Sunday, 1 February 2015


No, not this guy.

However, you're not far off.
I'm a big fan of Mexicana. A few years ago myself and some friends watched a night of Lucha Libre in the Camden Roundhouse. Now, North London's trendiest tourist Mecca may sound pretty far removed from Mexico, but after drinking about a gallon of Corona, eating about a dozen burritos and chasing the lot with numerous tequilas and mezcals while a lively mariachi band strummed away, we were all pretty caught up in the South of the Border vibe.
And then the Luchadores arrived. Larger than life muscle bound masked men, performing spectacular feats of strength and agility, they were like real life superheroes. We cheered as honorable, upstanding Technicos (and a frankly fabulous Exotico) battled to overcome nefarious, villainous Rudos. It was absolutely awesome.
The masked men were impressive, mysterious and entertaining.
Which brings me to Luchagore Productions’ El Gigante. A short film adaptation of the opening chapter of Shane McKenzie’s novel Muerte Con Carne — this short is being used to  drum up support for a feature-length full adaptation. Will it slam me with a vengeance? Or is this one destined to go down for the count?


Directed by: Gigi Saul Guerrero
Co-Directed by: Luke Bramley, 
Starring: Edwin Perez, Arlina Rodriguez, Alexa Marie, Luis Javier, Mathias Retamal, Nisreen Slim, Devyn Dalton, Adelita Rockhill, Indiana Dean, David Forts

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short so I’ll try not to spoil too much, but read on at your own risk.

Armando (Perez) is a man desperate to smuggle himself, his wife Paola (Rodriguez) and daughter (Marie) across the border between Mexico and the United States. However, the vile Coyote (Javier) who has been hired to carry them across claims his meagre savings aren’t enough to transport all three. Reluctantly, Armando hands over his cash to buy a future for his family and swears that he will make the long and arduous trek across the desert to find them.
Later, exhausted and dehydrated after his journey, he stumbles over the barbed wire fencing and collapses into the dirt. Suddenly he is illuminated by headlights and a shadowy figure, Goldtooth (Retamal) appears and tosses him a water bottle. The parched Armando guzzles the water… then promptly passes out, the water having been drugged.
He wakes up on the floor of a makeshift wrestling ring, with a burlap mask stitched onto his skin. From beside the ring Goldtooth and his twisted, depraved family look on with an eager expectation as the immense and menacing El Gigante (Forts) arrives — then Armando’s nightmare really begins. 
What do the family have in store for Armando? Where did El Gigante get his blinging championship belt? And what in the holy hell is Chango?????

WHY IT WORKS: This short kicked my arse! It’s like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but if Leatherface preferred body slams to chainsaws. It’s short, sharp, to the point, yet it still throws a couple of twists AND hard-hitting shocks in there.
It has a wonderfully unique atmosphere, mixing an exotic Mexican funfair with a grimy, gore-stained slaughterhouse. This is an imaginative story (one would expect no-less from a novel by the deliriously dark Shane McKenzie) and it hits home on so many levels. The characters outside of Armando are cartoonish in the very greatest sense of the word, larger-than-life and more entertaining for it, while the down-to-earth, grounded Armando gives us an emotional hook, a sympathetic lead behind whom to rally.
There isn’t much in the way of dialogue outside the first few minutes, but the dialogue in those minutes is strong, propelling the story and building the characters and atmosphere wonderfully. In the latter half of the story, the visuals take over — and they are even more incredible. From the snarling, slathering Chango, the horrible Goldtooth, Alma, Mama and Rogelia to the fantastically-lit, shot and dressed 'Ring' set, everything not just captures the imagination it crawls into your head and takes a firm hold.
This is without even mentioning the genuinely imposing and terrifying El Gigante. The insane luchadore is a brilliant creation, a horror monster who needs no weapons to take his victims apart, instead mauling them with his huge, powerful hands. The ‘wrestling match’ itself is a visceral experience, combining the hard-hitting slams, strikes and squeezes with flashy and kinetic camerawork, building to a nightmarish fever-dream level by the time we reach the bloody finale. 
That’s the truly brilliant thing about El Gigante — it’s a finale that wraps up the story nicely, but leaves the audience hungry for more. Well, perhaps hungry is the wrong term following the stomach-turning post credit scene…
El Gigante is a great character and Forts is brilliant in the role — he is undoubtedly a physically intimidating fella, but he adds enough deranged and psychotic energy to the performance to make El Gigante one of the most memorable movie monsters in a long time. Forts isn’t the only one to nail his role — the cast are excellent throughout. Perez is a likeable, sympathetic lead who downplays his role perfectly, adding a realism to anchor the story, while El Gigante’s maniacal familia each manage to freak the audience out in their own unique ways: from the repulsively psychotic turn from Retamal, to the grinning disconcerting work of both Rockhill and Dean, to the sordidly lascivious energy that Slim brings to the film. There is not a single weak-link in this line up, they are all COMPLETELY on top of their game.
The same can be said for the accomplished, assured and exciting work of the filmmakers. The creative team from Luchagore Productions are also excellent—  happy to experiment and try something new, yet knowledgeable enough in their fields to ensure that the production values are always of the very highest standards. From the direction (and editing) by Bramley and Guerrero to the cinematography (also by Bramley along with Spencer Village), the short looks a million bucks.
It is so much more than a short advertisement for a possible feature film — El Gigante is an excellent short film in it’s own right. A bloody, brutal bodyslam of a flick with guts, gore and enough attitude to pummel even the most jaded of horror fans into submission. This is an easy, easy recommendation. Grab a cerveza, a spicy snack and sit down to a bowl of bloody brilliance. You won’t regret it!    

SO WHERE’S IT AT? Following the film’s successful Kickstarter campaign a number of DVDs were produced, so it’s well worth tracking it down. Of course, it is also hitting the festival circuit now, so keep your eyes peeled for when El Gigante may be coming to a fest near you.
Plus there’s always the chance you’ll be able to catch it in the eagerly-anticipated Muerte Con Carne movie. 
Hit Luchagore Productions’ official Facebook page for more news on that as and when it becomes available, and for any upcoming festival dates. Hit it with a Like while you’re there too. These guys deserve your backing!

10 WORD WRAP UP: A gory, grimy dose of brutally fun, manic, murderous Mexicana 

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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