Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CINCO DE MAYO (2013) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Olive Films I Slasher // Video
Region Code: A
Duration: 71 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Paul Ragsdale
Actors: Anthony Iava To’omata, Lindsay Amaral, Juan Botello, Kyle Duval

Synopsis: Humberto Valdez AKA “El Maestro” (Anthony Iava To’omata) is teaching at a small town junior college and he takes his Chicano studies course seriously … perhaps a bit too seriously. With the exception of a lone student, El Maestro is considered by the pupils and faculty alike to be a joke and out of touch with the real world. “El Maestro” comes down with a bad case of “Aztec Blood Lust” after being fired. It’s a malady that has tragic side effects … for others. Possessed by a spirit to wreak havoc upon those who have taunted him, “El Maestro” becomes a one-man killing machine. Has an evil spirit truly possessed “El Maestro?” Or, has the pressure of entertaining on the holiday caused him to snap? Can he be stopped? To find out you’ll have to watch Cinco de Mayo … if you dare.

It seems that every other holiday already has a slasher movie to go with it, we have all the major Holidays covered from Christmas, New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving, we even have the Mexican Day of the Dead covered, but like pumpkin pie on Turkey Day we always have room more. We slasher fans are an accommodating bunch and we might never tire of holiday-themed slasher movies, we love this stuff. Now we can add one more to the list, the Chicano-flavored Cinco de Mayo from director Paul Ragsdale, a low-budget bloodbath with some serious heart behind it. 

Humberto Valdez AKA “El Maestro” (Anthony Iava To’omata) is a buttoned down professor at a junior college where he teaches Chicano studies to a small group of students, most of whom could care less about their Mexican heritage. When the befuddled professor is unceremoniously fired from his teaching position for being too "radical" he seeks the help of a therapist,  who plants within him the idea of "Aztec blood lust". Soon after the formerly mild-mannered professor dons a Day of the Dead mask and begins a one-man killing spree, violently dispatching not only the white racists in the small community but also the Mexicans who bring shame to the proud culture he loves so very much. 

This is micro-budget stuff, shot on low-end digital cameras with a cast of amateur actors and it shows along the edges, but I loved the Chicano slant of this  holiday-themed slasher, with some strong writing behind it. I loved the ideas, the Mexican racism slant, the disinterested students who deny their own culture - obviously there's a lot going on here beneath the surface but I don't think it is particularly well shot or executed, but the foundation is strong. 

The kills are very average for low budget slasher, there's nothing here that will set the world on fire or even raise your pulse, which is unfortunate, there's a great foundation but some very amateur execution, with very little atmosphere, what little atmosphere there is is purely a product of the synth score. If they had been able to come up with a more stylish visual presentation with some dread and atmosphere this could be something special, as it is I enjoyed it, but didn't love it. 

I give actor Anthony Iava To’omata a lot of love for his performance as the professor with a social conscious, a guy with the true heart of a teacher, you can feel his frustration, even through the somewhat deadpan performance. At times while watching this I was reminded of the movie Bloody Homecoming (2012) from a few years back, another masked-killer slasher with a decent story, some interesting ideas, but not the greatest execution. I do like a little anonymity with my masked-slashers and since we know who the killer is from the start there's very little suspense to be squeezed from it, and that was a serious problem for me. 

What I did like about this Chicano-themed masked slasher was the idea, the foundation of the story, how racism drove the mild-mannered professor to kill, the cool synth score, and the sweet revenge against the racists in the community, it's always fun to see racist get their bloody comeuppance. Also adding to the fun is how the movie is sort of framed as a USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear presentation, with the program All Nite Long with Stacy Monroe, a fun idea, but one that seemed almost forgotten, it pops-up again almost an hour into it but there's no wrap-up at the end, which was a misstep, if you're gonna go with that framing idea I think it needed to be a through line. 

Audio/Video: Cinco de Mayo arrives on Blu-ray from a fruitful partnership with slasher // Video and Olive Films. The 1090p HD image is framed in 1.78 widescreen and looks solid for a no-budget horror entry. The director has chosen to go with a filtered and augmented look, adding white speckling and print damage to add a certain '80s patina to it, which more and more I am not a fan of, it's overused but not awful. The low-budget digital cinematography has its shortcomings, the lighting is not the best at all times, it feels cheap, but seems true to the source material. The English DTS-HD Stereo 2.0 audio is solid, dialogue, music and score all sound good and above average for a low budget movie, no subtitles are provided. 

The disc is loaded with extras beginning with an audio commentary with Director Paul Ragsdale, Producer Angelica De Alba, Actor Anthony To’omata, and the cast. A 25-minute Q and A, deleted scenes, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, and an image gallery. There's also the Mexican Connection short film, a Tarantino-esque crime movie that was a lot of fun. There's also trailers for the movie, the movie-within-a-movie featured in the film, and for Mexican Connection, which uses the White Stripes cover of "Conquest" to great affect.

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Paul Ragsdale, Producer Angelica De Alba, Actor Anthony To’omata, and Cast
- Q and A with Cast and Crüe (25 Mins) 
- Deleted Scenes (1 Min) HD 
- Film Outtakes (18 Mins) HD 
- Behind The Scenes Footage (9 Mins) HD 
- Photo Gallery (13 Mins) HD 
- Jesus vs. Vestron Vulture Music Track (12 Mins) HD 
- Mexican Connexion (Short Film) (15 Mins) HD 
- Mexican Connexion (Original Trailer) (2 Mins) SD 
-,Dance Til You Die Trailer (4 Mins) HD 
- Cinco De Mayo Trailer (3 Mins) HD 

I liked Cinco de Mayo a lot, I wanted to love it, but I just didn't, it had some great ideas, a cool masked-killer and an inspired Chicano slant but mediocre execution. I enjoyed it though and I think if you're a fan of low-budget slasher cinema and the sort of straight-to-video stuff Slasher // Video is known for you're gonna enjoy it, too. 2.5/5