EDITOR’S NOTE: These first appeared on the site on June 21, 2020 and June 22, 2020. I love both of these movies so much and am so excited that Vinegar Syndrome is releasing them.
Both movies are newly scanned and restored in 4K from a 35mm original camera negative and a 35mm archival positive. There are also interviews with Gianella and Gabriela Hassel, composer, Eugenio Castillo, Carlos East Jr. and Ernesto East, and special effects artist Jorge Farfán. You need to order this double movie set from Vinegar Syndrome.
Vacaciones de Terror (1989): Let’s talk about family tradition. The Cardona family has it. Starting with the senior Rene Cardona, we got films like the brain-melting Santa Claus, Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy and Night of the Bloody Apes. His son would continue the journey with Night of 1000 Cats, Guyana: Crime of the Century and Tintorera.
Starting with this film, Rene Cardona III would put his own spin on horror films. This movie feels like someone stayed up all night mainlining every single Amityville unconnected sequel — trust me, as I have done this — and then decided to make their own cover version before the booze wore off.
Way back in 1889, a witch had taken over a small Mexican town, but an inquisitor was able to use a sacred amulet to force her into the flames and save his village. When he tosses all of her belongings — including a cursed doll — into a well, he never dreamed that a little girl would find it a hundred years later and put her family through hell.
This movie has it all. Bleeding walls, refrigerators teeming with rats and no small amount of snakes and spiders. It also has Julio, the affable teen who hopes to save the family and the babysitter that he is in love with. He’s played by Pedro Fernandez, who is more than an actor, as he’s a TV show host and singer.
This movie has a great scene where the kids play with a toy car — which has possessed their father’s car — and try to push it into the fireplace. These are the reasons why I love movies like this, the small moments that make me realize just how little reality can intrude within.
If this ever came out on blu ray — and it totally should, because the DVD versions are out of print and are prohibitively expensive — I will add my critic byline to it: “If you thought Ghosthouse was completely inane and ridiculous, have I got an awesome movie for you!”
PS: This pairs nicely with Cathy’s Curse so you get a real North/South exploitation exorcism adventure.
Vacaciones de Terror 2 (1991): I was wondering if I could love the sequel as much as the original and I am here to tell you that I love this movie more than is humanly possible. Vacaciones de Terror is fun. The sequel, that also has the added title Diabolical Birthday? It might be the best movie I’ve watched this year.
The niece’s boyfriend from the first vacation — Julio (Pedro Fernández — is in his own adventure, helping the daughter of horror movie producer Roberto Mondragon (Joaquin Cordero, who was in Dr. Satan and El Gato) celebrate her birthday. Of course, the witch from the first movie and comes back, gets split in half and become a lizard-like monster while possessing everyone through an evil birthday cake that bleeds rivers of blood.
What would make this movie better? What if Mexican pop star Tatiana shows up and has a musical number? Yes, this happens. It makes the movie so much better than it has any right to be.
Pedro Galindo III took over the director’s chair from Rene Cardona III and honestly, he knocks it way out of the park. I mean, the witch is oozing sores all over the place and launching fireballs at people at a kid’s birthday party on Halloween while a longhaired singer and another singer do battle against her.
The moment that Tatianna — playing Mayra Mondragon — sings the song “Chicos,” I lost my mind. Seriously, my dog is a chihuahua and I think he must have some instinctive Mexican heritage because every single time I play this song — and trust, I’ve watched this movie double digits in the last few weeks — he goes absolutely loco.
There’s also a moment where Studio Mondragon has a Cocktail poster up and you wonder, “In the strange Mexican universe that is this film, did Roberto Mondragon produce a Tom Cruise movie? Or is so unprofessional that he has a poster of a movie he didn’t make up in his studio?”
Have you ever watched Troll 2 and wished, “I wish someone made this in Spanish and added musical numbers, but also crazier special effects and strange Mexican sorcery and baby dolls?” Have I got amazing news for you. This movie has all of that and so much more.
I went into Mexican Horror Week with the hopes of enjoying some films. I have somehow discovered a movie that will stay with me for the rest of my life.