El Escapulario (1968)

As María Pérez (Ofelia Guilmáin) receives last rites, she tells Father Andrés (Enrique Aguilar) about the influence that a religious medal — The Scalpular — had on her sons’ — Julián (Carlos Cardán) and Pedro (Enrique Lizalde) — lives. Meanwhile, two robbers wait outside to attack and rob the priest.

Julián is a soldier who soon deserts the army to join the rebels — the film takes place on during the Mexican Revolution — blowing up a train before he’s arrested. A sympathetic soldier helps him escape, yet Julián denies the power of the medal — denying God — and is shot and badly wounded.

Pedro falls for a woman well above his social status, Rosario (Alicia Bonnet’s), and narrowly avoids being killed thanks to the power of the medal. It turns out her uncle wants their relationship stopped at all costs, so he sends a letter about an evening rendezvous from Rosario while hiring bandits to kill him.

Andrés and Federico, the other two sons, have been lost since being kidnapped by a gang, but perhaps the priest will soon meet them and they will all learn how the power of the scapular binds them all. And that strangely, the old woman has been dead for seven years.

Director Servando González makes a whimsical yet melancholy fantastic film here, powered by a script by Jorge Durán Chavez and Rafael García Travesi, who wrote 94 movies, including several Santo films and The Mummies of Guanajuato.

This movie looks beyond gorgeous, even as it shows scenes of condemned and hung men swinging after their deaths. Somehow uniting multiple genre and countries of cinema, as well as being folk horror by way of Mexican Catholicism, this movie finds death everywhere and still finds a reason to smile (and by frightened at the same time).

You can watch this on Tubi.

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