hurry up, Guerrero and McKenzie!

Picture taken by: Julie Delisle

  • La Quinceañera


La Quinceañera excels as an entertaining and energetic grindhouse film with heart—which is something that is not easy to accomplish.



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