The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival creeped the hell out of the neighborhood last weekend (Oct 14-15), and I had the sick pleasure of attending a screening of Mexican indie horror anthology Mexico Barbaro II, at the Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave). Inspired by demented classics Creepshow and Tales From The Darkside, the second installment of Mexico Barbaro included shorts from eight Mexican directors who delved deep into personal nightmares to share their most terrifying inner thoughts with an audience. Friday night’s screening included a Q&A with director Sergio Tello, and one of the directors of photography. Throughout the shorts, there were some religious elements present, whether it was a cross in the background, a demonic character, or a retelling of a fable. Some of the refs were specific to whichever part of Mexico the film took place, as different regions of Mexico have different religious traditions. “Each segment has its own religion,” Sergio remarked.
My personal favorite tale was Potzonalli, a fun story about a family dinner with a mom and children cooking up a huge meal presumably for the father, who they’re welcoming home from a trip. We quickly discover that the family won’t actually be serving their father dinner, but they’ll be serving him up as the main course. The family gleefully dances around the kitchen while butchering their piggy-faced patriarch, flashing back to nightmarish stories of how this man abused them all throughout their lives. The scene was grim and gruesome, yet the audience was laughing throughout at the family’s joyful deviance. Fear may be our most powerful emotion, but the surreality of the scene diffused the tension into laughter.
Another memorable revenge story in the series depicted a supermodel deliberately burning her face with acid to get back at a rapist. That story examined the horror in being forced to do anything we don’t want to do. Control is a horror on its own, and often revenge is the outcome, though it’s uncertain whether it leads to a positive outcome. The supermodel in the story had her life and career ruined by her rapist, and she felt she needed to visibly manifest that emotional pain and share it with the rest of the world, as to not hide behind the protective shield of her beauty.
During the Q&A, the guys spoke about tight budgets—for example, for one of the shorts they only had two lenses, so their shots had to be framed accordingly and shot to leverage the most out of both of them. With horror films specifically, having to work around budget limitations can sometimes be a positive thing—forcing the filmmakers to get more creative with lighting, with spaces, with the design of the shot. And if your story is good, often people won’t notice the rough edges of the production—and if they do, it might just make the whole thing cooler.
As a person who is continually tired of mainstream cinema and mainstream horror flicks, BHFF brought an exciting weekend to North Brooklyn this year, with dozens of locally and internationally produced independent features and shorts set in the realm of your worst nightmares. Follow their event schedule, because they’re bringing indie horror to local venue Videology (308 Bedford Ave) once a month. The next screening is I Remember You at 9pm on November 6th. And stay tuned for next year’s fest—if you dare.