As I promised at the end of the latest article about extreme horror cinema, this month we take a look at a country that has given horror fans some of the most fucked up, gory, insane horror flicks: Mexico! I’m not an expert in Mexican cinema, but I love and respect many Mexican filmmakers: Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Amat Escalante, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Luis Bunuel… these are only a few who made some movies I truly consider to be fantastic.
Thus, I was really excited to watch and review five extreme Mexican horror movies. For this list, I took into consideration two films that were often recommended (Mexico Barbaro and Atroz), two personal contribution (The Untamed and We Are the Flesh), and one final film that’s been on my watchlist since forever (Alucarda). Without further ado, let’s take a look at these films and see how extreme they really are, in chronological order.
ALUCARDA (1977) – So far, Alucarda is the oldest film in this extreme horror series: often regarded as one of the best examples of nunspolitation (i.e. exploitation involving nuns) in cinema, I feel it would be degrading to call Alucarda an exploitation flick. In fact, I fucking loved this film. The story follows a girl who, after her parents died, is brought to a convent where she befriends the mysterious Alucarda and weird, creepy and sexualised things start happening. Is Alucarda the one to blame or are there supernatural forces affecting the convent?
You might wonder whether a 40+ year old movie can be extreme for today standards and, if that movie is Alucarda, the answer must be a clear “yes!”. It’s true that “everything went in the 70s”, which is why it’s my favourite decade in cinema, but Alucarda is truly gory, gruesome, relentless, sexually explicit and graphic both for its time and today standards. Besides what’s shown on screen, the anti-religious themes are very confronting considering this movie was made in the 70s in a highly religious country like Mexico. In my opinion, Alucarda deserves a place on an extreme horror list.
Aside from that, this is a fantastic film and I can’t stress enough how much I love it: I can easily say it will become one of my favourite horror movies upon multiple viewings. The cinematography and camera-work are marvellous and way ahead of time; the acting from the main cast is incredible; the special and practical effects are truly impressive; the score is magical and eerie; the story is captivating and its message is courageous; the atmosphere is quite unique, with a look and feel that reminds me of two of my all-time favourite pictures (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and Picknick at Hanging Rock) with its washed out colours and shallow depth of feel shots. Other than some bad ADR and one terrible performance (the doctor’s), Alucarda is a nearly flawless masterpiece that I can’t recommend enough to fans of exploitation flicks, great cinema, 70s horror and foreign pictures.
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MEXICO BARBARO (2014) – We make a huge leap in time for the second film on the list, a horror anthology that seems to have quite a few fans. Mexico Barbaro is made of 7 segments which, indeed, tend to shock and disturb the audience: however, the end result is a rather disappointing mixed-bag. All of the short stories have very cool and extreme ideas that involve gore, rape, incest, necrophilia and other taboo subjects. Nonetheless, the execution is often poor and sloppy, to the point that some of the segments come off as laughable even though the concept their based on is truly fucked up.
In short, I thought the 1st and last stories were the best ones. The 5th and 6th segments have potential but fall flat due to either budget restraints or poor production values. The 2nd and 3rd instalments are just laughably bad, to the point that they turn rape and incest into laughing matters! The 4th one, however, is truly disturbing and extreme: it’s not perfect and it requires the viewer to suspend their disbelief a lot, but it achieves in terms of extremity for sure.
If you’re looking for extreme horror movies, I guess Mexico Barbaro might be a good starting point, though I wouldn’t consider it a good film per se.
ATROZ (AKA ATROCIOUS, 2015) – This little shocker is a combination of August Underground found-footage and V/H/S-like anthology. Atroz revolves around the tapes found on a crime scene by a police officer: he examines them one by one, only to find the footage of gruesome actions committed by a group of deranged criminals. Despite being quite recent, Atroz quickly earned an infamous reputation in the extreme horror stage due to the insanely graphic and disturbing nature of the footage shown in the film: mutilation, sexual assault, murder and tons of fucked up content appears in them.
Yet, just as its title says, this movie truly is atrocious: as extreme as they are, the tapes found by the police don’t show anything we haven’t seen before in other disturbing films. Most importantly, though, the main storyline is very boring, poorly executed, terribly acted and stupid. All the characters are unlikeable, the movie looks bad production-wise and, on top of all, there isn’t a coherent narrative, so what you’re left with is just depraved fragments of guts and gore. If that’s your thing, check out Atroz. If you’re looking for a good film, though, steer away from this flick like your life depended on it!
LA RAGION SALVAJE (AKA THE UNTAMED, 2016) – From the aforementioned filmmaker Amat Escalante, director of two great (and disturbing) dramas like Heli and Sangre, comes The Untamed. This is a movie I bought blindly because I truly like this filmmaker and I heard it was going to be a remake of sorts of Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981), an infamous art-house and extreme horror movie which happens to be one of my favourite films.
In short, The Untamed follows a troubled family: the wife is sexually frustrated because her husband is homosexual and has a relationship with his wife’s brother. If this wasn’t messed up enough on paper, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing any of the sex scenes fully on screen… and, at one point, a giant octopus-like alien is introduced and it becomes a source of both pleasure and destruction for the family and the community, since all the women in the village have weird and bloody sex with it. This premise might sound perfect for a B-movie, but it is taken very seriously in the artsy and meaningful way The Untamed presents it.
This is a really good film, filled with interesting messages about sexual frustration and close-minded Mexican society. However, it doesn’t come close to the extreme impact of Possession: everything seems a bit too fabricated, whereas in Possession the genuine approach to the subject matter made that film truly impactful. On top of that, The Untamed promises to be very hard-hitting but it, actually, disappoints in that regard: unless you’re easily offended by sex, this is a movie that isn’t very extreme or disturbing. I would still recommend it, but at the end you might feel a tad disappointed and confused.
WE ARE THE FLESH (2017) – I actually already reviewed this film in 2017, where I stated I was never going to watch it again ever for two reasons: it was too disturbing for my taste and it left me very confused. Well, I gave it a second shot because, in my opinion, We Are the Flesh is a movie that truly deserves to be considered as one of the greatest examples of extreme horror cinema alongside the likes of A Serbian Film and Cannibal Holocaust.
We Are the Flesh doesn’t have a proper plot, let alone a linear storyline. We follow Mariano, an apparently insane man who lives alone in a disused flat after a sort of apocalypse happened. Until, one day, his place happens to be found by two siblings. Mariano offers them shelter; the offer, though, comes in exchange for some inhuman and highly disturbing acts brother and sister must comply. Upon watching it a second time, I must admit I wasn’t as shocked by the film as I was two years ago: it might be me getting more and more used to messed up shit; or it might be easier to stomach what’s in the movie once you get yourself prepared for it.
Anyway, for those of you who read these articles every month and are in desperate search of super messed up horror movies, We Are the Flesh is not to be missed: explicit sex-scenes (borderline pornographic) between siblings; close-ups on genitalia; rape, both homosexual and heterosexual; necrophilia; cannibalism and gore taken to the extreme. These are some of the things you’ll find in this Mexican shocker. However, I think I finally understood the meaning of this film, which shaped my opinion on it: I don’t think it’s just a pointless series of violent content, as I thought it was upon watching it for the first time. In conclusion, I finally decided to say that We Are the Flesh is actually a good movie, albeit not for everyone and not for the faint of heart. Check it out if you’re looking for truly extreme horror!
What did you think of the movies I covered on this article? Which ones tickled your curiosity and what extreme Mexican horror film did I miss? Let me know and I’ll see you in April, when we’ll cover the original six infamous Guinea Pig movies!
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