Eight Mexican directors come together to share the darkest and most brutal of Mexican legends and folklore in this anthology. Stories of ghosts, Aztec sacrifices, Day of the dead, imps, and boogeyman, all in varied styles and visions. True to its name, México Bárbaro takes a violent, barbaric approach to exploring Mexican culture and traditions through horror.
Continuing with the recent anthology trend, there is no wraparound story. The film dives right into the first segment, though that doesn’t become clear until the short ends with its title card. Each segment ends with the announcement of its title and director before barreling straight into the next. Considering there are eight directors, the lack of wraparound is appropriate.
Unlike previous anthology films, though, México Bárbaro does not feel like a cohesive film. Some segments are masterfully handled with artistic vision and some are undone by poor CG. The styles of each director run the gamut, ranging from black and white to grainy grindhouse throwback and everything in between. Some shorts are obvious in their cultural roots while a couple seem to lack anything that ties it to Mexico, the one thing that connects these segments in any way.
The clear standout is Edgar Nito’s “Jaral de Berrios.” Set in the past, his short centers on two charros on the run with a bag of gold, one sporting a large gunshot to the abdomen. Stumbling across an abandoned hacienda, they decide to hide out for the night. It doesn’t go smoothly for them, though, when they discover that they’re not alone. Nito’s technical achievement with his piece is stunning. Between the sound design, visuals, and set, Nito’s beautiful western horror segment peaks the entire film far too early. From a story perspective, Nito gives you just enough of a tease to want to research more. He doesn’t spell out what legend he’s exploring, but gives you a complete narrative regardless.
Then there’s Isaac Ezban’s “La Cosa Mas Preciada,” the aforementioned grindhouse style segment that draws heavy inspiration from American 80’s horror. He merges American style with the Mayan Aluxes. These mythological creatures are traditionally tiny imps associated with the woods, or other natural settings. Ezban’s take on the Aluxes is way more disturbing. It’s clear Ezban is going for humor, but man, is it warped. Ezban succeeded in testing my gag reflex and never was I more relieved to move on the next short.
Runner up might be Aaron Soto’s “Drena,” which seems to revolve solely around a menstruation gag that borders on incestuous eroticism. Yeah. It’s insane. Soto’s short seems to lack any discernible tradition or legend, and feels the most underdeveloped in both technical merit and narrative out of all segments.
Conceptually México Bárbaro is all over the place. Without any clear set of rules to tie these segments together, it suffers most from its inconsistency. The highs are too few and far between, but the lows still managed to captivate with their bizarre approach. The true disappointment lay with the segments that only gave you a glimpse of the story, the ones that felt unfinished and shameless in their lack of exposition. This is a complete grab bag; harsh, violent, and widely unpredictable. Yet, as a celebration of cultural tradition, legends, and folklore by way of horror it’s a success. Never have I been more curious about Mexico’s mythology. Edgar Nito, if you could please translate your segment into a full feature, that would be much appreciated.
México Bárbaro [Review]
An anthology that lacks consistency and cohesiveness. The highs are too few, but the lows are very bizarre. This is a complete grab bag; harsh, violent, and widely unpredictable. Yet, as a celebration of cultural tradition, legends, and folklore by way of horror it’s a success. You’ll want to know more about Mexico’s mythology, if only to explain what the hell you just watched.