El Gigante (2015)

elgiganteweb (1)It’s not often that I review short films, actually I think the only other one was the 2014 short Karma by Tristan Clay. That being said, I think I need to make a habit of watching more horror shorts. Plus, when Bitch Magazine releases a list of female-directed horror films to check out, and ONE of those directors happens to be someone you went to film school in Vancouver with…it’s probably the right time to start. So, let’s get into it with El Gigante.

After attempting to cross the US/Mexico border in search of a better life, Armando (Edwin Perez) awakens in an unknown room, his body broken down and a Lucha Libre mask sewn into his neck. He attempts to escape, but is surrounded by a sadistic family, who watch him with hungry eyes. The only chance for Armando’s survival in this hellish nightmare is to last in a wrestling match against the most terrifying villain of all: GIGANTE.

So, the short hasn’t officially been released (though I’ve been told we should be seeing it this year), so I won’t go into a bunch about the plot. It’s just under 15 minutes, so it would be easy to be a bit spoilery and I’d rather not be. That above plot summary is enough, and should be all you need to seek this out when it’s released. Coupled with the awesome poster, it’s plenty of motivation. If it’s not though, here’s the trailer:

The thing about a lot of shorts, and often indie features, is that the people in charge of doing stills and posters, often are able to make the film look like more than it is. Slick editing on photos and really great art in poster design can often be a bit misleading when you’re presented with the final product of the film. I’m happy to say that that is not the case here. The movie is very well shot, slick and stylish. It has a feeling of grittiness to it that is similar to movies like The Devil’s Rejects, Inside, or many of the other French ultra-violent movies that were popular a few years ago.

The acting is all quite good, and even though there is very little time to characterize everyone, you get a pretty good sense of who everyone is. Even the family of crazies, who we’ve seen in plenty of films, feels fresh here. The main character. Armando, is very empathetic and played very well. The acting throughout is solid, and there’s not much about it not to like on that front.

ElGigante-1-5 copy

As well, the movie has some pretty great practical effects. It can be hard to look at, feeling pretty raw and gross at times. That said, it’s really well pulled off, and you can see that the money for this short (funded by Kickstarter!) was well used to create this world. Shot entirely in Vancouver, the movie does a great job of building it’s world in a way that might not have been successful in the hands of another film maker. It’s a very competently assembled film, and very well directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero.

My biggest complaint, if I have to have one, is that it’s a short film. I could certainly have done with more story, and more time spent with the Armando. I know that this is a time issue, and not necessarily an issue with the movie itself. Just a bit more characterization with Armando and his family would have been nice, and hopefully will be there in the feature.

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There are plans, I’m told, to build this into a feature film and I really can’t wait to see that. Looking forward to seeing what else Geurrero and co have in store for us. Keep an eye out for this one when it’s released later this year. There’s also something in here to be said about the risks and violence involved in illegal border crossing, but that’s a different kind of analysis. Enjoy this one guys.

RATING: ****

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