LA Horror Review: “El Gigante”

elgigantewebEl Gigante” is an incredibly ambitious and stylish short horror film from LuchaGore Productions funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Perhaps best known for their “M is for Matador” entry into the “ABCs of Death Part Two” competition, LuchaGore is a creative team that has clearly found their stride and are poised to make the leap from short form to feature films.

“El Gigante” opens with a gorgeous desert vista and a man stumbling through the heat. Through a flashback, we learn that the young Mexican man is named Armando (played by Edwin Perez) and that he tried to strike a deal with a coyote to smuggle his family across the border. They didn’t have enough cash, so Armando had to make the border crossing on his own.

Armando makes it to the border, but is intercepted by a mysterious stranger. Armando passes out. He awakens inside of a room that holds a wrestling arena/altar. He now has a burlap Lucha Libre mask sewn to his face. As a grotesque family of characters watch, he is forced into a death battle with El Gigante, an enormous wrestler.

Visually, this short is a huge treat. It embraces grindhouse style entertainment without veiling it in a fake 1970s aesthetic. The production design and costuming are top notch: this movie pays close attention to textures and character and set design in a way that most short films do not. The makeup and gore effects are incredibly effective. This movie looks and feels filthy.

The cinematography by Luke Bramley and Spencer Village is reminiscent of Dean Semler’s work in “The Road Warrior.” The camera is not in constant motion, but there’s an effortless flow established and enhanced by the editing of director Gigi Saul Guerrero and co-director Bramley.

Guerrero is the colorist for the film as well, and chooses vivid lurid red accents to the sickly greens, yellows, and greys of the wrestling arena. She has a great eye for action and how it can be used to reveal character.

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“El Gigante” is currently on the festival circuit, and will hopefully be seen by people who see the feature potential in it. The short is adapted by Shane McKenzie from the first chapter of his book “Muerte con Carne,” and it’s an amazing contribution to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style cannibal family genre. Each family member has a distinct look and role to play in the slaughter. If the rest of the book is as exciting as this first look is, then El Gigante could one day join Jason and Leatherface in the pantheon of masked movie killers.

Be sure to “like” LuchaGore Productions on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @LuchaGoreFilm.  This review was written by contributor Paul Stephen Edwards.

LA Horror Review: “Lesser Miracles”

Horror comes in all sorts of varieties.  There’s monsters, aliens, slashers, zombies and more – each thing uniquely terrifying in its own way.  However, in Rory Walsh’s film “Lesser Miracles,” horror hits home in a very real way as we slowly see the family structure fall apart with shocking and violent results.

Riley Carpenter (Kathryn Lyn) loves her family.  She has a beautiful baby daughter, a caring husband and frequently visits her mother.  However, after a freak car accident, everything begins to change.  With the presence of an internal demon awakened inside of Riley, she suddenly has a broader view of the world around her and finds out that things may not be as good as they seem.

It’s the descent into madness, the destruction of the family structure that fuels the horror in “Lesser Miracles,” and it’s one of those films where you can’t help but feel bad for every single character at one point or another.  There are no villains in this film; it is more of a series of tragic mistakes that ultimately build up into a terrifying conclusion, and everybody pays the price.

Writer/director/editor Rory Walsh certainly assembled a stellar team to pull this off.  The talent both on screen and off is abundant with unbelievable performances all around.  In particular, the trio of leads are dynamic.  Kathryn Lyn plays the disturbed Riley with a subtle edge that gets sharper as the film goes on.   She is a terrific leading lady, and with a performance like this we certainly hope to see more insanity from her in the horror world. Opposite her, Cameron Bender plays husband Morgan with genuine heart and sincerity.   The chemistry of these two is wonderful.  The wild card is Haley Mancini who plays the other woman, Denise Baker.  Mancini is brilliant as the seductive yet insecure Denise and really steals the show.  There are several moments in her performance where I really felt a sinking in my heart.

On the other side of the camera, Walsh gives us a simple yet excellent story that is masterfully crafted.  Along with beautiful cinematography from Terrance Stewart, an absolutely haunting soundtrack and some pretty impressive use of scenery, this film sets the bar for indie filmmakers pretty high.

“Lesser Miracles” is one of those films that is disturbing and heavy, a powerful piece of work that sticks with you long after you’re done watching.  This film is more moving than it is scary and the ending packs a certain punch that most films wouldn’t dare swing.  It’s unique in the sense that while it does have some brutality, the real horror is in the downfall of these poor souls.  You can’t help but watch and pray that everyone will be all right, that everything will work out in the end and that these people can continue with their lives in peace.  But sadly, that simply isn’t the case.  This is horror, and if there’s any lesson that “Lesser Miracles” can teach us about horror, it’s that nobody is safe and that not all miracles are the good ones.

For more information on “Lesser Miracles,” please visit Rory Walsh’s official website.  Also, check out the film on Facebook.  “Lesser Miracles” is currently playing at film festivals.