A desperate and determined Mexican American woman heads out to the United States/Mexico border to make a documentary film about Border Patrol abusing illegal immigrants to honor her missing parents, but she quickly discovers that the border is a hunting ground for a homicidal, cannibalistic family, the largest, deadliest member a psychotic luchador who brutalizes his victims in his blood-stained ring before slaughtering them for meat.
Gigi Saul Guerrero
Edwin Perez as Armando
David Forts as El Gigante
El Gigante is a short film which has been making a gigantic (ahem) and bloody splash on the festival circuit over the past year or so. One of the few shorts I missed at this year’s Filmquest in Utah, I was told by the organizers that it was one I shouldn’t have missed. Can’t win ’em all, I guess. And yet here are the fates, dropping the film into my reviewing hands. So it is a win after all!
Due to a lack of funds, Armando (Edwin Perez) leaves his wife and young daughter to cross the border into the US from Mexico – without him. He traverses through the Mexican countryside on foot, in an attempt to find them on the other side. Dehydrated and exhausted, he accepts water from a “kind” stranger – but then wakes up in a ragged wrestling ring, bloodied and beaten, with a Lucha Libre mask sewn to his neck – the prisoner of a family of insane cannibals. They hungrily slobber as they witness Armando’s face-off against a massive member of the cuckoo family – the title character El Gigante — in a match to the death!
There’s plenty of creepiness in El Gigante. It’s got echoes of The Hills Have Eyes and most of the cannibal clan could very well be members of the Sawyer family of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. It’s breakneck pace keeps you on edge, and once the fight in the ring begins, you’ll be longing for the few scenes of Armando aimlessly wandering the desert (these scenes — by the way — are gorgeously shot).
The special make-up effects and ample gore by artists Hannah Chornoby, Carolyn Williams and Andrea Dulmage (that absolutely painful sewing job on Armando’s neck) are exquisitely done. It’s over-the-top cartoony at points, but never far from gag-worthy.
It’s a quick jaunt into some very dark places, so there’s not much room for character development (that’s not what we’re here for), but the stand-out performance belongs to the youngest member of the “El Gigante” family — little Rogelio (played by Indiana Dean). Both in costume and his animal-like movement, Dean recalls the work of a young Clint Howard as “Chaka” in the original television series by Sid & Marty Krofft — Land of the Lost. Not much for the rest of the cast to do. If you’re a victim, you scream and shout and plead. If you’re a member of the family, you slobber and laugh and stay creepy. The whole cast does their job and they do it well. It’s a pretty gross family.
A reveal at the tail-end of the picture leaves unanswered questions, like: Is this film far more tragic than originally thought? Let me know what you believe the reveal means. I’m quite certain it is what I think it is. Perhaps the feature film will offer more answers and insights into these easy-to-miss clues.
Speaking of a feature film… El Gigante is based on the first chapter of the novel “Muerte Con Carne” by Shane McKenzie. El Gigante is now slated to move into production as the aforementioned feature film project, so stay tuned!
El Gigante is fast-paced, gory and fun. What more could you ask for in a 13 minute short?