Brrrrr!!! The weather hereabouts is simply atrocious these last few weeks! Thank goodness your Favorite Catgirl can still escape the frigid miserable cold with a warm and cuddly evening on the couch snuggled under a wooly blankie with my dearest Carolyn and my kitty and enjoy some chills of a whole different sort. This time out? How about another virtual trip “South of the Border” with a look at the recently released Mexican remake of director Carlos Enrique Taboada’s 1975 horror classic “Más Negro Que La Noche” aka “Darker Than The Night”.
Our synopsis? “Greta is a beautiful young woman whose eccentric aunt Ofelia passes away leaving her a large, once opulent mansion. When Greta moves in with her friends she discovers that as a stipulation of the will, she must take care of her aunt’s prized black cat, Beker. The new residents take charge of the mansion, throwing wild parties and enjoying a fun-filled summer until they lose track of Beker – who drowns in the mansion’s pool. What was about to be the best summer of their lives quickly turns into a spine-chilling fight for their lives as eerie events from the past return to haunt them and it seems none of them is safe from Ofelia’s ghostly wrath.”
Old haunted mansion… creepy black cat… vengeful spirits from beyond the grave… Oh yes… Definitely sounds like a pretty close remake of the original, which your Favorite Catgirl watched some time back, but will this one be as creepy and neat as the original classic? Only one way to find out, o’ Gentle Visitors… 🙂
Yours truly has been patiently awaiting this particular one for quite some time. I loved the original by director Carlos Enrique Taboada, and with both of his earlier horror efforts, “Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo” and “El Libro De Piedra” having gone the route of being “re-imagined” for a modern audience, I knew it wouldn’t be long before they got around to this one as well. My biggest worry? That it wouldn’t be released with subtitles… unfortunately that happened for the remake of “El Libro De Piedra” (One I’m still trying to source subtitles for… Grrrr!!) and I hoped I’d dodge that this time out. Luckily for me, this one got picked up for a Region 1 release by Lionsgate… Yay!! Heck… I even got to buy it at out local Walmart… With this lady’s crazy foreign movie tastes that almost never happens…
Well… thankfully I didn’t have the nasty 3D of the theatrical release to deal with on the DVD, so once things got underway it was very easy to settle right into the story… pretty much exactly the same story as the original. Almost… 😉
So this time out Aunt Ofelia (played by Lucía Guilmáin) dies of a sudden heart attack at her creepy mansion and her niece Greta (played by Zuria Vega) is the one to inherit her estate… and yes, her beloved kitty cat Beker too. Greta is completely surprised by this, given that she hasn’t really seen her aunt since she was a child, but seeing as she’s preparing to get married to her long time boyfriend Pedro (played by José María Torre), it’s a nice serendipitous windfall for the couple.
So, faster than you can say “¡Corre! Más rápido!”, our Greta moves right in with her bestest girlfriends. Ummm… and here’s where things start getting annoying for me… Greta seems really nice. She’s sweet, smart, spunky, and darkly pretty with flowing wavy hair and those deep soulful eyes that suck you in. Basically the sort of girl, if she were a real person, that I could probably be friends with. So… why in heck does she have such terrible tastes in BFF’s? I mean… really?
These girls she hangs with… Mostly they are just terrible people. Her closest friend, Pilar (played by Eréndira Ibarra) is so totally unlike Greta… loud and pushy and dresses like some dance club groupie. She’s openly lesbian too… with an easily seen crush on Greta and some hints that they might just have given things a try once upon a time before Pedro came into the picture. They even have these matching tattoos… (Yes, yes. I know… But what horror movie doesn’t have its token lipstick lesbians? 😉 ). But as a couple they don’t seem to have the slightest thing in common, or any chemistry either as friends or ex-lovers… I can’t for the life of me see why they are close. That hint of a previous sexual relationship (Unless Caroyn and I both read it wrong…) doesn’t even become important to the plot. But at least throughout the whole film, Pilar really is her friend or at least tries to be even when she figures out Greta and dead Ofelia are becoming one and the same. A shame you just know she’s gonna die just like all the rest….
