Rey Misterio Sr. - El Mascarado
Irwin Keyes - Stranger
Adam Huss - Alphonse
Leyla Milani - Dallas
Margaret Scarborough - Debbie
Jeremy Radin - Steve
Catherine Wreford - Daisy
Zack Bennett - Jimbo
Genre - Horror/Slasher
Running Time - 73 Minutes
Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4
Time and time again, I've made it known that I love the horror genre. It entertains me to no end. But I also love professional wrestling too. Wrestling has been a part of my life since I can remember, remembering fondly the days of Rock 'N' Roll Wrestling where Hulk Hogan and Mr. T would do battle with Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndoff and Cyndi Lauper would exchange words and blows with The Fabolous Moolah. I've stayed with wrestling throughout the years for the good [Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, DX] and for the bad [Katie Vick, HHH hogging the spotlight, Trish Stratus leaving :(, JBL wrestling period], still entertained with our beloved scripted sport every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday night.
So it was quite a surprise after reading a review on Fatally-Yours about a horror film involving a homicidal Mexican luchador that was being praised called WRESTLEMANIAC. It was like the best of both worlds - a wrestler who kills? I was very interested in the movie for the merging of these two separate things alone.
I had it in my Netflix queue for a while but got a chance to watch it out of Netflix after one of my cousins lent it to me, wanting me to rip the film apart - WTF? Vault style. I told myself that it couldn't be that bad. But then I remember telling myself the same thing about DO YOU WANNA KNOW A SECRET? and look how well that turned out. So I went in with very low expectations and I came out actually surprised that it wasn't as bad as my cousin made it out to be. WRESTLEMANIAC isn't a great film but it's not a horrible film either. Still I was slightly disappointed that the film pretty much "calls it down the middle", not really re-inventing the genre but not doing anything to make it stand out from the rest. Let's see why WRESTLEMANIAC isn't worth getting expensive ringside seats over.
A bunch of annoying amateur adult actors and its crew head down to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to film a film there. Of course, they get lost - and because of lack of gas and bladder issues, the group stops at an abandoned gas station run by some weirdo (Irwin Keyes). Wearing a wrestling mask and giving the group some cocaine, he tells them how to get back to the freeway that drives past "La Sangre de Dios", some ghost town where this legendary Mexican wrestler named El Mascarado (Rey Misterio, Sr.) was exiled to after killing a bunch of people. Apparently labotomies and even prison couldn't sustain the man, so they just left him abandoned in the locked city.
After warning them not to stop at the city, the group decides to screw that and enter the haunted "La Sangre de Dios" anyway because they're a bunch of geniuses. After deciding it's a great location to have sex on film, they stay and attempt to shoot some scenes. Unfortunately for them [yet fortunately for me], El Mascarado makes his presence known as he prepares to bodyslam and suplex these idiots.
WRESTLEMANIAC is another modern indie flick that follows what seems to be the horror template when it comes to making low-budget slasher flicks: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Sigh. I get it, you modern horror filmmakers. TCM is one of the best horror films ever made that was simple to film. But it's getting really old and I would like to see something new. Or if you're gonna do a psuedo-remake/homage, at least change it up a bit and give us something different. Hell, even the film was originally called THE MEXICAN PORN MASSACRE. Right there should tell you how generic and derivative this film is most likely to be.
I will say that it could have been a lot worse really. The gore, for example, is actually really well done and quite cringe-worthy at times. There's no blood spared here. You get impalements with steel pipes. A bolt on a door gets impaled through someone's throat. A face gets smashed against a wall as well. Plus El Mascarado loves to keep trophies of his victims by ripping their faces off with his bare hands. And we get to see all of these and they are pretty cool. It uses its R Rating quite nicely, I gotta say.
I also loved the direction. Jesse Baget knows he doesn't have a big budget for this film, so he infuses it with a lot of style. This film was shot on digital video and looks like it was filmed with much better cameras - very nice cinematography. I also liked that Baget created a lot of suspense and tension in the film. It was never scary but you always knew when something bad was about to happen. I also like the homage to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. The opening shot with Leyla Milani running out screaming towards the camera with blood on her face is pretty much taken from Sally doing the same exact thing towards the end of TCM. There was also a homage to FRIDAY THE 13TH with "Voorhees" on some building in the town. I also liked how Baget kept El Mascarado in the shadows during his first moments of appearing, sort of like how John Carpenter kept The Shape in the dark during the original HALLOWEEN before revealing his mask when The Shape murders Annie in her car. The siluohette of El Mascarado was a nice touch and made him creepier than he had any right to be. It was a very nice job and I hope he writes and directs a better film because the dude does have talent.
