Sunday, October 29, 2023

Hunting a Nagual.

In a small town in the state of Morelos, a local brujo (warlock) “Tobias” is blamed for the death & failed birth of a man’s wife & child. The man is told by the local doctor “Jose Luis” (Rafael Sanchez Navarro) that this was all simply a tragic medical incident, but the man insists it was Tobias who caused this to happen and this leads to killing him. Tobias being a warlock & all—doesn’t die. Oh, not at all. Tobias resurrects as a Nagual that is going to kill anyone in town that crosses his path. With the Nagual now leaving a long trail of blood—the local priest, a cop & the local doctor set out to stop the Nagual all while everyone else in town insist it’s just one of their own citizens doing this. 

Cazador De Demonios ("Demon Hunter") is a fairly unique Mexican horror film with a slumbering small-town setting & using a Nahuatl superstition to a different level. The Nahuatl superstition I speak of is having a “Nagual” as the adversary. And what is a “Nagual” exactly? A Nagual is a shapeshifter that takes form into a spiritual creature and in the case of Cazador De Demonios, it is a wolf creature—or a werewolf. 

Cazador De Demonios delivers some interesting kills (off-screen & on) and feature plenty of blood in them as well. All the bloody kills are provided by the Nagual of course, which we don’t really get much of a glimpse of up until the very end of the film. However, not seeing much of the Nagual isn’t a bad thing because it enhances the suspense of it all. Sometimes the things you don’t get to see are truly the most terrifying. 

The pacing of Cazador De Demonios can be slow at times, but keep in mind that this is a film that is exploring small town life & its citizens doubting anything going wrong in their every day life, that is of course until they finally realize something indeed is going on, but they go with all the local chismes (gossip) rather than actual factors. While the town citizens try to find someone to easily to blame—the local priest, a local cop & the sole medical practitioner in town are in the know of what’s really going on and they try their hardest to end this creature’s blood lust. It even goes as far as the priest turning some silver from the church into a bullets which he believes will rid of the Nagual. It is incredible. The built up of our protagonists trying to rid of the adversary is quite intriguing and so worth watching. 

Legendary Mexican actor Tito Junco plays the priest of the film and it was his last role in a full-length feature film as he unfortunately passed away right after the film was done shooting in 1983 (the film was released until 1987). Tito did very well here and it’s truly a memorable role of hisin the final part of his career. 

When was the last time you watched a film about a Nagual? Probably never, thus why you must check out Cazador De Demonios. It is a moody & atmospheric gem from the 1980’s. Truly one of its kind as well.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Vadillo's Savage Summer.

During the 1960’s, Enrique Gomez Vadillo began his career in the theater through some relatives of his and he immediately became enamored with acting. Later on, he got into directing the very same plays he was also acting in—further enhancing his talents. Vadillo later on entered the television & film industry and was recruiting young talents from all over Mexico and this made way for Vadillo to get involved in bigger productions on stage & on film. His first break came with helping produce the Mexican/Spanish co-production Navajeros. After the success of Navajeros, Vadillo had gotten the opportunity to direct his very own film & from an idea all of his own.

Verano Salvaje (aka "Savage Summer") tells the story of Cecilia (Ana Martin); a young woman who has decided to stay at her family’s beach house to get away from the pending marriage of her elderly father & his very young fiancé. Cecilia brings her boyfriend & a friend of hers along to the beach house, but it all goes bad when Cecilia catches her boyfriend sleeping with her friend. Rather than be depressed about the whole ordeal, Cecilia decides to reunite with her 2 childhood friends “Pepe” & “Andres” and strike a much closer bond with them both. Cecilia begins to have sex with both her friends and this leads to both men wanting her and ignoring their significant others. Cecilia also begins seeing other men and one in particular “Eduardo”, a wealthy man close to Pepe & Andres. Cecilia solely desires psychical contact as a way to escape from the emotional baggage she once carried around with her, but will she find true happiness in life this way? 

Verano Salvaje is a film that is 90 minutes long, but so much happens during this average runtime to the point where it feels like it’s much longer. While the film focuses on Cecilia & her many flings, we are also given a glimpse of the people around her & her men—particularly the 2 women that Andres & Pepe are in relationships with. Pepe hangs out with a wealthy older woman named "Kitty" who likes to party all the time & Andres dates a timid nurse at the hospital where he has pediatrician practice at. The film also focuses on Pepe’s conflict with the local cop “Juaco”, whom has an obvious sexual attraction towards him. Then when Kitty is murdered at the beach, much more heavy drama ensues.

As you can tell, Verano Salvaje offers a lot of drama in 90 minutes and is all of that even remotely interesting? Does it even matter or connect? Quite simply, yes. The many dramas in Verano Salvaje are all very intriguing and it all goes into the kind of topics that director Enrique Gomez Vadillo was fascinated with in regards to storytelling & those topics were of eroticism, murder, emotional detachment & homosexuality. Verano Salvaje isn’t a gay film per se, but it does have a lot of familiar things we see in Vadillo’s later films and that mostly consisted of having men portrayed as sexual objects and always having them fully nude in scenes. Vadillo wasted no time here getting all of his male actors to undress. He always had to have that in his films & in stage plays, too. It's what he liked.

Enrique Gomez Vadillo was enamored with the beach and Verano Salvaje was of course set in & near the beach, in particular South Padre Island, TX—a familiar hub to shoot Mexican films in those days. With the beach setting, the scenery in Verano Salvaje is beautiful to look at and many of the best shots of the film are in the beach itself. Especially the final scene. 

Aside from beautiful beach scenery & an intriguing story, Verano Salvaje has a stunning-looking cast and leading lady Ana Martin really stands out, especially with her very obvious androgynous appearance. The 3 leading men Fernando Allende, Orlando Urdaneta & Jorge Rivero are also stand-outs and mostly because all 3 men bare it all out on the screen and that alone is rare to see, especially with Mexican male actors. Legendary Mexican actress Ariadne Welter is another standout and mainly because she plays such an oddball character, a total out of the norm for Ariadne whom through-out her career has always played serious, innocent characters.

Verano Salvaje is an intriguing erotic drama with a wonderful cast & great direction. While there are perhaps “better” erotic dramas just like it, Verano Salvaje still remains a standout that is to be seen. The same can be said of other Vadillo’s films as well. 

 Buy Verano Salvaje on Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome