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Masked Wrestlers, La Llorona and Guillermo del Toro: 7 Unusual Mexican Horrors

In the Russian box office – a mystical horror film “The Witch: Reincarnation” . On this occasion, we delve into the history of Mexican horror, one of the strangest and most original in the world.

Vampire (1957)

The starting point of mexploitation is considered to be 1931, when the premiere of the Spanish version of Dracula took place , in which the main roles were played mainly by the natives of Mexico. Unlike the canonical adaptation of Tod Browning, this picture did not have much success. Only 26 years later, Fernando Mendez’s “Vampire”, similar in theme, appears on the screens, marking the beginning of the “golden” age of Mexican horror.

Lacking any film or literary tradition to fall back on, the makers turned to Universal’s line of monster movies. In the story, a young girl returns to her ancestral home to visit her sick aunt. On the spot, it turns out that Comte de Lavud, who lives next door, is an old vampire plotting something wrong.

Mexican horror makers will continue to borrow ideas from colleagues from the United States. However, exploiting images from classic American horror, the directors significantly rework the characters, embedding them in a different cultural context and endowing their films with a new aesthetic. To see this, one need only look at the phenomenally successful Mexican masked wrestling horrors.

Fair Champions (1971)

Wrestling is one of the most popular sports in the world. However, Mexican wrestling (lucha libre) is fundamentally different from American wrestling. Its key feature is that many wrestlers hide their face behind a mask. In lucha libre, the mask is the symbol of the wrestler himself. She becomes his personality, embodies his essence. Luchador never appears in public without a mask, and its loss means shame.

The most famous Mexican wrestler of the 50s was El Santo, who became a national superhero. Long before Hulk Hogan and Dwayne Johnson, the award- winning luchador built a successful film career. Thus, a unique hybrid of monsters and wrestlers films was born, where El Santo confronted Count Dracula, zombies and aliens. The Blue Demon is the eternal second number in the ring, which remains the same on the screen. Like El Santo, he played in a lot of monster movies, but did not reach the same heights. Another star of the genre is Mil Mascaras, who was known as one of the best wrestlers of the 70s, who even had a chance to perform in New York at Madison Square Garden.

Curse of the Wailer (1963)

Another important component of Mexican horror is national folklore. In particular, the legend of the mourner, which served as the basis for a dozen Mexican tapes. According to the myth, the peasant woman La Llorona drowned her own children in a fit of madness caused by her lover’s betrayal. Realizing what she had done, the woman committed suicide, but her soul could not find peace, and therefore was doomed to eternal wandering. Anyone who hears her loud cry will be punished.

La Lorona is dedicated to the very first Mexican horror film “Weeping Woman” in 1933, but the most successful interpretation of the tale was offered by Rafael Baledon thirty years later, when a series of remakes by Hammer Films, productions by Mario Bava and Roger Corman revived the fashion for gothic horror. His “Curse of the Weeper” tells about Amelia, who, along with her husband Heim, goes to the old mansion of Aunt Selma, who practices black magic. The owner of a house full of suspicious characters tries to use her niece to resurrect La Lorona.

Of course, the visuals of this unhurried black-and-white horror film once again refer to the classics of Universal, but nowadays the Americans themselves are actively using Mexican folklore, adapting it to their audience.

Even the wind howls in fear (1968)

Carlos Enrique Taboada is an iconic figure in 20th-century Mexican cinema, whose work inspired Guillermo del Toro. And if the previous films presented in the selection are interesting as artifacts of history, then the gothic theatreology of Toboada “Even the wind can be afraid”, “The Book of Stone”, “Blacker than the Night” and “Poison for the Fairies” has not lost its relevance and impresses to this day. The action of the first film takes place in a boarding school for girls, where all sorts of hell is going on. Student Claudia suffers from nightmares, somehow connected with the tower, located in the backyard of the school. Hoping to get to the bottom of the truth, she begins her own investigation and learns about the sinister ghost of a girl who died under mysterious circumstances.

Like Val Lewton (producer of the cult American films of the 40s “Cat People” and “I Walked with Zombies”), Taboada refuses the figure of a monster, because the fear of the unknown is always stronger than the fear of visible danger. In Even the Wind Can Be Afraid, there are no scenes of violence, no gothic scenery, no visible source of evil, but there is an eerie atmosphere that stimulates the imagination of the public, as a result of which this imagination finishes everything on its own.

Holy Blood (1989)

Speaking of Mexican cinema, it is difficult to ignore such an author as Alejandro Jodorowsky . “Holy Blood” is probably the best work in the career of the failed Dune director , psychomagician and tarot reader, as well as one of his most “spectator” works, where there is a clear plot and even parodic notes. (One of the scenes refers to those masked wrestler movies.)

Felix is ​​an insane asylum patient under compulsory treatment. As a child, he witnessed his father, a circus performer, cut off the hands of his mother, a religious fanatic, and then committed suicide. Having escaped from the hospital, Felix finds his infirm mother and, against his will, becomes her “hands”.

Chronos (1992)

Guillermo del Toro is Hollywood’s premier storyteller of the 21st century. But these tales are scary, surreal and inhabited by monsters. Magnum del Toro’s opus can unmistakably be called “Pan’s Labyrinth” , but his path began much earlier. Back in the 80s, the future Oscar winner got excited about the idea of ​​filmmaking. Before embarking on his feature-length debut, Chronos, del Toro spends ten years mastering the art of creating special effects. One of the teachers of the purposeful young man was Dick Smith, behind whom he worked on The Exorcist and The Godfather . Having adopted all the necessary knowledge, del Toro creates Necropia, the first company in Mexico specializing in special effects and makeup, and only then starts filming Chronos.

The plot revolves around a girl named Aurora and her grandfather Jesus, who discover a golden artifact with a dark past. According to legend, the find grants its owner immortality by feeding on his blood. The device stings Jesus, as a result of which the old man gradually turns into a vampire in front of his granddaughter.

A serious undertaking required serious financial investments. Every now and then going beyond the budget, del Toro mortgaged the house, sold the trailer and took out a bank loan. Fortunately, the risk paid off: the most expensive film in the history of Mexico was shown at the largest film festivals in the world, acclaimed by critics, and then by the audience. Already in Chronos, themes appear that have become the leitmotifs of the director’s entire work: the source of evil is not a magical device, but people who are eager to get it, while the relationship between the older and younger generations is at the heart of the horror story.

Witch: Reincarnation (2023)

Despite the success of Guillermo del Toro, Mexican horror has remained in the underground. Only occasionally horror films from this country manage to find fame outside their homeland. The horror fairy tale “The Witch: Reincarnation” (in the original “Evil Eye”) is one of them.

Young Moon is stricken with a mysterious illness. Medicine is powerless, so desperate parents send the girl and her older sister Nala to her grandmother, whom they have never seen before. Acquaintance with the sorceress turns into a nightmare for the heroines in reality.

The motion picture of the young director Isaac Esban , sustained in the best traditions of del Toro from the time of Faun and The Devil’s Backbone , will delight all fans of folk horror and dark legends about witches.

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