I also liked the background to El Mascarado. While I do think the '68 Olympics thing was kind of dumb [I don't think professional wrestling was ever a sport in the Olympics - only amateur wrestling], I did like how the legend of El Mascarado was created. From killing his opponents, to the labotomies that didn't work, to his exile in this ghost town [which was supposed to be a mental asylum but was rewritten with Baget couldn't film in a nearby asylum due to it being condemned], and especially to the fact that he rips faces off because that's how Mexican wrestlers defeat and humiliate their opponents for good - it worked for me. There was actually some thought to the killer other than the usual parental issues and revenge M.O. El Mascarado isn't gonna be a horror icon anytime soon, but at least you could tell that his character was thought out.
Unfortunately, the praise pretty much ends here. The rest of the film was kind of blah. The story wasn't really all that interesting. I'll never understand why an amateur adult movie crew would waste any financial resources they may have just to drive down to Mexico and film sex. Couldn't you do that without travelling? Hell, I'm sure there are places in California or wherever these people were from that could pass off for Mexico. It just seemed a bit far-fetched for me. Plus everything after that was by-the-numbers Slasher Film 101, which just makes you go "been there, done that".
I also felt the characters were either not developed enough or just plain annoying. Most annoying was Alphonse, the director with his stupid facial hair that has been claimed "Missing" on several milk cartons since the 1970s. Yeah dude, they want their hair back. Plus, he snorts coke which is so 1980s. Damn this dude was stuck in time. Anyway, he was just way over-the-top and such a prick that I was happy when he got it from El Mascarado. He was the type of guy you want to kick in the balls because it'll make your bad day a whole lot better. Any guy who claims that everything is "running smooth like a shaved bush" and considers DEEP THROAT the epitome of classic filmmaking deserves to be eaten by maggots.
Then we had some blonde chick who whined so much that I hoped El Mascarado would shut her up. At least she was hot! There was this other blonde chick who looked sickly and probably was since she was vomiting all over the place. Then we had a pothead who smoked pot. That's all he did really. I didn't care for these people.
At least the others fared sort of better. Dallas, the final girl, was okay. She had a spunk and attitude that I kind of liked. Plus she loved making out with chicks, which is a plus in my book. And she was hot and tough at the end, so I was down with her. Steve was also pretty cool as the only one in the group with a brain. He was the wrestling fan who knew the legend of El Mascarado and realized how to defeat him. I liked him until I saw the actor who played him freestyling about the film during the end credits. That likeability was gone forever after that. And El Mascarado doesn't do anything but kill. Nothing wrong with that.
The acting wasn't so great but it wasn't the worst I've seen in a horror film. Layla Melani as Dallas was sexy and she screamed really well. It was nice to see her do something other than lose the first WWE Diva Search or hold the #13 briefcase on Deal or No Deal. She was pretty decent here, so I didn't mind her at all. Alan Huss as Alphonse, the director, annoyed me to no end. He was way over-the-top and just hammed it up whenever he was on screen. I wanted this dude dead. Maybe that was the point. If that's the case, it worked. Jeremy Radin as Steve was good. I liked his character and came across as the only one with a certain level of common sense. The other main actors were just bad - like adult movie bad. Kinda ironic, I gotta say. Irwin Keyes made a nice cameo as the dude who warns people. And Rey Misterio, Sr. was imposing as El Mascarado, even though I still find it funny watching a Mexican wrestler kill people. Not a scary villain at all.
THE FINAL HOWL
Whatcha gonna do when WRESTLEMANIAC surprises and disappoints you? You say your prayers. You take your vitamins. And then you write a review for a slightly-above average film. I would recommend it for a rental if homicidal Mexican wrestlers who kill annoying characters is your thing. Hey, it's better than watching READY TO RUMBLE!