Monday, August 03, 2009

Movies: Let's get ready to fumble, or "This place better get ready for some good, hardcore, crotch-on-crotch action!"

Bad movies are like vampires: You have to invite them in.

I put writer/director Jesse Baget's 2006 Wrestlemaniac (a.k.a. El Mascarado Massacre, a.k.a. The Mexican Porn Massacre) in my Netflix queue. I did this while sober and in full knowledge of its "plot." I knew exactly what I was getting. And now, in fairness to the flick, I think it would be dishonest to pretend I was disappointed.

I do have a bit of an excuse for this one. The core premise of Wrestlemaniac touches on one of my worst critical blindspots. The film is essentially a comedic slasher in which the titular maniac is a homicidal lucha libre wrestler. I was doomed. Them masked wrasslers make me the worst kind of dumb. I can't help it.

In the "making of" featurette that accompanies Coppola's Dracula, the famed director states that the secret to his success is to "steal from the best." Sadly, Baget's major influence seems to have been the 1972 z-grade flick Ghost Gunfighter, with, believe it or not, nods to the 2005 remake of House of Wax and the second Jeepers Creepers film. The results fully reflect the quality of those influences.

The flick starts with a sextet of folks going to Cabo, looking for an exotic backdrop for their amateur porn flick.

One often hears the complaint that the victims of slashers are too unlikable. Baget seems to have taken that as a challenge and set out to create the most disposable cast of killer-fodder ever gathered. In the trio of men, only chunky camera jockey and exposition-provider Steve is likeable. The director, Alphonse, is a sleazy, self-aggrandizing, sexist, racist jackass and stoner Jimbo is a non-entity. The women fare even worse. Despite a slight edge of post-Buffy badassness, final girl Dallas is abrasive and her presence in the porno cast, given her comments about the sexism of the undertaking, is somewhat nonsensical. Her bi-curious blonde friend Debbie is there to flash tit and scream. Finally, and worst of all, is poor, sad Daisy, whose spends most of the movie passed out, face down, with her bare ass sticking out from under her nightie (which is her entire wardrobe). When Daisy is eventually revived, she gets a single line delivery, a boob flash, a puke scene, and a death scene, in that order and one right after another. Its such a crap role that one wonders if dancer/actress Catherine Wreford took the role as part of some court mandated public service requirement. Mercifully, the actors seem to have been in on the joke and everybody approaches their role with over-the-top gusto. The actors gesticulate as if they're in a silent film, every line delivery is given the sing-songy emphasis of porn actors trying to act their way through the fill-scenes, and one more than one occasion the actors visibly corpse and break character with a short attack of the giggles.

This wink wink, nudge nudge approach is a blessing, otherwise the actors would have to deliver some of the most wooden dialogue I've ever had the pleasure of hearing in a horror flick, with the winner going to the line that gives this post its title:

This place better get ready for some good, hardcore, crotch-on-crotch action!

Just reading the line off the screen doesn't do the line justice. To get the proper sense of the line, you've got to use it on an audience. Stand up. Put on some sunglasses. Walk towards the nearest occupied cubical. Sawgger so that your arms swing at your sides. Start the line, but make the commas full stops, with half stops between syllables. "Good." Stop. "Hard, core." Stop. "Crotch, on, crotch." Stop. "Action." When you've got your coworker's attention, whip off your sunglasses. Optimally, this should coincide with the second crotch.

Where were we?

Oh. The plot.

So the porn crew gets lost. They stop at one of those miserable, filth-incrusted gas stations that dot the byways of America in the horrorverse. There they are told about a nearby ghost town, now legendary as the home of El Mascarado – a mass murdering Frankenstein luchadore created by the Mexican government out of the bodies of the country's top wrestlers in a failed bid to created the ultimate Olympic wrestler. (I kid not. That's the backstory.)

The porn auteur and his chubby sidekick decide that, logically speaking, if the town turns out to be real, then the rest of the story must necessarily be false. The two quickly rethink their porn flick to set it the ghost town.

The rest of the story you can guess. They find town. El Mascarado (played by lucha legend Rey Misterio Sr. at an all-time career low) finds them. Killing ensues. To add an extra level of gross out, El Mascarado "unmasks his opponents" by ripping the faces off his victims. Good times.

One of the chase scenes also features the first time I've seen a victim snag her denim shorts on something and lose them. This happens to shirts all the time, but jean shorts? That must count as some sort of innovation.

In his defense, Baget manages to wring several effective scenes out the fairly predictable plot. Most notably, there's a nice scene in which El Mascarado traps Steve and Debbie in his "kill room," a bloodsplattered, windowless room with a jerry-rigged wrestling ring and a display of his many victims "masks" nailed to the wall. Steve decides that, following the rules of lucha that El Masc has hardwired into him, if he can unmask the mad luchadore, the killer will give up. He decides to make up himself and fight. The scene starts with a shot through the door. Through that frame we see Steve charge. The door slowly closes. We hear fight sounds and screams. The door bursts open and a blood-soaked Debbie comes crawling out of the room on all fours. She's crying. Then, suddenly, she's grabbed by the legs and dragged back into the room. The surprising restraint of the scene makes it a genuinely grim moment in what is otherwise light and laughably cheesy.

Still, despite such occasional moments, most of the flick is too silly to involve the viewer, but not clever enough to ride on the strength of its comedy elements. I suspect that cast and crew had a blast making the flick, but that doesn't carry over to the viewer in a sustained way. I can't hate on the flick, cause I'm powerless to hate anything with masked wrestlers in it. You, however, most likely do not suffer from this same condition.

8 comments:

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wiec? said...

this movie seems like it breaks a lot of new ground and as bad as you paint this flick out to be i still kind of want to see it. mostly to see the faces get ripped off but also because it's good to hear Rey Mysterio Sr is still putting in work. he must be like 60 yrs old.

but really let's get down to brass tacks, what kind of weak ass denim are we talking about here?

CRwM said...

wiec?

I watched that rip-of-her-pants scene several times - becuase, you know, for science and accurate reporting and stuff - and I couldn't figure it out. You'll just have to see for yourself.

Shon Richards said...

"-a mass murdering Frankenstein luchadore created by the Mexican government out of the bodies of the country's top wrestlers in a failed bid to created the ultimate Olympic wrestler."

It is a crime that someone could not make a good movie out of that premise.

I do wonder about the filthy gas stations that exist in the horrorverse. My brain is working overtime trying to justify how these gas stations preface so many stories, and are somehow tarnished by their association.

Carl (ILHM) said...

I was expecting much, much worse going into this flick, but I thought it was a ton of fun, surely a brain off movie on film but satisfying in the end.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Shon,

Someday there will be a movie in which a couple gets directions from a perfectly clean, professionally maintained, family-friendly gas stop only to find out the it is maintain that way by a tribe of cannibals. The cannibals in question will explain that, after seeing how foul the other lure-stations were, the cannibals though they could attract more customer/victims with a pleasant refilling and rest stop experience. Make your station nicer and market forces will drive the long pig to you!

CRwM said...

Carl,

I enjoyed to a degree, but I feel it is my duty as a blogger to stress that I'd watch something called "A Masked Wrestler Stares as the Camera for 80 Minutes." My taste shouldn't be trusted.

Ryan said...

I was disappointed. Not because the story or acting was ridiculous, I was expecting that.

But I was expecting more actual wrestling. In the lead-up to that "nice scene" you cite, where he gets costumed up and heads through the door, I was thinking, "Finally, we'll get to see some wrestling in a movie called 'Wrestlemaniac." So what you described as "surprising restraint," felt to me like a cheap cop-out.