The Mexican-American El Maestro (Anthony Iava To’omata) teaches Chicano studies in a small Texas town, but finds his students resistant to learning about the incredible cultural heritage of his people – and of the town itself. When the disinterested principal unceremoniously fires him, El Maestro plans a protest, before a trip to a psychiatrist reveals that he’s suffering from “Aztec blood lust”. Facing close-mindedness and racism from the local townspeople, the teacher decides to teach them a lesson that they’ll never forget.
But a respectable message doesn’t mean much if the film-making can’t quite match up. Thankfully, Ragsdale handles the material with confidence and a keen eye. His extensive experience as a cinematographer has obviously paid off, as the dramatic scenes rarely betray the low budget, while the stalk and slash bits rely more on tension than cheap scares or gore. He’s ably supported by a strong cast, particularly the unique looking Anthony Iava To’omata who brings a lot of stoicism and sympathy to his lead role, and his size brings a proper amount of menace when it’s called for later in the film.
A polished and original addition to the slasher movie oeuvre, CINCO DE MAYO manages to meld solid drama and tense horror effectively, while spotlighting a nationality that too often gets pushed to the sidelines in genre cinema. Paul Ragsdale’s passion for the subject matter is apparent in every frame, and he’s supported by strong performances and his own sturdy visual style. It doesn’t re-write the rule-book, but it tells a solid story stylishly, and never gets bogged down with messages. Looking forward to seeing what’s next from A&P Productions.
Two Nightmares out of Five – SHOCKING SUCCESS
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join me later this week for an interview with CINCO DE MAYO director PAUL RAGSDALE
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