Welcome back to my Tears for Fears marathon, where I will be covering every movie featuring the Mexican folk legend La Llorona in anticipation of her newest movie in April...
Director: Andrés Navia
Cast: Vanessa Rice, John Patrick Jordan, Hugo Medina
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
As I've learned from running many a horror movie marathon, the mid-2000's were a very important time for the genre. The rise of digital cinema technology really expanded the accessibility of filmmaking, and for some reason people still think horror is the easiest genre to make so it tends to be the first one they jump to when they buy a prosumer camera from Radio Shack and assemble some random friends and neighbors to make a film.
Anyway, what I'm saying in a very roundabout way is that The Wailer (which is either a Mexican-American co-production or a Mexican film that hired English-speaking actors to appeal to a wider market) might be just our second foray into the Llorona works of the decade, but it's certainly not the last. While the five movies we previously covered before 2004's Las Lloronas spanned the eons between 1933 and 1991, the span just between 2004 and 2007 includes seven. So prepare yourselves to spend a lot of time in the era of The Pussycat Dolls, sagging jeans, and Christopher Nolan's meteoric rise to power.
It hopefully goes without saying that none of these movies will match the quality of a Nolan film, even the later, more self-indulgent ones.
So, The Wailer is a very peculiar Llorona movie in that it maps exactly onto one of my other movie marathons: it's a dyed-in-the-wool cabin in the woods slasher movie. We gather some expendable meat (including an especially odious comic relief Token Black Character) and send them on a vacation to Mexico to a remote cabin that might just be the site where La Llorona drowned her children centuries ago. She destroys them one by one with her razor sharp nails (???) over one catastrophic night.
The Meat in question is as follows: Michelle (Nicole Danielle), the promiscuous mean one; her boyfriend Jay (Eltony Williams), the aforementioned token character who - guess what - dies first; Mike (Hugo Medina), about whom I remember nothing; his girlfriend Ashley (Brenda Mejia), who makes even less of an impression; Julie (Vanessa Rice), our designated Final Girl because she doesn't do drugs and is boring; and Andrew (John Patrick Jordan), a semi-polite young man who is being transparently set up with Julie by their friends, and he wears a black sweat band alarmingly close to his elbow which he never takes off, even when swimming.
OK, you can NOT blame me for the quality of the screen grabs here, I had to dig through the trash heap at my local video store to even bring you this review. But witness the sweat band in all its mildewy glory.
As I'm sure you can surmise, this movie isn't particularly good. It's not even that good as a slasher movie, come to think of it. I love the weird Freddy Krueger rip-off design of La Llorona, but there's only one sequence that manages to drum up a single tingle of suspense (a slow, creeping sequence where she emerges from a bathtub, announcing her presence with a dripping faucet, a floating boat, and finally a face pressed against the shower curtain). It's too much to ask that the movie's effects be convincing in the slightest, but it hardly even has them. We mostly get the oh-so familiar "scream, then cut to a dead body covered in strawberry jelly" technique, over and over and over again.
But there's something charming hiding in the familiarity of the slasher movie formula that I fall for again and again (there's a reason I've reviewed over a hundred of the godforsaken things), and The Wailer delivers a certain amount of that bad movie charm in between the scenes where it's trying and failing to scare me. Whether it's the sex scene where they're just staring at themselves in a mirror, the aforementioned sweatband, or the comically large spliff that one guy rolls for himself, there are little golden nuggets of unintentional humor sitting around for anybody willing to pan through the watered-down genre trappings.
And the cherry on top is the fact that The Wailer delivers heaps of shirtless men. The characters in this movie are allergic to covering their nipples, and when they're not lounging around the living room in the middle of the night sans tee, they are frolicking around in a waterfall like some forgotten outtake from Call Me By Your Name. This is almost the sole reason I like the slasher Girls Nite Out, and I'm always down for a movie that objectifies the men equal to, if not more than, the women.
I personally took this photo on my phone for your enjoyment. You're damn welcome.
The bad-good atmosphere certainly extends to the acting as well, though the script is doing none of these unknown actors any favors. Since this is technically a slasher movie even if it isn't a proper Census Bloodbath title, let's borrow a quick segment from that there marathon.
Champion Dialogue: "That weed got me horny as shit."
These types of horror movies usually bring out a shred of talent once all hell breaks loose, and the one who proves why her audition tape was picked this time around is Nicole Danielle. When it's her turn to actually be scared, she turns it on and is generally satisfying in a real way.
But look. The Wailer isn't really worth your time. You didn't need me to tell you that. Hell, I didn't need me to tell you that. But my brain works in very sinister ways and I can't just skip a movie or else it will punish me. At least in spite of the crappy dim lighting, the incoherent third act, and the lackluster kill sequences, The Wailer gave me something to look at that didn't feel actively painful. La Llorona 1991 this ain't, and if there's one thing my completist instincts have taught me, it's that there's always a much worse movie on the horizon, so there's no sense complaining about one that's merely toothless.
TL;DR: The Wailer is an unimaginative horror movie, but at least it's an unimaginative slasher, so that's in my wheelhouse if nothing else.
Word Count: 1073
Reviews In This Series
The Wailer (Navia, 2006)
The Wailer 2 (Miller, 2007)
The Wailer 3 (Barbera, 2012)