Uncle Jasper reviews: Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)

Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (2007)

Starring  Mil Máscaras, Jeffrey Uhlmann, Willard E. Pugh, Richard Lynch, Gary Ambrosia, Kurt Rennin Mirtsching, Melissa Osborn, Marco Lanzagorta, El Hijo del Santo, Blue Demon Jr.

Directed By Jeff Burr, Chip Gubera


 

Wait… what?!?!

That was my initial reaction after hearing that Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy was a film that even existed. This is the 21st century. What crazy-ass, pagan-tinged astronomical event caused a Lucha Libre film to sneak out of the collective cinematic well in the year 2007? That alone would have been enough to set my head spinning, but Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy is an English language film!… made not in the crowded alleys of Mexico City, but by a bunch of stuffy engineering students from Columbia University… in Missouri! That sounds about as Mexican as a stiff Earl Grey with a stack of crumpets.

With that much working against it, I had virtually no hope for this film. None whatsoever. But preconceived notions are a bitch, and can really rob you of some of life’s best moments if you let them get in the way. Not only is Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy one of the best lucha films I have ever seen, but it is one of the greatest examples of cinematic homage ever produced. Directors Jeff Burr and Chip Gubera have forged one of the most passionate love letters to a cinematic sub genre I have ever seen. Their knowledge and familiarity with the genre shines through in virtually every frame. These guys are true fans who have picked up on every subtle nuance and convention in lucha cinema and simply ran with them… often times to insanely amusing extremes.

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Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria (1977)

Starring Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, Stefania Casini, Miguel Bosé, Flavio Bucci, Barbara Magnolfi

Directed by Dario Argento

Expectations: High. It’s Suspiria, even normal people have heard of it, so I’m assuming it’s good.


 

Well I guess there’s a reason why this is so popular! Suspiria is the Italian horror film to see if you don’t care for Italian horror films, as it has enough creepiness, fear and mystery to make it one hell of an interesting movie. Argento’s previous films tend to need a bit of coaxing and mental adjusting to experience properly. I don’t mean this necessarily in a bad way, it is a natural process I go through when I venture down a new path of foreign films. I find that I need to see a few before I can understand the rhythms and the flow they move at. I don’t watch foreign movies for more of the same, and in order to properly absorb them, some leeway must be given to allow for them to grow on me. If nothing takes root after a few films, then I leave that path behind and try something new. Coming into Suspiria I was a bit unsure if I’d continue down the Giallo path, but I find myself constantly thinking back to the Argento films I’ve watched over this past month and while I might have been less than completely impressed initially, I am haunted by the inventive shots and horrific scenes contained within them. Suspiria solidifies my interest in the Italian horror genre and is probably the most immediately likable of the Argento films I have seen so far.

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From Beyond (1986)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel, Ken Foree, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Bunny Summers, Bruce McGuire

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Expectations: High. I enjoyed Gordon’s first film Re-Animator a lot.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
threehalfstar


To get right to the point, if you enjoyed Re-Animator and you haven’t seen this, then you’ve got one more movie to add to your queue. From Beyond is a worthy follow-up to what director Stuart Gordon achieved in Re-Animator and features the same over-the-top, gross-out hilarity. It doesn’t equal the previous film, but it gets pretty close. Like Re-Animator, this is another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. I must admit that I’ve never read any of his work, so I don’t know how faithful this is to the original tale. If his original story is truly this whacked out though, then I definitely need to check out some of his work to fill my insatiable hunger for this kind of twisted filth. The story here has Jeffrey Combs in a similar role to his character from Re-Animator, Herbert West. Combs plays Crawford who is an assistant to a scientist creating a Resonator machine that stimulates the pineal gland in the human brain through sound waves, allowing those affected to see another layer of reality where eels and jellyfish swim in the air. It’s also highly dangerous, on one hand due to its addictiveness and on the other hand because this realm is inhabited by a no-bullshit monster that promptly twists the head off of Combs’ mentor. Combs is accused of the murder and taken to a mental hospital, where he intrigues a psychologist (Barbara Crampton) enough to talk the hospital into releasing him into her custody. They venture back to the house along with Ken Foree and attempt to recreate the event in order to prove that Combs is sane. Don’t question it, just enjoy it.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Mummies of Guanajuato (1972)

The Mummies of Guanajuato [Las Momias de Guanajuato] (1972)

Starring Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras, Santo, Elsa Cárdenas, Julio Cesar, Patricia Ferrer, Manuel Leal, Jorge Pinguino, Juan Gallardo

Directed By Federico Curiel


 

This is it. The Mummies of Gunajuato is famous in lucha circles for not only being the highest grossing Mexican wrestling film of all time, but it also holds the honored distinction of being the first, and only film to ever feature the Big Three together at last, duking it out on the silver screen. Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras and the legendary Santo team up to bring down a city full of invincible mummies in what is one of the most entertaining films of the genre, despite its somewhat misleading nature.

