While searching for an image of a possessed doll for a Name That Trauma, I came across the Mexican horror film VACATION OF TERROR. Further investigation led me to Amazon where I was happy to discover that said film was available in a set called CRYPT OF TERROR: HORROR FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER VOL 1. Although intrigued, I wisely decided that I should not gamble my meager clams on a film I’d never seen before and so I walked away from the computer sad but proud of my will power. Before I could congratulate myself too much, I received an email invoice thanking me for my purchase! What?! I was only window-shopping! I knew I could easily dispute the sale but I decided to just let it go. Fate was clearly at work and it was best not to push against it because that causes adult acne. I imagined that I was meant to see VACATION OF TERROR and it turned out that I imagined right. Let’s hear it for happy mistakes!
VACATION OF TERROR (1989)
Lord do I love haunted house movies. VACATION begins with a witch being burned at the stake cursing revenge. We jump forward a couple hundred years and a family consisting of a ma and pa, two twin boys, a little girl, a babysitting teen niece and her affable beau (PEDRO FERNANDEZ) unleash the witch’s wrath when they seek R&R on her property and discover the doll she left behind in a well. The body count is zero but there is never a dull moment when the walls are bleeding, snakes and tarantulas are being hallucinated, refrigerators are teeming with rats, and folks start flying around and falling through mirrors. Rational sense is thrown to the birds and the special effects resemble a grade school play but, overall, I feel like I’m watching the Mexican version of CATHY’S CURSE and pigs only think they love slop when compared to the euphoria I find myself in. I never want to see a good move again; I know where I belong. V.O.T. is directed by RENE CARDONA III, the son of the guy who did 1978’s BERMUDA TRIANGLE and grandson of the guy who did NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES and ‘59s SANTA CLAUS. Talk about a dynasty! I sure hope there’s a RENE CARDONA IV.
VACATION OF TERROR 2: DIABOLICAL BIRTHDAY
Speaking of sequels, having enjoyed V.O.T. so much, I was beside myself with joy to see that my new DVD set came with its further installment. If it were half as good I’d be content enough, but my expectations were blown completely out of the water. Part 2 finds the niece’s boyfriend from the first film (PEDRO FERNANDEZ) off on his own adventure where he is again confronted by the dreaded witch doll! It gets better! The doll not only transforms from porcelain to felt muppet but it also splits at the seams and a giant lizard demon complete with tail pops out! Better still, the action takes place at a kids’ Halloween/ birthday party and our hero is joined by TATIANA, a Mexican pop star, who brings along her own TIFFANY-style musical number! Is this much fun legal? Lifting heavily from POLTERGEIST and ELM STREET, V.O.T.2 is non-stop, surreal lunacy with special effects that swing from awesome to infantile and back again and frankly, it’s a volcano of entertainment. Allow me to reiterate that it takes place on Halloween.
CEMETERY OF TERROR
Satisfied as I was with the VACATION movies, I had no right to expect my winning streak to continue and then came CEMETERY OF TERROR. It too takes place on Halloween and it too rocked my world. A bunch of teenagers steal a corpse not realizing the body is that of Mexico’s answer to Michael Myers, a bearded goon named Devlon. He’s even got a Loomis type following him around (NIGHTMARE CITY’s HUGO STIGLITZ) and he kills folks to the synth-beats of a faux-HALLOWEEN score! Just when you think things can’t get any more wonderful, a group of children happen upon the cemetery where Devlon was resurrected and are confronted by an army of THRILLER zombies! (One of the kids is even wearing a MICHAEL JACKSON jacket!) Yes, I’ve watched this one twice already and will be spinning it again in October.
Can I even take anymore? A hulking Satanist is put to death during the inquisition and held quiet by a hatchet removed hundreds of years later by group of grave robbing teens. This one appears to be inspired heavily by THE EVIL DEAD and FRIDAY THE 13TH (particularly JASON LIVES) and it really delivers the gore. I’ve always wondered what happened to the spirit of American horror films in the late eighties and now I believe that it obviously just jumped on over to Mexico. GRAVE ROBBERS is directed by the same guy who did CEMETERY OF TERROR (RUBEN GALIDO JR.) and it not only makes for a perfect companion piece, but it also shares some of the same cast. The killer with his trademark axe and hooded robe is highly memorable and what a shame he was not awarded a sequel!
This time a group of kids venture into the woods to compete in a bear hunt but instead find themselves being hunted by a crazed Vietnam vet. I wasn’t sure if I was going to dig the less supernatural set up of this one, but I was appeased to see my pal PEDRO from the V.O.T. films playing the lead role. HELL’S TRAP borrows a bit from RAMBO and PREDATOR; however, the killer is certainly slasher-inspired with his Freddy-style knife glove and the pale expressionless HALLOWEEN mask covering his scarred face. When utilizing home made traps a’la THE FINAL TERROR fails, he’s not afraid of disposing of multiple characters via sub machine gun and hand grenade. I usually prefer my horror gun-free but having disposed of several characters with his Freddy glove, I guess this guy has earned the right to bare arms. This one is directed by PEDRO GALINA JR., the gentleman responsible for V.O.T.’s wild sequel.
AND THE REST
This set may claim “3 Discs… Six films!” but it’s just being modest, there are actually 4 discs and 8 films. You also get DEMON RAT, which I’ll save for a rainy day, and two versions of DON’T PANIC which, for some strange reason, I didn’t care for but will give another try in the future. What a great find, especially if you can purchase them used. My beloved set cost me less than ten bucks!
If you believe enthusiasm trumps technique, if you don’t mind subtitles and can look past and/or adore makeshift effects and bombardments of hokiness, this is your dream ticket especially with Halloween fast approaching. If you are a fan of eighties horror, and feel as if you’ve been scrapping the barrel lately looking for new finds, it’s like striking oil and dancing under black rain.
Thank God I didn’t go back on this accidental purchase; oh what I would have missed.