MEXICO BARBARO (2015)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

(Spanish with English subtitles)

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Directed by: Isaac Ezban, Laurette Flores Bornin, Jorge Michel Grau, Ulises Guzman, Edgar Nito, Lex Ortega, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Aaron Soto

Written by: Isaac Ezban, Laurette Flores Bornin, Jorge Michel Grau, Alfredo Mendoza, Edgar Nito, Lex Ortega, Paulo Rique, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Aaron Soto

Starring: Adrian Aguirre, Dulce Alexa, Leslie Arce, Leif Bridgman, Sara Camacho, Gabriel Carter, Ana Castro, Mayra Angelica Chavez & Shana Chow

One of many horror anthologies to hit stateside last year, MEXICO BARBARO seemed brimming with potential. Though the questionable November release date (a new horror flick after Halloween is almost always a stupid idea) turned me off watching this flick until now, I had hope for this short film collection. This Mexican horror anthology features eight directors tackling various Mexican legends and folklore. That premise sounds amazing, because Mexico is filled to the brim with creepy legends (The Weeping Woman, Chupacabras, etc.). If only MEXICO BARBARO remotely delivered on the most modest expectations. In this two-hour anthology, only two segments stick out as remotely okay. The other six stories range from bad to awful.

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TZOMPANTLI: The first segment kicks things off to a weak start. A reporter investigates a deadly ritual cult. When he finally secures an interview with a cult member, he’s treated to some gory details about how the murder ceremonies work. Though the idea behind this short is solid, the execution (pardon the pun) leaves many things to be desired. The acting isn’t convincing. The dialogue is clichéd. A literal gory set piece is the only redeemable thing in these opening minutes. D

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JARAL DE BERRIOS: Things get slightly better, elevating this anthology to mediocre, in the second segment. Two bandits seek shelter in an abandoned villa. Unfortunately for the pair of thieves, this villa is haunted by a bloodthirsty phantom. This short seems to be padded with a lot of unnecessarily long scenic shots. While this establishes a spooky atmosphere at first, it soon becomes tedious. This bare bones plot has a cool looking ghost, but neglects to deliver memorable kills or effective chills. C-

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DRENA: The third segment is the second-worst of this anthology. The story follows a teenager who picks up a joint off a corpse and soon finds herself confronted by a mysterious specter with an unusual request. This short is vile and gross, two words that can be positives in certain horror films and are huge negatives here. The nonsensical narrative revolves around draining blood from a vagina and a soul being sucked out of an anus. The frights consist of a goofy-looking mask and a skinny woman making silly faces. This was the moment when I realized that this anthology might be a painful experience. F

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LA COSA MAS PRECIADA: Following the second-worst short, the viewer is “treated” to the anthology’s worst segment. Shot with a grainy filter quality, this story follows a couple visiting a mysterious cabin in the woods. Instead of a masked killer, they find themselves face-to-face with a rapey goblin. This short is tasteless and disgusting purely for the sake of being disgusting. I really don’t know what they were going for in this tale, but it certainly wasn’t anything disturbing, funny, entertaining or (least of all) scary. F

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LO QUE IMPORTA ES LO DE ADENTRO: The best short of the bunch. This fifth segment follows a little girl who suspects that a homeless man might actually be the boogeyman. Is she correct and there’s something sinister afoot or is it just a child’s imagination running wild? This short was actually refreshingly tolerable when compared to everything that came before it. The visuals are slick and there was actual suspense built up. Though it ends rather suddenly, I actually thought it was decent…which seems like an “A+” given its dire competition. B-

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MUNECAS: The Island of Dolls is a creepy real-life location. You’d think that a short set in this eerie place would automatically garner a sense of dread or foreboding. You’d be wrong. This sixth short tries to take an artsy, experimental film school approach to a slasher formula. A woman runs through a bog in hopes of escaping a maniac, all while creepy dolls occasionally hang from the trees. This segment is more fartsy than artsy, pretentious, and boring. The only reason it’s not a complete failure is due to the absence of goblin rape and ass-sucking spirits. D-

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SIETE VECES SIETE: I wish I could coherently summarize this short, but that’s no easy task. The seventh segment is told through flashbacks, hallucinations and a post-apocalyptic scenario. At the very least, it has imaginative visuals. Ranging from a fiery horseman to spider-legged woman, this short held my attention. The narrative is confusing as hell with its conclusion attempting to wrap things up, but leaving the lingering feeling that this tale could have been told in a much better fashion. Even with its confusing storytelling and sillier moments, this segment is still far more visually interesting than half of this anthology’s other shorts. D+

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DIA DE LOS MUERTOS: The final story is the second-best of the bunch with a gory tale of revenge set to The Day of the Dead. A bunch of sugar skull strippers take to the poles and then brandish weapons in order to wreak bloody vengeance on the men who abused them. This short was fast, fun and to the point. Though CGI blood splatter slightly detracted from the practical gore, I found this segment to be head and shoulders above pretty much everything else in this anthology, with exception of the fifth segment. I wish this segment had been stretched longer with more bloody chaos. Perhaps, MEXICO BARBARO might have benefitted from five longer tales and not eight shorts that were compiled together. At any rate, it’s a watchable way to end this disappointing anthology. C+

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Mexico has a vast culture of creepy happenings, freaky urban legends, and chilling folklore. Unfortunately, next to none of those things are present in MEXICO BARBARO. Universal Halloween Horror Nights did a better job in two walkthrough haunts (The Weeping Woman and The Boogeyman) than this anthology could accomplish with eight filmmakers. The film frequently tries to get too artsy for its own good, becoming downright pretentious, dull, and borderline unwatchable. Of the eight segments, only two stick out as okay and two are among the worst short films I’ve ever seen. MEXICO BARBARO is a massive disappointment. This film had so much going for it and dropped the ball at every opportunity. Maybe, someone will eventually craft a scary anthology of Mexican folklore, but this waste of time certainly isn’t it.

Grade: D

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