You see, this was essentially a vehicle for Blue Demon and relative newcomer Mil Máscaras. The lucha film industry was in a funk, and in a last minute decision, Santo was brought aboard to catapult this awesome little lucha film into guaranteed blockbuster status. The great thing about this movie is that all of those last-minute backdoor business decisions actually carry over to the film itself. While Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras have been struggling for the entire movie with the mummy horde, Santo casually shows up in the last fifteen minutes or so and dispatches them all with relative ease. The film even toys with Santo’s esteemed reputation in a hilarious, self-referencing manner when halfway through the film Mil Máscaras casually suggests that the two bring Santo into the fold for help, to which Blue Demon instantly brushes aside.

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Weekend of Horrors Day 3

The final day of the Los Angeles Weekend of Horrors was a bit of a non-event for myself and Jasper, but there were a couple of panels we didn’t want to miss. We got in the car and braved the dangerously slick streets of Burbank, CA to see John Carl Buechler (FX artist / Director) and the Heroes and Heroines panel featuring Fred Williamson, John Saxon, Jim Kelly and others. We swooped into the auditorium as an auction of  various memorabilia pieces was going on. All throughout the weekend, each panelist would stride over to these huge banners flanking the stage and scrawl a little something on it. Apparently, people want these things! A Bruce Campbell banner went for around $400, a full hundred more than a Schechter guitar signed by virtually every attendant of the previous Weekend of Horrors event (Dario Argento, Robert Englund, etc.) The auction was exciting and intense, as the event coordinator called out for bids and the prices jumped up.

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Weekend of Horrors Day 2

Saturday had a little more going for it than the previous day, both in terms of size and content. It looked more like an actual convention instead of senior’s bingo night at the Elk’s lodge. The halls were a lot more crowded and all of the freaky motherfuckers came out of the woodwork, displaying some pretty impressive amateur makeup FX skillz… Kind of awesome unless you’re in urgent need of some restroom relief while caught behind a guy in a zombie mask hauling fake body parts in a wheelbarrow down the hall at a snail’s pace.

Will and I spent most of the day checking out some very interesting panels. Greg Nicotero kicked off the day’s festivities with a look at his recent work from the upcoming Walking Dead TV series. Having read some of the books, I still had only very limited interest in the series as I’m not much of a TV watcher. After seeing a few screened clips however, I am willing to give it a shot, as Greg’s work looks pretty impressive here. AMC is obviously giving him a little more leeway than would normally be allowed for a television series in terms of gore.

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Weekend of Horrors Day 1

Uncle Jasper and I attended the short opening day of the Los Angeles Weekend of Horrors yesterday afternoon. It was a good time with vendors, celebs and quality panels. The interview panel with FX artist Gabe Bartalos (Leprechaun, Frankenhooker, From Beyond, Basket Case 2) was great; revealing insights into his work and career. We were especially interested to hear him cite silicon as his preferred modelling material, saying that it provided a much more realistic flesh. Foam latex is a thing of the past, I guess.

Joe Bob Briggs’ panel was super fun. He didn’t know he was doing it until a couple of hours beforehand, so it was very off-the-cuff. He spoke of his early days as a film reviewer and how when he started reviewing the trashier side of cinema, he was one of the few torch-bearers. He took lots of questions from the audience as well.

The highlight of the day for Jasper and I though was when we both got to shake Fred Williamson’s hand. We were walking around the vendor/signing room when all of a sudden, we look up and Fred Williamson is standing there behind a table. Before we had time to compose ourselves, he reached out his hand in a show of goodwill to Uncle Jasper. A huge smile burst upon my face and before I knew it, I was shaking his hand as well. It was all such a surprise that we both found ourselves speechless. Good times.

Today is going to be more even more exciting with Greg Nicotero, Ken Foree and a Maniac Cop reunion!

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