REVIEW: EL GIGANTE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: GIGI SAUL GUERRERO / SCREENPLAY: SHANE MCKENZIE / STARRING: EDWIN PEREZ, DAVID FORTS, MATHIAS RETAMAL, NISREEN SLIM, ARLIN RODRIGUEZ / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Like thousands of desperate Mexicans, all Armando wants is to start a new life in America. After a coyote fleeces him to take his wife and daughter over the border, he is left with no money to pay for his own passage. Lost in the desolation of the desert borderlands, what appears to be salvation ends up an agonising mauling at the hands of the monstrous luchador El Gigante.
Scripted by pulp horror gore purveyor Shane McKenzie, El Gigante is a short film adapted from the first chapter of his novel Muerte Con Carne. McKenzie’s books are written with the kind of unflinching and self-aware depravity that laughs in the face of Shaun Hutson, and are a perfect match for the grisly grindhouse styling of Gigi Saul Guerrero’s directorial vision.
The film shifts into a POV shot as Armando awakens, making us as disorientated and disconcerted as he is, and we soon almost wish he’d never come to his senses. A crude luchador mask consisting of a patchwork hood of filthy burlap is stitched to his face; human skulls top the wrestling ring’s posts, traces of rotting flesh still clinging to them as they crawl with greasy maggots; patches of blood dried into various states of discolouration stain the canvas; and the grimy backroom stench of the windowless makeshift auditorium practically permeates the screen.
True to his name, El Gigante is a colossal, barrel-chested monstrosity of a man, and with his wide animalistic glare, gnashing rictus and heavy breathing one step short of growling, he barely seems human, while other members of the attendant voyeuristic family, such as an opaque-eyed matriarch and a couple of feral kids laughing with gleeful sadism, provide a balance of sinister menace to the eponymous wrestler’s terrifying brutality.
Unlike many of Guerrero’s other shorts, there’s not any alluring sexiness juxtaposing the gruesome violence, unless you count an inbred-looking young woman playing with herself through her dress while Gigante tosses Armando around like a human sackdoll, the sound of his bones being mashed into splintered pulps resonating with sickening crunches. Gigante’s rudimentary championship belt, crushed with trophies from previous victims, provides an unsettling indicator that the clan of maniacs have been holding these torturous bouts for some time, and one shot even invites a final suckerpunch of despair before it’s all over.
Finally, the credit sequence where we discover exactly what gets done with Gigante’s victims (which the novel title gives a clue towards), while lacking the violence of the rest of the film, is in its own way the most nauseating part of it. El Gigante invites strong comparisons to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but is distinctive enough to transcend any accusations of cheap imitation. Guerrero is without a doubt a name to watch.
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