Then there’s Maria (played by Adriana Louvier). She’s the stereotypical tortured artisté and writer of cheesy horror stories. But she’s also a whiny self-centered drama queen who seeminly hangs with Greta to have a place to stay and someone to foot the bills. Some basis for a friendship…
Last but not least, there’s Vicky (played by Ona Casamiquela). She’s nothing but a conniving backstabbing slut. Period. Her only reason for being here seems to be to try to steal away Pedro… which of course she manages without even breathing hard.. just to prove to herself she can. Yeah.. Pedro… he’s just such a “Prince Charming”…
So with this dysfunctional group of girls, what’s the best idea they can come up with when gifted with a mansion in the country? Why throw a stupid rave party and invite every “20-something” deadbeat in Mexico to come and trash the place. Yeah… that’s certainly gonna score points with Aunt Ophelia’s old family retainer and faithful maid Evangelina (played by Margarita Sanz). Sigh… No wonder your Favorite Catgirl couldn’t wait for them to start to die.
That all goes pretty much as one might expect, but here our story moves away from the original a bit. In Taboada’s 1975 version, it’s the death of Beker (or Bequer as he was named in that one) that fuels the “beyond the grave” vengeance of our dead old lady. Here the kitty also dies, killed by Maria in revenge for Beker’s munching down on her beloved pet ferret, but the rationale behind Ofelia’s hatred seems more centered around a modern “replay” of the infidelity and tragic betrayal she suffered regarding her marriage to a philandering playboy she catches in a tryst with a pretty housemaid on their wedding day. Once our stupid boy Pedro and slutty Vicky start “knocking boots” behind Greta’s back, it’s only a matter of time before Ofelia’s spirit starts possessing Greta and driving her to murder those around her to get revenge.
Here’s where the movie is at it’s best. There’s oodles of dark brooding atmosphere as well as the usual ghostly hijinks as one by one our cast all fall victim. The feelings of dread and the ghostly appearances of Beker and Ofelia keep ratcheting up and it isn’t long before you know that, unlike the 1975 original, this time out ain’t nobody gonna escape the horrors unscathed.
Although, to my mind, the old idea of “revenge over a lover’s betrayal” seemed unnecessary, it does work better I think in a modern context than the simpler idea of the ghost of Ofelia seeking vengeance over the cruel murder of her beloved pet as the only motivation here. That plot worked well in the 70’s… a simpler and more innocent time… but really doesn’t have enough “meat” by itself for a modern updating. Mind you… I have my own personal reasons for feeling a certain kinship with Ofelia and Greta throughout. Yep. Not ashamed to say it. This wee lady soooo wanted Pedro and Vicky to die. I wanted it to be messy… I wanted it to be painful… I just plain wanted it to happen. Badly. Sometimes revenge is a guilty pleasure for a movie watching audience, and I can honestly say I was feeling it with this one. (My Ex-fiancé should be soooo glad this cat loving lady has found herself happiness and moved on…. otherwise my crazy lil’ imagination could make me a very cranky ghost should I unexpectedly shuffle off this Mortal coil… Trust me… Asian ladies understand “begrudged ghosts”… 😉 )
However, be that as it may, I’d have to admit that for most people you probably aren’t going to find much going on here to provoke that kind of reaction. It’s a well made film… just not the classic that the original was. The effects are good. The acting… well even if most of the characters are pretty unsympathetic and downright nasty… is respectable. Of particular note, Margarita Sanz as Evangelina captures that very “neo-gothic” characterization of creepy maid to perfection. She’d be perfectly at home in an old Hammer horror film… one of those gloriously B&W Universal monster movies of the 40’s… or even one of those garish bloody Technicolor Euro-horror exploitation films of the 70’s. Some things are timeless. 😉 Heck, Carolyn first thought our creepy housekeeper would turn out to be the crazy homicidal killer behind everything if all the ghostly stuff turned out to be a big bunch of hooey.
Given that, it’s fair to give this remake a respectable 3 “Meows” out of 5. Had it actually found more for our ghostly kitty to do I might have squeaked out another few purrs, but this time out poor Beker was really nothing more than a supporting cast than a headliner. Sorry… I’m just a sucker for killer kitties… 🙂
The DVD? Well the Region 1 by Lionsgate does this one good. It’s Widescreen, in the original Spanish language with decent English subtitles just the way I likes them. You should be able to snag your own copy for right around 10-15$ US in the most accessable of places. Sweet. Not a classic, but definitely worth a look if you liked the original and ghost stories and tales of “Revenge from Beyond” are your thing.
And yes… there’s a suitably creepy Trailer available for your viewing pleasure. Courtesy of YouTube and your Favorite Catgirl Princess… 😉