Mexican wrestling legend Rey Misterio becomes a whole new kind of legend in this short and sweet horror film.
En route to shoot an amateur adult film, a skeleton cast and crew stop for directions. They ask a local stranger where they can possibly get gas. The stranger warns them about having to pass a small town called “La Sangre de Dios”. Cameraman Steve knows of “La Sangre de Dios” as legend states that it was there that a genetically enhanced wrestler known as “El Mascarado” was born. Originally meant to serve as a competitor for the 1968 Olympics, El Mascarado went insane and ended up forced into refuge in La Sangre de Dios.
When driver/director Alfonse hits a boulder, the crew are forced to stop and they stumble upon the entrance of La Sangre de Dios. When Alfonse capitalizes on taking the opportunity and shoot some footage from his film, one of his actresses, Daisy, who had been drunk the night before, gets sick and walks off. She mysteriously disappears. Her brother Jimbo, whose van is the transportation, looks for his sister and he took disappears. While actress Dallas attempts to fix the van, the rest soon learn that El Mascarado is alive and well and continue what he has been doing to anyone who crossed his path, rip their face off after destroying them.
Filmmaker Jesse Baget makes a pretty good film debut here by coming up with something ingenious in terms of creating a horror villain. The idea comes from his love of wrestling, notably that of the lucha libre and old school Mexican wrestling. In tradition, if a wrestler loses his mask, he is pretty much forced to retire. Of course that is not the case these days as wrestlers have unmasked and still continue to wrestle these days. Even greater is the casting of the legendary Rey Misterio as El Mascarado. The uncle of current wrestling superstar Rey Misterio Jr., the original truly proves himself worthy of playing a horror style villain who follows the traditions of the old ways but takes it up a notch.
The rest of the cast are somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of their characters. Adam Huss’s Alfonse, who looks like Johnny Knoxville could have played the role as well, is a character who can be described as outspoken and selfish, only caring first about getting his film done and denying any wrongdoing. He is perhaps the one character whose fate you want to see met. Steve, the cameraman played by Jeremy Radin, may not look like the sharpest tool in the shed, but it turns out, he actually is that. He is the one who can understand how El Mascarador operates, knows of the legend, and even learns how to defeat him. Zack Bennett’s Jimbo and Catherine Wreford’s Daisy are there pretty much to be the first two victims and do not offer much to the story otherwise while Margaret Scarborough’s Debbie does try to her best when needed. As for Leyla Milani’s Dallas? Well, she like Steve, is a smart one who spends most of the brutality trying to fix the van and comes in the final act of the film to a different mode. The late Irwin Keyes makes a memorable cameo as the stranger who forewarns the group about the ghost town of La Sangre de Dios.
The special effects truly capture the essence of the film and we don’t get to see any of the brutal nature until just over halfway through the film. It starts out with a suspenseful theme only to be followed by what is really in store for the horror fans. El Mascarador will brutalize his adversary and then, in homage to the tradition of Mexican masked wrestling, will rip the mask, or in this case, face of his victim. And we get to see two major rippings in the film and they are pretty cringeworthy. Thankfully, the DVD showed how this was achieved so it ultimately settled this one’s stomach. El Mascarador even has a “wrestling ring” in the back room of the local church, which the walls are loaded with something that could come out of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In other words, El Mascarador and Leatherface could make for quite a friendship and discuss the uses of faces here.
Wrestlemaniac is a better than expected horror film with an eclectic cast of characters who “face-off” against the legendary Rey Misterio, who proves he can be as menacing outside of the ring as he did inside the ring. At times cringeworthy but at 75 minutes, it’s truly a short and sweet deal.
WFG RATING: B+
A production of the Film Fund Inc. Director: Jesse Baget. Producers: Chris Moore and Jake Schmidt. Writer: Jesse Baget. Cinematography: Tabbert Fiiller. Editing: Jesse Baget
Cast: Adam Huss, Jeremy Radin, Leyla Milani, Margaret Scarborough, Catherine Wreford, Zack Bennett, Irwin Keyes, Rey Misterio.