Dir. Diego Cohen, Christian Cuerva, Ricardo Farias, Michelle Garza Cervera, Carlos Meléndez, Lex Ortega, Abraham Sánchez, Sergio Tello, & Fernando Urdapilleta (2017)
Nine shorts covering the most brutal and bizarre Mexican traditions and legends.
One of the hardest things about watching anthology films is that it's so hard to create a feature film out of a series of shorts and have them all match each other in quality. Most anthology films have one or two truly great shorts, a couple of decent ones, and several that are poor in quality, and Mexico Barbaro 2 is no different. It's a unique POV, containing nine stories dealing with Mexican society and the folklore present in the country, and a lot of the culturally-driven horrors within are well worth exploring. Nevertheless, the disparate quality makes it difficult to get too far into it without feeling like it largely misses the mark.
I won't discuss all of the stories herein, just because nine seems like a lot for a film that runs right about an hour and a half long. I will hit some of the highs, however, starting with Potzonalli, the third short in the film. It's a bizarre and off-putting tale of a family that suffers at the hands of a tyrannical and abusive father who come together to get their revenge before taking a hard-left turn into weirdsville in the final frames. Vitriol, another revenge-focused story that deals with a rape victim who turns from her past as a model to giving her abuser their just desserts, is incredibly well done. It's a gorgeous short with tantalizing shots that refuse to tell the whole story until right at the end, and it's arguably the best of the film. Finally, Extraction (or Exodentia) is a brutal and unflinching story about addiction nee Tooth Fairy and the cost it levees on its victims, a self-torture that eventually comes to claim every piece of a person. It was by far my favorite of the bunch, and it was decidedly hard to watch throughout.
Unfortunately, for those keeping count, that's just three of the nine stories in the film. The other six, while certainly not terrible, often end quicker than they should and never feel even like a complete short, much less a fulfilling addition to an anthology film. There are some bright points, like the exceptionally gory It Is Time, but none of the shorts really come together to tell a complete story. The abrupt endings make it feel like they either ran out of money or time and decided to lop off the ending rather than edit anything to help the stories make more sense. They're all competently made films, and several of them absolutely could've used a bit more time, perhaps even feature length, to sort out a full story. The brief runtime does them no favors, however, and they're stuck in a limbo between having more story to tell and not doing a good enough job of getting the point across in the time they're allotted.
The downside of critiquing an anthology film is that they don't all have to be good to make the film worth watching. For fans of Mexican horror, the subpar nature of the majority of the shorts should not be a turnoff. For fans of extreme horror, which will likely be most of the audience for this one because it's recently gotten a release from Unearthed Films, they will likely be pretty disappointed, as there's very little extreme content within. It's bizarre, some of the shorts are disturbing, and it definitely won't be a hit with mainstream audiences for that reason, but it never fails to pull its punches before it ever crosses the line into completely bad taste. When you're watching a movie like this, however, you expect that bad taste. That's part of the reason why you're there. Because it never crosses that line and it fails to connect with that second, alternate audience, this one will be a miss for most.
Who this movie is for: Anthology lovers, Mexican horror fans, Horror nuts with short attention spans
Bottom line: Uneven and not nearly as extreme as I thought it would be, Mexico Barbaro 2 is a film that never really commits to an audience and largely fails to find one. It's worth a watch, however, because a couple of the shorts fall just short of brilliant. There's only about a third of the films here that shine, but the rest are watchable at least. If you're a fan of Mexican horror or anthology films in general, you just might find enough bright spots within this one to make it worthwhile. At the very least, you can support Unearthed Films and their laudable mission to bring extreme films to the masses, even if this one falls short of that mark.