Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Death: Xmas Tale

What happens when a director suddenly hits it big?  The most obvious thing is that their older films get more attention than they had originally.  This is not always the case.  Case in point: Paco Plaza.  After suddenly hitting it big with ORec in 2008, many of his earlier works are not that famous.  Hell, I didn't even realize that he was the director of Werewolf Hunter until I did research for this movie- and I saw that movie!  Speaking of obscure, here is a Made-for-TV horror film by Plaza from 2005.  As a bonus, it also features Ivana Baquero aka the girl from Pan's Labyrinth.  She's gone on to do...nothing of note in America, so let's just move on.  The film is a period piece (although good luck guessing why) tale of children facing down a killer.  It should be a joyful event for all.  Get out your rare VHS films for my review of...
The film begins with...a different movie.  Yeah, it starts out with a parody of cheap '80s zombie films.  Hey, I...take no offense to that- they deserve it.  After a long opening meant to built up some subtext, we meet our heroes.  They're...a bunch of kids in the 1980s.  Okay- I didn't see that coming.  Incidentally, this film is set in 1985.  Why?  So they can have a character obsessed with the Karate Kid movie.  No, really.  Other than that, it serves no purpose.  After some character set-up, they wander into the nearby woods and find someone fallen into a trap.  It appears to be a woman in a Santa suit.  Kudos to Spain for gender equality, I guess.  One of them runs to get a rope, only to catch the Conveniently-Timed News.  As it turns out, the woman is a bank robber who escaped in a Santa suit.  Let that one sink in for a minute.  In a strange moment, the kid meets with his friends and they agree to keep her in the pit until she gives up the dough.  You're hardcore, Spanish kids!
They continue to give food and drink to the woman, although there are some problems.  For one thing, all the food they bring is junk food- since they're kids.  When they drop a soda can in for her, it hits her on the leg, injuring her.  Swing and a miss, kids.  The woman continues to get more upset at her confinement.  The only girl in the group (Baquero) begins to feel bad and brings more actual food to the lady.  She begins to feel friction from the others about the plan, especially as more time goes by and no money shows up.  Eventually, the woman gives up the goods.  Where was the $2 million stashed?  In the lining of her jacket.  That's...a silly idea.  What was her plan if she was caught exactly?  All seems well for the group until they finally decide to turn in the woman.  The cop isn't happy because he thinks they played a prank on him.  Why?  Because the pit is empty.  That lady is loose, limping and not happy!
Despite how it sounds, the chase between a hobbing woman in a Santa suit and a bunch of Spanish kids is pretty dramatic.  It's still a little silly, but I kind of dug it.  The group runs for their lives for a bit before hiding.  Remember that zombie movie parody from the beginning?  The whole point of that was to set-up a plot point where the lead kid plans to kill the woman in the same way, since he thinks that she's a zombie.  I don't know- just go with it.  All of this leads up to a long, dramatic chase in a closed down (due to the Winter) amusement park.  They manage to stab her through the eye like in the movie, but that doesn't work.  Time for Plan B!  After some tension, they lure the woman up to the top of one of those rides where you slide down on a carpet.  This also brings us to the (silly) Chekov's Gun established with The Karate Kid.  Yes, they kid does the 'Crane Kick' and knocks the woman down the slide!  You go, Spanish McLovin!  Our heroes go home to celebrate that everything will return to normal.  One of the kids goes missing, however, and the girl decides to check out the pit.  She finds 'McLovin' dead (although, they don't show it- pussies) and the axe-wielding lady Santa there.  She lets our heroine go, but still plans to kill the others.  The End.
This movie is actually pretty good.  The plot is certainly out-there, but it works for me.  The kids are decent actors, especially Boquera.  Obviously, she has the bigger resume to point to than the others!  I still don't get the point of this being set in 1985 other than for the Karate Kid stuff.  It's not a terrible thing- just odd.  I may be the only one that cares about that, so I guess I'll let it go.  The film's big hit-or-miss aspect is making it about kids so young.  This gives it greater drama (to most people), but also limits it.  When you cast 'teens,' you can kill a couple of them off.  Here, you really can't.  The subject of killing children is so controversial that a cult movie was named after it- Who Can Kill a Child?  I think Plaza makes this one work though.  If you can accept that it's more about the idea of people being killed than actual murder, you can enjoy it.  The kid actors do their part and it mostly comes together.  I question the whole 'zombie' aspect a bit and the ending, but it's otherwise a good effort.  Check this one out, guys.
Next up, I'm forced to skip a 2008 slasher film that's Christmas-related.  In it's place, a Christmas horror film that Eli Roth insists that we see- hurray.  Stay tuned...

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