Friday, 2 May 2014


Director: Jesse Baget
Writer: Jesse Baget
Producers: Chris Moore, Jake Schmidt
Cast: Jeremy Radin, Adam Huss, Leyla Milani
Country: USA
Year of release: 2007
Reviewed from: UK DVD (Revolver)

Filmed as The Mexican Porn Massacre, retitled El Mascarado Massacre and eventually released as Wrestlemaniac (possibly an attempt to dupe unwary WWE fans used to buying Wrestlemania DVDs), this is yet another of those unkillable-Mexican-wrestler-tears-faces-off-amateur-pornographers-in-ghost-town movies.

For Heaven’s sake, when will these people think up something original?

Whatever you want to call it, this is actually really good fun and makes a nice change from yet another masked psycho hunting ‘teenagers’. Even though the guy does wear a mask. There are some lapses and leaps in the logic - and the make-up, truth be told, isn’t great - but the central conceit is enjoyable, the location is adroitly used and the characters are likeable.

Moustachioed, stetson-wearing, loud slimeball Alphonse (Adam Huss: Demon Slayer) and tubby, camera-toting, enthusiastic Steve (Jeremy Radin) - who is of Mexican descent but born and raised in Seattle - are on their way into Mexico to shoot some amateur porn, starring two blonde ‘actresses’. The girls’ names - in a wonderful gag that passed me by until the end credits - are Debbie and Dallas (Margaret Scarborough and WWE ‘diva’ Leyla Milani, who is a regular on the US version of Deal or No Deal). Also along for the ride are Jimbo (Zack Bennett) and his sister Daisy (Catherine Wreford: Dead Boyz Don’t Scream), stoner siblings whose presence is explained as being solely because Jimbo owns the camper van they’re using.

Characterisation is this movie’s strong point. Alphonse, Steve, Debbie and Dallas could have come across as simply ‘greasy git, fat kid and two bimbos’ but all four are rounded characters for whom we feel both empathy if not necessarily sympathy. So it’s ironic and a real shame that Jimbo and Daisy neither do nor say anything at all of any consequence and are, in narrative terms, simply there to be killed. The story requires us to understand the danger that our quartet are in before any of them actually die and since they’re in a deserted ghost town this has been achieved by bringing along two extra bodies as psycho-fodder.

The entire film only runs 73 minutes (including five minutes of end credits) so there was plenty of scope for giving the stoners something to do or at least letting us get to know them better.

The idea of Americans travelling to Mexico to shoot what they themselves call ‘amateur porn’ is not one I can claim to understand but I’m prepared to cut this film some slack. Actually, the more I think about the basic set-up, the dafter and less believable it seems, but I can forgive almost any film which features masked Mexican wrestlers - and this one starts with a title sequence full of genuine, vintage, black and white lucha libre footage.

Stopping at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, the gang encounter a creepy old guy who seems to have stepped straight out of a Scooby-Doo episode (he’s played by Irwin Keyes, whose many credits include The Exterminator and its sequel, Oblivion and its sequel, Death Wish 4, the Flintstones movie, David Lynch’s weird sitcom On the Air, House of 1,000 Corpses and the monster in Frankenstein General Hospital). He tells them that they are close to La Sangre de Dios (which Steve translates as ‘the blood of Christ’), a long-deserted ghost town. This is where Steve’s Mexican heritage comes into play because he knows the legend of El Mascarado; in fact he’s such a lucha fan that he carries a mask of his own in his back pocket.

El Mascarado’s back story is a bit confusing because we are told that he appeared on the Mexican wrestling scene from nowhere (at the same time that several top wrestlers disappeared) and also that he was the scientific creation of the Mexican government. He seems to have been some sort of Frankenstein-ian creation given life in the hope that Mexico would win the wrestling gold in the 1984 Olympics. (Of course, this is slightly ludicrous because Olympic wrestling is Greco-Roman wrestling, a genuine grappling contest between athletes, not the violent-but-fake, costume-clad showbiz spectacle that Mexican and other audiences enjoy.) Apparently El Mascarado was a very successful wrestler but was in the habit of killing his opponents so he was spirited away to an old ghost town many years ago. And he has apparently been there ever since.

Anyway, the van makes it to just a few yards outside La Sangre de Dios before the slightly-stoned Alphonse drives over a rock and wrecks the transmission. Exploring the town, they find an old bar and the three ladies get down to some very tame lesbian antics before Daisy - whose cotton camisole does little to disguise her generally un-porn-star-like figure - rushes off to be sick. And so the separations and deaths begin.

Steve apparently stands the best chance of survival because of his knowledge of all things lucha. He surmises from some reel-to-reel audio tapes(!) which he listens to on a functioning tape machine(!!) that El Mascarado survived several attempts to kill him and that his only weakness is that he must obey the rules of wrestling (it has rules?) - so he celebrates any success by ripping his opponent’s mask off, but he can be defeated if his own mask is removed. And if an opponent isn’t wearing a mask, El Mascarado simply rips his or her face off instead.

This is where the film’s make-up lets the side down, I’m afraid. The people we see with ‘face ripped off’ simply look like their faces are covered in blood. When we do see someone whose face actually is covered in blood they look just the same. Special effects make-up artists JP Pettersen (Crazy Animal, Risen) and Brandon Reininger (who worked on The Passion of the Christ and Day of the Dead 2: Contagium) have attempted to create faces of muscle and fat but they just don’t work. The actual face-ripping shots are great, but the skinless faces, on-screen, just resemble an accident in a ketchup factory.

What Wrestlemaniac does have going for it is a terrific villain/monster. El Mascarado is a heavy, hulking, non-speaking, mindlessly violent killer and frankly I think there’s a lot of mileage in him. If Wrestlemaniac is enough of a hit to justify a sequel, I think we could have a whole franchise here. He’s not going to trouble Freddy or Jason, but in a world where there are six Leprechaun films, I think there’s definitely room for another one or two El Mascarado pictures. Rey Misterio Sr, a genuine Mexican wrestling champ, is the man in the mask and boots.

Wrestlemaniac is the debut feature from writer/director/editor/co-producer Jesse Baget. Production designer Dan Adams (Parasomnia) does a grand job with the ghost town location - which was actually in California - and cinematographer Tabbert Filler does good work in both bright sunlight and night scenes. Jim Lang (Body Bags, In the Mouth of Madness) provides the original score, supplemented with plenty of traditional Mexican stuff.

The Wrestlemaniac script manages to be well-crafted in terms of believable dialogue while nevertheless having a core story that makes no blooming sense whatsoever. But I’m prepared to forgive much of the silliness, and even to let the director have fun with gratuitously extended shots of the lead actresses’ shapely arses, because Wrestlemaniac is simple, unpretentious, cleverly original horror fun. That’s what matters.

MJS rating: B

No comments:

Post a Comment